The Council of Ulama, comprised of Islamic clerics in Kwara State, issued a stern warning on Tuesday to those intending to observe the traditional Ifa festival in Ilorin, the capital of the state. The council emphasized that the Ifa festival, in any form, would not be permitted within any part of the Ilorin Emirate, encompassing Asa, Moro, Ilorin East, Ilorin West, and Ilorin South local government areas.
Speaking at a press conference held in Ilorin, Justice Salihu Mohammed, the executive secretary of the council and a former Grand Khadi of Kwara state’s Sharia Court of Appeal, conveyed the council’s stance. He represented the chairman of the Council of Ulama and the Chief Imam of Ilorin, Sheik Bashir Salihu.
Justice Mohammed noted that Ilorin had been a sanctuary of Islam for over two centuries, renowned for its Islamic faith, practice, spirituality, and knowledge. He underlined that the upcoming Ifa festival, organized by the youth wing of the International Council for Ifa Religion (ICIR) and scheduled for August 20th, 2023, posed a significant threat to the security of lives and property throughout the state.
The council urged the Kwara State government and all relevant stakeholders to intervene and implore the ICIR and similar interest groups to refrain from holding their festival in Ilorin. The council believed that allowing the event to take place in Ilorin would have adverse consequences on the state’s peace.
Justice Mohammed further expressed concern about derogatory remarks directed at the Emir of Ilorin and the chairman of the Council of Emirs and Chiefs in Kwara State, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, which he deemed unfortunate and condemnable.
The council voiced its understanding of the viewpoints of various youth groups opposing the festival’s staging in Ilorin. These groups saw the event as a disruption to the community’s peace and a form of cultural imperialism. The council aligned with these concerns, emphasizing that imposing foreign practices on the host community contradicted natural justice and could lead to disorder.
Justice Mohammed clarified that the council’s opposition was not against the celebration of the Ifa festival itself. However, he stressed that the people of Ilorin had moved past it culturally, embracing a pure Islamic culture. He urged the organizers to respect peace and not impose their celebration where it wasn’t welcomed.
The council appealed to Muslim youths and other stakeholders to remain patient and called on the Kwara State governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, to direct security agencies to address the threat to the state’s peace and security.
The press conference included prominent figures such as Imam Gambari, Ajanasi Agba, Sheikh Yusuf Pakata, Professor Badmas Yusuf, and former grand Khadis Justices Idris Haroon and Ola AbdulKadir. Representatives from all 16 local government areas of the state also attended.
Recalling an advisory from the Kwara State Police Command, the International Council for Ifa Religion (ICIR) was urged to move the Isese festival to another state due to unfavorable security reports. The Police Command communicated with vigilantes, local hunters, community policing members, and traditional worship leaders to underscore the unsuitability of the planned celebrations in the state. The Police Command’s statement was signed by SP Okasanmi Ajayi, the Police Public Relations Officer, on behalf of the state Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Ebunoluwarotimi Adelesi.