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Isese: Emir of Ilorin should be father to all —Elebuibon

Isese: Emir of Ilorin should be father to all —Elebuibon

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Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, a famous Ifa priest, an advocate of Yoruba culture and tradition and traditional religious leader, speaks with SAM NWAOKO on the recent celebration of Isese Day across Yorubaland, the controversy in Ilorin and the need for continued peace with self and neighbour.

Recently, some states in the South West region of the country declared public holidays to celebrate Isese (tradition) day. How did you receive this? What is your advice following this?

We are expecting Ekiti State and Ondo State to also give us Isese holiday. Isese is for us as Yoruba people. One’s mother is Isese; one’s father is Isese. The creator (as represented by head) is Isese. We all have a role to play to uphold our culture and tradition. Any community, town or state which is owned by the Yoruba should embrace the tradition of Isese because that is what the community was founded upon.


Some people in some of the states where Yoruba is spoken have rejected the idea, saying that Isese is not acceptable to them. What will you say to such people?

In the end, they would have no choice but to accept the reality of Isese. I say this because that is what the Yoruba town or community was founded upon. Isese is the foundation, Isese is the owner of the land and a tenant cannot drive the landlord away from his house. It is not done. They may not get to understand or agree with this now, when the right time comes, they would get to understand the message.


It took rather so long before people began to speak up regarding Isese. Is the current wave of Isese agitation and demand as a result of the time being right or what would you attribute the new knowledge to?

The time is right. That is why you are seeing the uprising here and there against the people who have refused to allow Isese to be established in their respective domains. So, it is time for Isese; it is the dawn of Isese. You cannot possibly and reasonably say, as a tenant, that you would chase out your landlord. The foundation, institution of Yorubaland is their Isese. Isese is their origin and you cannot reasonably prevent the Yoruba from exercising their right. It is their culture and their right.

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What is your stand on what is happening in Ilorin, Kwara State, between the Muslim community and traditional worshippers who want to practice Isese?

My stand is that we should let peace reign. To let peace reign we have to watch what they are doing and we know that one day, Isese is going to be firmly established.


What would you tell the Emir of Ilorin in particular?

The Emir is supposed to be father to all. He should be father to the Christians; he should be father to the Muslims and he should be father to the Isese people.


Is it that there is no understanding sir?

I believe that there isn’t adequate understanding. We also have the case of misunderstanding as part of the problem too. Lack of understanding is one of the factors in the problem.


If you would explain what Isese is to a beginner, how would you put it in simple terms?

Isese is just that you should acknowledge your father, your mother and your own self which we call Ori Inu.


Before now, you gained prominence with Ifa Olokun Asoro Dayo series on the television. What prompted the making of the programme at that time?

It came because I saw that we were gradually losing our culture and tradition and losing our sense of history. We were completely turning our back to our foundation and losing grip of our authentic historic way of life. When people want to make comparisons or cite examples, they would be referring to events recorded in the Bible or the Quran alone. They completely ignore all the things the Almighty has placed around us as a people. Yet, we have a great number of things the Almighty has given to us through which we were taught, given education and given direction. This prompted me to think about the need to teach our culture and religion. I felt that we needed to know about ourselves, our culture, religion and ways of life before we go to the Bible or Quran. When you read the Bible, you would be reading stories and events of the Jews; the people of Bethlehem, Syrians, Romans, Corinthians and so on and so forth. You cannot read the Bible and get the story or history of Ado Ewi or the story of how Efon Alaaye or something happened in Ijero. It is the same situation with the Quran. The Bible was written for the Jews, Syrians, people of Bethlehem, the Romans, and Jordanians and so on.

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Ifa, on the other hand, speaks directly to us. The Ifa corpus tells us about things around us – the day Ifa went to Ado Ewi, about movement to the hills of Efon and so on. We abandoned all of ours to embrace the stories and teachings about Mount Sinai, Jericho and so on. Why would we abandon ourselves after the Almighty has decided in His wisdom to give us our own? It was not any man that instructed God to create us with our own culture, tradition and religion, it was His wish and design to do it. If God wanted us to read the Bible only, He would have given us only the Bible. If it was only the Qur’an that He wanted to bequeath us, He would have done that.

That was what led me to think up the programme. I was spurred to teach us that we should learn about ourselves; our culture, tradition and religion before we travel to Rome or Jericho or anywhere else to learn how to live. We should know about ourselves.


It seems that foreigners, Americans, Cubans, Brazilians and so on now embrace Ifa more than we the original owners of the religion?

Those people you mentioned have gone way beyond us. They have left the realm of ‘if’ and ‘when’. They no longer ‘seem’ to know it, they know it. Since our people are not interested in traditional religion and have shown interest only in reading the Bible and Quran, foreigners have left us behind.

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But you are not relenting or are you tired of your propagation?

We are not resting on it. We keep educating people. Whenever we have any opportunity to educate our people, I don’t hesitate to do so. It is our calling and vocation and we will not keep quiet.


Why did you rest Ifa Olokun programme?

We couldn’t get sponsors to finance the programme. Those who can afford to sponsor the production and airing of the programme are either not bold enough to do so or are ashamed to be associated with it. They would rather spend their money on other things. If we get people to provide financial support for the programme tomorrow, we are ready to kick it off again.


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