Recently the government of the Osun State of Nigeria declared Tuesday, August 20th, 2019 a public holiday for their ‘Traditional Worshippers’ to celebrate the annual Isese Day. Recall that a different date was offered the same grace last year. No doubt, this provides a pondering point for all critically minded observers of the religious space of our severally-beleaguered nation, nay continent.
Like is common knowledge, of the 10 public holidays observable in this country, six are religion based. These are the balanced two-day each Eid-El-Fitr and Eid-El-Kabir for Muslims; Good Friday, Easter Monday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day for Christians. Of the rest four, three – Workers’, Democracy and Independence Days – are for the nation while New Year’s Day is arguably for all. Notwithstanding that the Muslims have a different date for it. Hopefully, this will also be balanced soonest.
Sadly, however, of these religious half a dozen, none accrues to our traditional religions. It can be seen from the above that the ‘religious imports’ of Islam and Christianity share them unashamedly among themselves. As though the word ecumenism cannot cross the ever rigid walls often cast between belief divides. Of that later.
This has in consequence seen our people forget some salient point about belief and the many systems it has spawned upon us. Many are there amongst us who take it for granted that these maximum religions as they have become are aliens in Africa, let alone Nigeria. Conversely, this number have also fallen for the umpteen bad names heaped on the otherwise efficacious systems bequeathed by our forefathers. Somehow they are unmindful that this blackmail is more often than not the handiwork of the duo of ‘invaders in religious skeins’.
But the truth must be told notwithstanding whomsoevers’ ox is gored. It’s now known there is no society in this world that did not find an autochthonous way of relating with God. Therefrom, it’s deducible that none should have the ‘God-given’ effrontery to force itself on another. Like one cynic put it on social media: ‘I cannot for any reason abandon my forefathers’ supposed stupidity for those of some other folks’.
Give and take, no extant religion of the world is still in the state it was founded. Without doubt, if dynamism exists anywhere at all it’s foremost in the practice of religion. Lest its often selfish savants are passed into desuetude. Like those of our traditional religions, if I am asked. They were so fastidious about the old, that they didn’t see change a-coming.
All said, even undone, time behooves us to come to our senses now or never-more. Religion is a universal phenomenon. Each society fashions themselves one that best suits its environment and starts ‘dynamising’ from there. For any people(s) to scrap theirs outright ostentatiously for the one modernised elsewhere is akin to playing ostrich with their fate and faith. And no amount of enculturation or indigenisation can correct this.
This is the more reason why the ‘revolution’ that has started in Osun State must spread to the nation, nay continent. We do not have to wait for our gods to expose themselves in human form to use our tongues to count our teeth. The present state our entire continent is in refers. Quote me: We would never have been this un-blest were we in tune with them.
Which is where the Osogbo exemplar comes in. Nothing, for instance, stops the entire states nay geopolitical zones of the nation from taking their cue. For starters, the entire South East bloc should start moves aimed towards declaring a day of obligation for the annual New Yam Festival. That way they would have saved themselves the current Damocles’ sword hanging over their political leaders heads since our local Nuremberg.
Or more importantly, their people, legislators and governors would by it gain unforseen favours from our long-forsaken gods. Servants as they are of the one and only universal God who lives in heaven though Its loincloth laves the earth.
-Isidore Emeka Uzoatu, author of Vision Impossible, wrote in from Onitsha, Anambra State.