Elebuibon: Unless we respect laws, do justice, no development will take place
• Amotekun Coordinators, Personnel Should Swear By Ogun For Effective Operations
Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon is a popular Ifa priest in Osogbo, Osun State. He is the Araba of Osogboland. This teacher of Ifa divinity is an ambassador of Yoruba culture and tradition. In this interview with TIMOTHY AGBOR, Chief Elebuibon bares his mind on why politicians, security agents and Amotekun officials should be made to swear by Ogun, if problems confronting Nigeria would be solved, among other issues.
You frequently travel out of the country to carry out consultations and research into traditional cosmology for people. Do Nigerians still seek consultations from Ifa divinity, with the advent of Christianity and Islamic religions?
I am striking a balance between Nigeria and other countries. There are lots of people coming here for consultations to resolve their problems ritually. I also have a branch at my house in Ibadan at Elebu Road, and people come there for spiritual assistance. The only difference here is that Nigerians, either Christians or Muslims know what to do when their problems become aggravated. They do consultations to the gods and they carry ebo (sacrifices).
The only thing is that Christians and Muslims are ashamed of publicly participating in traditional religion or proclaiming Orisa (deities). When they have problems, they come to us and if we ask them to do anything, they do it. But they are hypocritical, and do not like proclaiming the Orisa (deities) publicly. People in the Diaspora are not ashamed of identifying with traditional religion.
You don’t have formal educational background, yet you speak English fluently, and even supervise academic programmes. How did you achieve this?
Point of correction. I would like to correct it this way. Education starts from home. Our education started from our parents. There is no one without education. So, the knowledge of writing and speaking English is different from having sound moral lessons. One may even go to the university and obtain a PhD, but may not have real education that includes moral lessons and knowledge of upbringing. So, there is no one without education because your mother started teaching you how to sweep, work and respect elders, among others, which is what we call education.
I would say I am lucky with formal literacy, which involves being able to write and speak. A writer quoted me in one of his books as being lucky, because I didn’t have the opportunity to go to school, but I am still competent and relevant in the society. I give big thanks to Eledumare, my Creator for that, because if you have 100 people, hardly will you find 10 people like me. It was not easy. I suffered a lot in the hands of my mentor and master that I stayed with. Whenever I was reading a book or writing, they would whip me and give me all manner of punishments.
Compared with Christianity and Islamic religions, do you think Traditional religion is still relevant in Nigeria?
All traditional worshippers usually assemble every Saturday at the temple called Ile-Ijuba, where we brainstorm on “Ifangelism.” Sango, Obatala and Ifa Osun worshippers always attend. There are lots of challenges confronting African Traditional Religion from the hands of their tenants, the two imported religions (Christianity and Muslim).
There are many crusades and evangelism, purposely to banish or eradicate African Traditional Religion. There are lots of programmes on television, radio and social media that are geared towards eradicating traditional religion. But traditional worshippers are waking from their slumber by teaching their wives and children their religion and how to also propagate it.
The Christians have Bible, the Muslims have Qur’an, African traditionalists have Odu Ifa, which is the Bible of Yoruba traditional religion. So, from each Odu, they teach their children the way of God and all the moral lessons they want them to know, pray and achieve their aims through sacrifices, that is what is known as Ifangelism.
Do you think Nigerians are feeling the backlash of abandoning their traditional religion?
Yes, it has created a lot of chaos. When you go to rural areas, you see a lot of abandoned shrines and houses. Even in urban areas, there are lots of empty and desolated houses. There are lots of people that are dying in the prime of their lives. There are many people that have been struggling and unable to achieve their goals because they abandoned their tradition. They do go to Churches and mosques to pray and fast, but the problems remain unsolved. Even when some doctors diagnose some patients, they refer them to traditional priests and that is when they will get results. If not for all this, African traditional religion would have perished.
The only thing that sustains Orisa worship is that it is capable of resolving problems, when they get worse. Otherwise, it would have gone into extinction.
What do you say of some traditional rulers who are pastors and Imams?
They are really affecting the traditional religion negatively. I call them modern Obas. It affects their roles as Paramount rulers, because there are some Obas who call themselves Christians and Muslims and they refuse to go through Ipebi (seclusion) and perform other vital rituals before they are coronated. Today’s Obas lack royal orientation. There used to be royal orientation or traditional rituals that Obas had to go through before being enthroned. I used to tell people that what makes Obas different from other people is the performance of necessary rituals before being crowned king. If this is not done, then Obas are just ordinary persons.
The Oba has to relate with all the Orisas of that land, attend to ancestors of his lineage, learn the oriki (panegyric) of his ancestors, and know different rooms for special deities in the palace. Some rooms belong to Sango and some to Oya, among others. They will also learn how to pay homage to these deities. An Oba who doesn’t do all these is not an Oba, and this affects their behaviours in the public. That is why some Obas now misbehave in public. Obas ought to take two to three months course before coronation. Unfortunately now, once they are announced today, they get coronated the next day.
But there is nothing that stops an Oba from worshipping in Church or praying in Mosque, as all religions belong to an Oba. An Oba is on top of all religions and must accommodate all. If an Oba says he wants to be born again and become a Christian, it’s fine, but he must participate in other religions.
How do you think Nigeria can overcome her challenges?
There are some prayers that can’t be answered by God. For instance, some people like to be rich, but refuse to work, and this person is asking God to make him rich. It won’t be answered. There are so many problems that we can resolve by ourselves. Nigerians are their own enemies. Some blame government for these problems, but they forget they are part of the government.
Also, our leaders caused the problems we face. Every year, government budget huge amount for agriculture, but I have never seen any harvest of a crop. What happened to the money? Is it God that will come down and make food available for us? But go to other countries, things are working for them. For instance, in Brazil, there are some hotels that offer free breakfast for citizens. At least 100 citizens eat breakfast free of charge daily. Yoruba has an adage, ti ebi bati tan ninu ise, ise buse (even in the midst of poverty, once there is food, then the situation is salvaged).
Another thing is that Nigeria is a lawless country. We have problems with our security agencies. All the lawlessness in this country is caused by the Nigerian security agents. We are killing ourselves in this country. Police have refused to repent from taking bribes. When some people commit an offence in this country, security agents don’t punish them, once they have collected bribe from them. Only the poor get punished, when they commit offence in this country. With all this, even if we fast and pray for years, nothing is going to happen, unless we start respecting laws and simple rules.
How do you think sanity could be restored within the Nigerian security agencies?
To start with, all security agents, beginning with the Inspector General of Police and other security chiefs and personnel should be made to swear by Sango or Ile (land) before they start practising. These people know where the criminals are, and if they want to eliminate crimes in this country, they know how they can do it. But they can’t do it because they are also corrupt, since they swore with the Bible and Qur’an. Let them try Ogun and see how far they can get away with all this nonsense.
Also, elected officials and policy makers should be made to swear by Ogun. If someone says he is a Christian and would not swear by Ogun and someone claims to be a Muslim and would not want to swear by Sango, what about soil (Ile)? We are all products of the soil. Once this is done, there will be solution in this country, otherwise, we will continue to experience problems.
Is it true that Ifa priests are born and not made?
Yes, it is not a profession one chooses to do. It is not a profession everyone can do. One that would be an Ifa priest must have an extraordinary memory. A good Ifa priest must be able to memorise 256 odus (corpus) and be able to discipline himself. So, it is not a profession many like, but they are born because they are sent by God. All mankind are sent by God to carry out certain missions on earth.
How do you think Amotekun can operate well?
There is nothing wrong with Amotekun. I commend those who organised it, but they need to be careful. Those who will be Amotekun personnel must be honest, and they must be made to swear in the name of Ogun. Government should be careful not to recruit rogues, who pretend to be good, as some of them may be serving as spies to terrorists.
Amotekun coordinators must also swear by Ogun. They must be honest and be of good character. According to the Yoruba concept of belief, Ogun is the god of war. They should use their gun or any other metal object to swear.
How would you rate the President Buhari-led administration?
Well, in the beginning, it appeared his administration was working towards his goals, but all of a sudden, his administration started derailing. The expectation was so high, but his administration is not living up to the expected standard. So, he needs to pay attention to what he is not getting right, so that he will not disappoint the masses that voted him.
Nigerians should also be patriotic and honest. They should know that whatever they do wrong affect others. Constituents should stop asking lawmakers for money for burial or naming ceremonies, because this is why lawmakers avoid them and run away from their constituencies. Once this is removed, we will see lawmakers around and we can also challenge them on their duties.