Home Opinion OYO101: Long Before Ogbomoso ‘Catches’ Fire! | Muftau Gbadegesin

OYO101: Long Before Ogbomoso ‘Catches’ Fire! | Muftau Gbadegesin

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The ancient town of Ogbomoso is dancing on a precipice of religious conflagration. The Grand Chief Imam of the town, Sheikh Teliat Yunus Ayilara, in a fiery Friday sermon of 22nd Feb. 2024, raised an urgent alarm and called attention to the ongoing cold war between him, some Muslim leaders in the town, and the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Ghandi Olaoye.

In a 52:37 seconds viral video on his official Facebook page, the Grand Chief Imam of Ogbomoso walked viewers and listeners through the various clandestine and surreptitious plans and plots to have him removed as the Grand Chief Imam.

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Titled ‘Special Ramadan Message to Oba Ghandi and Ogbomoso Muslim community’, the Imam noted that after all efforts to communicate with the King in private, as courtesy demands proved abortive, he decided to speak to him in public. “I have explored various communication channels with the King in private. I have made calls to his official phone number and have called him via WhatsApp; I have also sent emissaries to the King, all to no avail. Many believe the King has blocked my lines, but I said no, it must have been poor network service”. When I also completed my PhD from the University of Ibadan, I expected the King to call to felicitate and congratulate me for the success of my program. “Up till now, he has not called, and efforts to get across to him through his acclaimed Chief Press Secretary, Reverend Peter Olaleye, didn’t change the status quo of our relationship”.

He said the special message becomes imperative given the level of misinformation flying around the town about the frosty relationship between him and the King. Recalled that the Grand Chief Imam of the town had, on February 18th, 2024, dragged the King to a High Court in Ogbomosho. The Chief Imam in the suit marked HOG/7/2024 before an Oyo state High Court sitting in Ogbomoso claimed that the Soun of Ogbomoso allegedly threatened to remove him as the grand chief Imam of Ogbomoso.

He said such efforts became necessary to avoid heating up the polity and setting the town for the avoidable crisis that may ensue in the wake of the alleged clandestine plots. “In a civilised world”, the Imam posited, “exploring the judicial option is considered a mark of honour and respect for the rules of law”. The Imam went on to cite various instances of subtle face-off between him and the King. In one instance, he pointed out that the King once publicly accused him of not supporting his aspiration to contest the throne of Soun of Ogbomoso. “I told the King that of the 23 aspirants that contested the stool, only two were Christians, the remaining 21 were Muslims who accepted me as their leader and often consult me widely and extensively about their aspirations”. The Imam furthered that in his response, Oba Ghandi also said that as a Pastor, he would have done the same thing the Imam had done.

Advancing, the Imam said the moment Oba Ghandi was declared the Soun, he went to visit him to intimate him about the scores of challenges facing the town and what he could do to avert crisis and set the community on a collision course for peace and prosperity. He said the King promised to act in the community’s collective interest. But in a twist of faith, the Imam noted, the King has acted contrary to his promises and vows to be father to all regardless of religious affiliation and ideological inclination. He said the King has pitched his tent with people who appear to be profiting from the division and polarisation of the Muslim community in Ogbomoso. He also cited the example of bromance between the King and some Muslim leaders in the town who have an axe to grind with him. He said the King has made his Palace a sanctuary for elements hell-bent on removing him from office using different means possible. He went on to mention names of people who have exploited the ignorance of the King in matters relating to Islam and Muslim. He said people with ulterior motives are misleading the King.

But the Imam played smart by not calling the attention of the Governor to the ongoing drama. By not calling for government intervention, the Imam opened the floor for those in power and authority to act in the interest of the peace of the town. Up till now, we’ve not heard of any serious efforts by the government. Perhaps no serious government would take the Grand Chief Imam of Ogbomoso’s frank talk with levity. In an ideal society, a peace and reconciliation committee would have sprung into action. From the Imam’s sermon, it was evident that the local peace initiative set up by the community has failed to nip the problem in the bud. The Imam mentioned the intervention of the likes of former Chief of Staff to Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, Dr. Saka Balogun, as a failed peace initiative that didn’t work. He also mentioned the intervention of the King in a dispute between the Osupa Baptist Church and the Nigerian Theological Seminary as a straightforward way to resolve without escalating differences. He said the King told the warring churches to respect the historical verdict of his forebears and sheathe their respective swords. He wondered why the King couldn’t act the same script among Muslims as well.

For the avoidance of doubt, the crisis brewing in the Ogbomoso Muslim community is not a Muslim walaha. The direct and indirect intervention and contribution of the King, a Redeemed Christian of God Pastor, has changed the dynamics and outlook of the leadership tussle. Had the King played the fatherly role of neutrality, it may still have passed for an internal religious difference. But the increasingly open expression of unvarnished animus between the King and the Chief Imam has undoubtedly unsettled the waters of peace, tolerance, and harmonious co-existence in the town, only a committed government will resolve the issues before it morphed into a full-blown religious conflagration.

OYO101 is Muftau Gbadegesin’s opinion about issues affecting the Oyo state and is published every Saturday. He can be reached via @muftaugbade on X, muftaugbadegesin@gmail.com and 09065176850.

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