JUST IN: Kwara On Cusp Of Religious Violence As Police Go After Isese Devotees

Kwara State is on the cusp of religious violence after police have reportedly gone after Isese devotees including outlawing them from holding the annual Isese festival.

The latest is the arrest of one of the devotees and an activist Adegbola Abdulazeez, popularly called Talọlọrun (Who is God)….CONTINUE READING

Abdulazeez, whose arrest was made on August 16 in Ibadan and taken to a police station in Ilorin was remanded in police custody.

A post on his Facebook page on Thursday said he has been charged to court calling on “All Isese practitioners, meet Taniolohun in court in Ilorin. Very urgent.”

The state has witnessed an upsurge in religious intolerance following the ban on any procession or celebration by the devotees and the police on an alleged order from the Ilorin Emirate.

Recall, in July, the Emir of Ilorin, Sulu Gambari, through some islamic group called Majlisu Shabab li Ulamahu Society, had stormed the residence of an Olokun – water goddess – worshipper, Adesikemi Olokun, to warn her to desist from holding a festival of culture tagged Isese in Ilorin.

The Islamic group had reportedly claimed they were emissaries of the emir.

It led to a backlash as the emir received severe criticism and condemnation including a long scathing attack from Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka.

Soyinka said the emir’s action smacked of intolerance, noting that, “Year after year, Ramadan has been celebrated in this nation as an inclusive gathering of humanity, irrespective of divergences of belief. Not once, in my entire span of existence, have I encountered pronouncements by followers of any faith that the slaughtering of rams on the streets and marketplaces is an offence to their concept of godhead. Vegetarians hold their peace. Buddhists walk a different path.”

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As the World Isese Day festival slated for August 20, 2023 draws closer, the police have thrown a blanket ban warning the devotees to steer clear of Ilorin.

“Intelligence available to the command does not favour the planned celebration,” the spokesman of the Kwara Police Command Ajayi Okasanmi said in a statement after a purported security meeting.

“They have been advised to relocate their celebration to another state pending a favourable security situation,” he added.

The police ban has received a barrage of irate posts across social media with devotees vowing to proceed with the event that’s two days away.

When news emerged that one of the devotees, Abdulazeez, who’s also an activist had been arrested and would appear in court, the devotees were riled.

Abdulazeez later released a video which was shared across social media vowing to press ahead with the festival even as he said the police and everyone concerned had been served.

He said, “To those who said we would not celebrate the Isese festival in Ilorin…have you all been served breakfast now?

“We (Isese devotees) went with our lawyer to the police station in Ilorin and everyone involved in this case was served, including the Emir of Ilorin.

“Isese devotees are peace-loving people, we are not troublemakers, we simply wanted to celebrate our festivals but were stopped and asked to seek permission. When Muslims want to celebrate Sallah, do they need permission to do this as well? Why demand that from Isese worshippers?

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“The commissioner of police, who said we do not have permission to celebrate our festivals in Ilorin, has also been served court papers, he should come out and explain where this was stated in the constitution of Nigeria.

“Despite offering to change the location of our festival from the Yemoja river in the state to another, we were still denied this. Is the police not suppose(sic) to support and protect us? Now, the commissioner of police, the Emir of Ilorin, and everyone closely involved in this case have been served court papers,” he said.

He added that, “The proposed August 20th Isese day will hold even though these emirs have connived with the police to stop the celebration. I received so many threats from online bullies unbeknownst to me, these alfas were conniving with the police to ensure the festival never holds.

“You see at this point, those advocating for Isese devotees to stay away from Ilorin, need to stop. Is there another law besides the Nigerian constitution? We all have the right to worship.”

Another video by a devotee said,
“Arresting Talolorun does not mean the world will end. We are fighting for our ancestors. We are fighting for our culture and tradition not to go into extinction.

“The economy of Nigeria has continued to dwindle yet none of you is fighting to save the country but when it comes to Isese worship, everyone suddenly has a voice.”

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In 2022, one person was killed and four pastors were among 17 people who sustained varying degrees of injuries, after a protest by Muslim parents of students of the Oyun Baptist High School in Ijagbo, Oyun Local Government Area of the state turned violent over the use of Hijab in a Christian school.

The school authority, Oyun Baptist High School, had, on January 17, 2022, banned Muslim students from using hijab for security reasons.

It led to widespread religious sentiment and fears of open hostility across the state.

The ensuing ban on Isese festival has added a fresh layer to the often combustible issue of religious coexistence in the state.

Additionally, the Isese devotees who are predominantly of Yoruba ethnic stock are using social media to mobilise individuals sympathetic to their faith and are of their ethnic nationality to join in the celebration in defiance of the police and emir.

Abdulazeez added that, “At this point in this land of Ilorin, called the Emirate, the Isese worshippers will have the right to worship as well.

“Why is it so hard for the alfas to preach peace and allow everyone to celebrate how they wish? Shouldn’t we all be preaching and seeking for peace to reign in the same state we all love?...CONTINUE READING

Although many of the devotees have expressed fears that it could degenerate to violence especially with the way the police are handling the situation, they have vowed to ensure “religious freedom for all in Ilorin.”