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Traditionalists, Christians clash in Ondo

By Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure
16 July 2015   |   5:46 am
HELL was let loose at Ikoya in Okitipupa Local Council of Ondo State last weekend where the Iwo traditional festival was fixed on the same day with the conventional Sabbath of Christians, resulting in attacks on churches during which properties worth millions of naira were destroyed.
Demolished Windows

Vandalised window at Holy Cross Church

Iwo worshippers allegedly attack churches, members in Ikoya 

HELL was let loose at Ikoya in Okitipupa Local Council of Ondo State last weekend where the Iwo traditional festival was fixed on the same day with the conventional Sabbath of Christians, resulting in attacks on churches during which properties worth millions of naira were destroyed.

Last Sunday, in the ancient town and ancestral home of the Ikale people, the Holy Cross Church of Cherubim and Seraphim, St Paul’s Anglican Church and Deeper Life Bible Church, were attacked by worshippers of Enimale, the deity worshipped in Iwo.

Celebration of Iwo festival usually involves restriction of movement, specifically among the womenfolk and strangers in some Ikale communities. It was gathered that the celebration has no fixed date, but as calculated by the traditional priest who dictates the affairs of the Iwo-cult and pronounced by the king, who in his capacity as the chief custodian of the peoples’ culture, gives proclamation on the trend of celebration.

The Guardian learnt that the youths, in their hundreds, armed with cutlasses, knives, clubs, stones, iron rods, charms, amulets and other dangerous weapons, dared the security operatives that were stationed in the town by the government to circumvent any crisis, and attacked the churches.

It was revealed that the state government had earlier intervened in the recurrent religious crisis and issued a statement in favour of the prayers of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which alleged its members’ right to freedom of religion, as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution, must not be trampled upon.

The Anglican Bishop of the Diocese On The Coast, Rt.  Revd. Ebunoluwa Ogunele said the Ondo State government summoned all traditional rulers and religious leaders to Akure on June 3, 2005 where they agreed that no religious group should infringe on the rights of another.


Smashed car

Among other decisions reached at the meeting, according to the documents made available to The Guardian and signed by the Director of the Department of Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Akeju O, is that “No Oba should hinder any religious group from holding its services; the rights of others should be respected.”

The document also read: “The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides for freedom of worship and recognises the rights of every religious belief and this must be upheld by all; traditional rulers were to check the excesses of their youths on matters of tradition and enjoin them to keep within the norms of their traditions.”

According to the CAN Chairman in the South Senatorial District, Venerable Samuel Akinboyo, the traditional worshipers jettisoned the communiqué and that made the association to seek  injunction at the High Court of Justice, Okitipupa Judicial Division to restrain the festival on a Sunday.

The applicants include Ogunele, Akinboyo, Primate Elisha Akinsulere, the CAN Chairman of Okitipupa LGA, Elder Omosule R.O, Okitipupa LGA CAN Secretary, Pastor E. O. Adepoju, CAN Chairman, Ikoya Branch. Others are: Revd. Canon Idowu Eniagbojule, Vicar St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Ikoya, Senior Superintendent Apostle Samuel Akinbo, Minister-in-Charge of Holy Cross Cherubim and Seraphim (C&S) Church, Ikoya and Revd. Gbenga Megbontowon, CAN, Ikoya Branch.

In the Suit heard by Justice S. A. Bola  on July 7, 2015, the judge restrained the respondents: Oba George Faduyile , the Abodi of Ikaleland and High Chief Adekahunsi Ayebo, the Lemanla of Ikoya and Chief Priest of Iwo from breaching the right to freedom of worship of the applicants.

In Justice Bola’s judgement: “An Order of interim injunction is hereby granted restraining the respondents, their agents, servants, privies, successors in title e.t.c from restraining the movements of the applicants and their members at Ikoya community to their homes on July 12, 2015 and or by any manner obstructing the free movement of applicants and their members to and fro their various churches when the respondents will be celebrating their Iwo traditional festival in Ikoya community.”

The order was sent to the police in the interest of peace and orderliness in the community, where the state Command of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) deployed 52 security operatives, who were reportedly resisted by the youths as they bombarded the church premises.

Eniagbojule, the Vicar of St Paul’s Anglican Church, told The Guardian that he was leading the Bible Study when the youths stormed the church premises, vandalised some of the property and harassed his members before they were eventually dispersed by the congregation who confronted them.

He said the hoodlums threatened to kill some of the security operatives that tried to keep them away from the church, till the 19 Battalion of the Nigerian Army sent soldiers from Okitipupa, who put the ugly situation under control.

Akinboyo said the properties demolished in the Anglican church amounted to N200, 000 while the bodily injuries sustained by two of their priests, Shoga Ehinmisan and Olalude Joshua, whose cassocks were torn, were serious.

Akinsulere, who was also at the Sunday service of the C&S Church, corroborated the report of the Minister-in-Charge and indigene of Ikoyaland, Akinbo, that their members were utterly molested and properties worth N50,000 destroyed by the traditional worshipers.

One of the victims, Revd. Daramola Amos, whose Mercedes-Benz, 200 C Class Model was vandalised, narrated his ordeals and lamented the barbaric actions.

The religious leaders condemned the alleged poor handling of the situation by the Abodi and his disrespect for the laws of the land.

The CAN, which has decided to seek redress in court, urged its members to remain strong in their faith and see the assaults as one of the tests and trials of their faith in Christ Jesus, assuring them that their victory is certain in truth.

A source, who identified herself as Iya Deborah, said the churches should have let the sleeping dog lie since many of their leaders are from the town and knew the dictates of the tradition and custom of the people.

She alluded to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church at Ode-Ikoya, where Oba Faduyile worship, saying the church honoured the customs and tradition of the people by shifting its service from Sunday to Saturday to avoid attack and respect the king. But another indigene, who pleaded anonymity, lamented the excesses of the traditional worshipers, arguing that all powers on earth belongs to God, and even the throne which the king occupies.

Similarly, Ogunele remarked that the Christian community is not posing a threat or struggling with any religion for supremacy, noting that traditional rulers sit on thrones that belong to God.

“There will be no time when everybody will be a Christian, Muslim or traditional worshipper; but let everybody have freedom to worship. No traditional ruler has the right to declare curfew or restrict the movement of the people.”

Attempts to reach Oba Faduyile was initially stalled by his secretary, Mr. Odonmo Erioluwa, who, as a matter of protocol, had to arrange a meeting. But the paramount ruler sent a message from the throne that “the office of Abodi declares that the event was very peaceful and there was no crisis.”

Lemanla and chief priest of Iwo declined to utter a word without the consent of the king.

The Police Public Relations Officer, Wole Ogodo, in a telephone conversation, confirmed the crisis in Ikoya but said the situation was under control.

He assured the public that the culprits, whose names were sent to the command would be arrested and prosecuted under the laws of the land.