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Emir Responds to Soyinka: Osun Priestess Crossed Boundaries with Isese Festival

July 9, 2023









Photo Credit: Punch

The emir of Ilorin, Sulu Gambari, has addressed Wole Soyinka’s open letter, stating that an Osun priestess exceeded her authority by scheduling the Isese festival in Ilorin, Kwara State’s capital.

Soyinka criticized the traditional ruler for preventing the priestess, Ajesikemi Olokun, from organizing the traditional event, considering it an affront to civilized behavior.

The priestess had reportedly distributed flyers to announce the three-day celebration of certain Yoruba deities. However, an Islamic group, Majlisu Shabab li Ulamahu Society, objected to the plan.

Members of the Muslim group visited her residence to warn her against proceeding with the festival. Emir’s Response In a statement released on Friday and signed by his spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Arowona, the emir expressed concern that if the festival had taken place, it could have led to a crisis in the state.

“To set the record straight, Professor Wole Soyinka seems to be selective with the facts, neglecting the fact that nobody wants war,” the statement read.

“This is a preventive measure to avoid a crisis, rather than waiting for it to erupt, considering that the cost of managing crises cannot be compared to the wisdom or courage required to prevent them. Such proactive steps are necessary to maintain peaceful coexistence in society.”

The emir expressed surprise at Soyinka’s stance, stating that it was akin to not considering the potential consequences if the event had been held.

The traditional ruler mentioned that the priestess had been living harmoniously in the town for years “until she decided to exceed her boundaries.”

“There could be issues arising from it, which might lead to reprisal attacks by sympathizers or promoters of such beliefs (Isese festival) in other parts of the country. There are many non-indigenes in Kwara, including serving and retired individuals, as well as business owners who have vowed to relocate their families to the state due to the peace and harmony enjoyed here.”

The emir has received support from the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU), a sociocultural group, which believes the emir’s decision will help maintain community harmony.

In a statement issued on Saturday and signed by spokesperson Nurudeen Ibrahim, the group affirmed that the emir’s position represents the views of the predominantly Muslim and peace-loving people of Ilorin Emirate.

Aliyu Uthman, the president of the group, stated that attempts to celebrate the Isese festival or any other pagan festival are foreign to Ilorin’s culture and could lead to unnecessary conflicts.

He also criticized the “diatribe reportedly authored by a Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and a few other commentators on the matter,” deeming it unfortunate, inaccurate, and unnecessary.


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