- Just so they know, Yoruba indigenous religions are not “idol worshipping.” Describing them that way is pejorative, an unmistakable echo of colonial-era misattribution.
One of the first things that jump at you in the charge sheet issued against Ilorin activist, Adegbola Abdulazeez (popularly called Tani Olohun), and published on SaharaReporters was the erroneous description of his religion as “idol worshipping.” It is a mischaracterisation borne out of socially transmitted ignorance. Public officers in other cultures are made to undertake diversity training for reasons like this. The officers who booked Tani Olohun need a crash course in Yoruba culture because those armed with outdated knowledge reify abuse.
Just so they know, Yoruba indigenous religions are not “idol worshipping.” Describing them that way is pejorative, an unmistakable echo of colonial-era misattribution. Till date, some of our people have not expanded their vocabulary and still make the fundamental error of referring to indigenous religious practices as “fetish,” “pagan,” or that their worship is “rituals,” and their religions are a “cult” etc. A police system that uses such derogatory language in an official document not only reveals itself as prejudiced but also demonstrates its lack of competence—cultural and ideological—to adjudicate in the ongoing confrontation between Ilorin Muslims and the ìsèse practitioners. The best course of action—if the police have any institutional integrity left anyway—is to promptly discontinue the case and seek an education on religious diversity in the country.
In a case that reprises that of Kano atheist, Mubarak Bala, who is presently serving an extended prison term, Tani Olohun too was arrested and charged to court after some Muslims petitioned the police to complain about his provocations. In one of such petitions, the complainants resorted to what has now become a standard ploy: invoke the spectre of numbing religious violence that has happened in northern Nigeria to threaten public peace. It is a bait the police are guaranteed to swallow. Joorojáàrájooro, they will make an arrest and prosecute their victim with a degree of zeal they will not deploy to other extant serious issues. Meanwhile, according to Saharareporters (and undisputed by the police), the warrant used to arrest Tani Olohun was even a fake. If his arrest was unwarranted, is his prosecution about “justice”?
The antagonism and the high-handedness being deployed against ìsèse practitioners like Tani Olohun have everything to do with the political vulnerability of religious minorities. Yes, I know about Tani Olohun’s provocations (I have seen his videos). While I am also aware the police added defamation to his supposed crimes, I still see no reason for their involvement. Defamation can be pursued as a civil case by those supposedly impacted. Much of Tani Olohun’s contents that his accusers find provocative retaliate the attacks on his religious beliefs. His comments are pretty routine in Nigerian churches and mosques where religious leaders who run out of things to say put down other people’s beliefs. Anyone who finds what he has to say in bad taste can block him off. There is a reason that the Oyinbos that invented social media added that feature.