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OPINION: Kings And Imams In Yorubaland

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By Lasisi Olagunju

Beyond its outer casing of spirituality, the post of Imam in Yorubaland potentially guarantees prestige, power and prosperity. That is why people fight to be Imam as grisly as princes fight to be king.

But when siblings fight to the death, they lose their chest to outsiders. The Yoruba Muslim community is almost always at war with itself. The League of Imams and Alfas of Yorubaland, Edo and Delta in April this year scrambled to douse a fire over who should be their mufti. The mufti is the jurisconsult in Islamic jurisprudence. Two persons were named by two contending power blocs. The league, in a signed public statement in April this year, asked both to stay off the post. There has been some quiet since then. In Ogbomoso, there is a very bad division over the leadership of the Muslim community in the town: the Chief Imam on one side, a section of the Muslim community led by the Aare Musulumi on the other side.

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Some Yoruba Muslims are angry that the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Afolabi Oloye, a Christian, issued a query to the Chief Imam of Ogbomoso. I read comments from some of them and chucked to myself. When you make someone to hire you, you should expect the day he will fire you. But, everyone conversant with the case knows that the real problem of the Imam is not with the oba. It is a family sore that has festered into a full-blown Muslim-Muslim civil war. The palace originally came in as an arbitrator but because it went about it as Tortoise did while separating a street fight between Shrew and Squirrel, it now nurses a bleeding nose.

Shouldn’t history have been a guide? In all Yoruba towns where cracks among Muslims have occurred, lizards stay put there. Some of those divisions and difficulties date back almost 200 years; some of them still subsist. The secretary of the defunct Muslim Congress of Nigeria, in a July 6, 1950 letter to the colonial secretary, pointed at such unfortunate Muslim-Muslim disputes over imamship in Ijebu Ode, Abeokuta, Ife, Iseyin, Ondo and Ijebu Igbo. G.O. Gbadamosi’s ‘The Imamate Question Among the Yoruba Muslims’ (December, 1972), speaks to that matter and several cases of fights and wars over leadership among Yoruba Muslims. T.O. Avoseh’s ‘Islam in Badagry’ and his ‘A Short History of Epe’ also detail some of those crises and their fractious implications on the early years of Islam in Yorubaland. There is also Toyin Falola’s ‘Islam and Protest in Colonial South Western Nigeria’ (1991).

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You may find this piece of history from Gbadamosi (1972: 236-237) to be of interest: “In Iseyin in 1941, the office of the Chief Imam became vacant, and a dispute arose as to the succession. A very vocal section of reformers were unwilling to allow the Naib, Afa Busari, to succeed. Afa Saminu of Oke-Ola quarter was preferred by and large for his learning and other qualities. Controversy raged. In the attempt to resolve this issue, the local ruler, Aseyin (of Iseyin) acted and proclaimed another person (Afa Mustafa) as Imam. He had him turbaned, and claimed a rightful appointment. The other side challenged this and reported the matter to the Alaafin and Council.” They also petitioned the Senior Resident asserting that “the question of the selection of a Chief Imam ought not to have political influence…” The Resident “found that Afa Saminu was more popular with the people than Busari (36 v 16) but the Aseyin still insisted on his third candidate. As a compromise, the office of Deputy Noibi was offered Saminu” but his supporters argued that it was not customary among Muslims “that after the Chief Imam, there should be a deputy besides the Ratibis of each individual quarter who are deputies over whom the Chief Imam is alone superior…” The historian reports that “so, both sides had their own Imams and the two original factions prayed separately” amidst “abusive songs and parades.” The above shows how long the journey of rifts has been for the Yoruba Muslim.

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Back to Ogbomoso. You would think that it would always be true that what founds a town rules the town (ìdá’lùú ni ìsèlú). In November 2021 when he was appointed as the Chief Imam of Ogbomoso, Dr Taliat Oluwashina Yunus Ayilara went online and announced the process that made him the number one Muslim in Ogbomoso: “About a month ago after the demise of the late Imam of Ogbomoso, I was beckoned by my family to fill the position. After a long process of screening, I was appointed today, 11th November, 2021 by the Soun of Ogbomosoland as the 13th Chief Imam of Ogbomosoland.” There is a video online that shows him being installed as Chief Imam, not in the central mosque, but inside the palace – which makes him a chief of the Soun. There is a video showing where the Imam describes his office as an extension of the palace and mis-defines himself a staff member of the oba. Ancient Romans were very deep thinkers. They had a maxim for a situation like this: “volenti non fit injuria” – meaning, “to a willing person, it is not a wrong.” You cannot knowingly and voluntarily submit to a relationship and cry blue murder as a result of the result.

For the king, the Ancient Romans again. They said “Injuria non excusat injuriam” – a wrong does not excuse a wrong. I strongly think the Soun should not have allowed himself to be led into the dark hole of querying the Imam. He should have continued to watch the show but monitor the temperature to avoid a ruptured vessel. The oba’s status as a pentecostal pastor politically disqualified him from directly moving against the Imam. Even if he was encouraged to take that step by opposition Muslim leaders in the town, Kabiyesi should have known that in Yorubaland no one helps another to discipline their child and gets praised for it (bá mi na omo mi kò dé inú olómo). In religion (whether Islam, Christianity or Ìsèse), it is very resentful seeing an outsider, a competitor, holding the whip against ‘our own’. We say you don’t chase a problem-child into the mouth of a tiger. Issuing that query was ill-advised and I believe the king must have realized the error.

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If you’ve ever studied how leaf becomes soap, you would understand why Islam and the Yoruba traditional leadership are the proverbial soap and its cover-leaf. Islam is historically more than a religion in Yorubaland. Because the religion came in there hundreds of years before Christianity, the relationship between the leadership of Muslims and the oba in every community has always been deeper than outsiders can imagine. Dada Adelowo, in his ‘Imperial Crises and their Effect on the Status of Islam in Yorubaland in the 19th Century’ (1982), says so much on this.

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The Imam in every Yoruba town, is, essentially, both a religious leader and a high chief. He participates in the administration of the town under the leadership of the oba who may or may not be a Muslim. But, this relationship notwithstanding, should an oba be involved in the choice and installation of a religious leader – especially an Imam? The person who would settle a quarrel, should he be located in the structure of the rift? (Eni tí yóò pa’rí ìjà, won kìí ròó mó ejó). Successive Soun (of all faiths) have been appointing successive Chief Imams for Ogbomoso since the very beginning which has been put as the year 1818. The history of that arrangement is an interesting read in communal unity, amity, appreciation and mutual respect. But times have changed. Even if there is a law that empowers obas to make religious appointments, should such not be amended to avoid the kind of incongruity and tension and insults we see in Ogbomoso?

The making of the Ogbomoso convention, with the tradition that enables it, obviously did not envisage a future that is today. Critical sections of the society are seeing not an oba querying his chief; what they see is a pastor seeking to sanction an Imam. It is awkward, cannot be explained. Muslim leaders need to quickly work with the traditional leadership in all communities where such arrangements subsist for amendments. The obas, themselves, should initiate and encourage that change. It will insulate them (the kings) from avoidable insults and insubordination.

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Three Nigerians sentenced To 235 Years In US Prison

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A court in Mississippi, United States of America has sentenced three Nigerians to 235 years in prison.

The jury found all the three personguilty of mail fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, credit card fraud and theft of government property.

Oladimeji Seun Ayelotan, 30, was sentenced to 95 years in prison, while Rasaq Aderoju Raheem, 31, got 115 years jail term.

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Also, Femi Alexander Mewase, 45, received 25 years in jail.

They were convicted for running online scams.

They were said to have duped people of tens of millions of dollars.

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Deadly Blaze Kills Even In France

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An apartment building blaze early Thursday killed seven people in the southern French city of Nice and police were investigating the fire as a possible arson, authorities said.

The dead include three children – 5, 7 and 10 years old – and a 17-year-old teenager who tried to escape by jumping from a window, they said.

The apartment was occupied by a family believed to have Comoran origins, the regional prefect Hugues Moutouh said, referring to the southern African island nature.

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Ten people were inside when the fire broke out.

Rescuers were alerted at around 2:30 am (0030 GMT) to the blaze on the seventh floor of the building in the low-income neighbourhood of Les Moulins, known for being a drug-dealing hub, in the west of the city.

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In spite of the substantial resources deployed, “unfortunately seven people died during this fire”, firefighters said.

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Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on social media that the quick arrival of firefighters “probably prevented more deaths”.

Nice prosecutor Damien Martinelli said investigators were looking into a “criminal” cause for the fire.

“In light of the initial evidence, I have opened an investigation into acts of arson leading to death,” he told reporters at the scene.

The authorities said the blaze probably broke out on the building’s second floor and spread to higher floors.

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Rescuers said that three people were taken to hospital, one of them with life-threatening injuries.

They said firefighters were confronted by a “raging apartment fire” on the seventh floor of the building. They carried out three aerial ladder rescues and evacuated dozens.

In total, 25 fire engines and 72 firefighters tackled the fire.

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Twenty people were evacuated to a temporary shelter, with Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi saying a crisis unit to help anyone affected by the fire.

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Biden Speaks Of Quitting Presidential Race If…

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US President Joe Biden said he could drop his reelection bid if doctors found he had a medical condition, as a top Democrat on Wednesday urged the 81-year-old to step aside.

Biden’s comments were the first time he has even slightly opened the door to abandoning the White House race, and came as Representative Adam Schiff, a key ally from California, urged Biden to “pass the torch.”

“If I had some medical condition that emerged, if somebody, if the doctors came and said ‘you’ve got this problem, that problem,’” Biden told the Black media outlet BET in an interview taped Tuesday, when asked what could make him rethink.

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Biden however defended his decision to stay on for a rematch with Republican Donald Trump in November, and explained why he had not handed over to a younger generation after one term.

READ ALSO: Biden Falters In Fiery Debate With Trump

“I said I was going to be a transitional candidate, and I thought I’d be able to move on from this, pass it on to someone else,” he said. “But I didn’t anticipate things getting so, so, so divided.”

Biden has been fighting for political survival since a disastrous debate against Trump nearly three weeks ago, in which his tired and confused appearance sparked concerns about his age.

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Schiff became the first Democrat to call for him to step aside since the assassination attempt against Trump on Saturday, which had briefly silenced the growing chorus against Biden.

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A second Trump presidency will undermine the very foundation of our democracy, and I have serious concerns about whether the President can defeat Donald Trump in November,” Schiff said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.

Schiff, who is expected to win a Senate seat this November, is a key White House ally in the legislature and shot to nationwide prominence as lead prosecutor during then-president Trump’s first impeachment trial.

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Biden was set to make a fresh attempt to prop up his candidacy in a speech to crucial Latino voters in the battleground state of Nevada later Wednesday.

– ‘Pretty damn good’ –

Around 20 House Democrats and one senator have now called on Biden to leave the White House race but Biden has refused, insisting he is best placed to beat Trump.

READ ALSO: Ex-Rep Rejects Membership Of Edo APC Gov Campaign Council

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Biden, Trump agree to election debates in June, September
Most polls show Biden trailing in a tight race, with Trump pulling ahead in key swing states but no dramatic movement since the debate debacle or shooting.

Biden said his mental acuity was “pretty damn good” in an NBC interview on Monday, one of a series of unscripted outings aimed at showing he has what it takes.

With pressure on Biden mounting, Democrats said on Wednesday they plan a virtual nomination for the president in the first week of August, ahead of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on August 19.

Some Democrats have slammed the scheme, accusing the party of trying to ram through Biden’s candidacy and avoid a full discussion of alternative choices.

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Party chiefs say they need to carry out the virtual roll-call by August 7, which is the deadline set by the Republican-led state of Ohio for the submission of nominations.

Biden otherwise risks not being on the ballot in Ohio, the home state of Trump’s new running mate J.D. Vance.

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While Ohio’s governor has signed a law giving Biden more time, the DNC said it feared further legal challenges.

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“None of this will be rushed,” the heads of the DNC’s rules committee said in a letter to lawmakers obtained by AFP. “No matter what may be reported, our goal is not to fast-track.”

But several lawmakers are planning to sign a letter against the virtual nomination plan and others have criticized it, according to US media.

Biden insists that Democratic voters support him, but a poll by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research said Wednesday that nearly two-thirds want him to step aside.

 

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