The ongoing controversy over the 2019 Oro Festival in Iseyin, Oyo State, took a fresh turn on Tuesday, as traditional worshippers in the historic town under the aegis of Traditional Religions Worshippers Association of Nigeria, Iseyin chapter, accused some Islamic groups in the town of religious intolerance and attempt to mislead the public.
This was as the traditionalists called on the Oyo State governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde and members of the public to ignore the tissue of lies and misinformation being spread by a group that identified itself as the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Iseyin chapter, that Oro worshippers were violent and had been disturbing the peace of the town over the years.
A statement signed by one of the leaders of the traditionalists, Chief Oloyede Orogbensola, noted that contrary to the lies that Oro worshippers had been attacking Muslims and non-Muslims in Iseyin, the Oro worshippers and other traditionalists had always been at the receiving ends of violent attacks from Muslims over the years.
Orogbensola added that the Islamic group misrepresented facts when it claimed that Oro was started in Iseyin in 1930, noting that the historic town was founded by an Ife prince, Ogbolu, with the help of Oro and Ifa deities, noting that Oro had been synonymous with Iseyin for hundreds of years.
He pointed out the significance of the Oro festival, noting that “it is being conducted annually for the spiritual cleansing of Iseyinland,” adding that despite the unprovoked attacks on Oro worshippers by the Muslim groups, the festival would go ahead as planned on 22 September, 2019because there was no legal restraint against the annual festival.
The traditionalists added that the claim by the Muslim group that the Oro festival would last 17 days, was another attempt at exaggeration and blackmail, noting that it is only on two of those days, the seventh day and the 17th day, that women were banned from seeing the masquerade, adding that other days were mainly for festivities.
“Over the years, some Muslim adherents have become used to ambushing Oro masqueraders and unleashing terror on them. They carry out similar attacks on other traditional worshippers and after such attacks, they would turn on us to arrest and harass our members with the police. In all these, we have continued to stomach the hurt in order not to ridicule Iseyin, because we cherish our town and its image.
“This time round, the intolerant Muslim groups through the League of Imams and Alfas in Iseyin, sued the Aseyin of Iseyinland and 16 others, all traditional worshippers. To add salt to injury, they are using their influence in the media to sell lies to unsuspecting public by painting Oro worshippers in negative light.
“We deem it fit to set the records straight that at no time in 2018 or at any other period did Oro worshippers attack Muslims in Iseyin. We have always been at the receiving ends of the violence. It must also be clarified that all the allegations by the NSCIA were outright lies.
“It is our view that this falsehood and deep-seated misinformation is anathema to peace and harmony in Nigeria, a secular state. We urge the Oyo State governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, to disregard the attempts to blackmail us and portray us in bad light, while giving him the highest assurance of our commitment to peace and religious harmony,” the statement read in part.
Orogbensola warned Muslims in the Iseyin to desist from the path of intolerance and hatred for traditional worshippers, which he said had been threatening the peace of the community over the years.