YOUTH PROSPECTS IN IFA/ORISA RELIGION
YOUTH PROSPECTS IN IFA/ORISA RELIGION
(Lecture Organised by Ejigbo Local Government Choir Association, Delivered by Oluwo Fayemi Fatunde Fakayode, Aare Agbefaga of Yorubaland, Director of Ejiodi Home of Tradition, Alade Near Moniya, Ibadan. E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.ejiodi.com Tel: 08189747423, on 17th May, 2015, at Ejigbo, Osun State, Nigeria. The lecture was delivered in Yoruba Language and later translated for Elerii Ipin Brochure of 2015 World Ifa festival organized by the Caretaker Committee of the International Council for Ifa Religion)
This article is about the youth in Ifa/Orisa religion in Africa. The work will focus on Nigeria, especially Yoruba land as a case study. The findings will be generalized to have represented what is applicable to other countries of Africa and the recommendations will be meant for the whole continent.
Who is a youth?
Many people have tried to define the term “youth” with the notion of convincingly showing to the world who a youth is. Some people believe that the criterion to pin point a youth should be age. Those who believe in age as a yardstick also defer in their claim for some say forty years should be the limit while some say it should not exceed thirty years. This paper position is that age is not enough to define who a youth is. A youth is defined here as somebody who is healthy, who has strength and power to carry out any assignment given to him or choosing by himself
What is Religion?
Religion can be defined as a way of calling upon the Supreme Force directly or through Ojise, Imole, Orisa, Anobi, Prophet or Ebora.
Youths and Religion
Throughout the globe, people refer to certain group of people as youths within their religion. We can also put it that some people see themselves as youths among the practitioners of every religion. This group of people, known as youths, always has a chief common goal or interest. The goal is to improve the situation of things affecting their respective religion. This goal is always the rope that ties the members of the youth wing together. Besides the chief common goal, there are always individual goals or interests which are always hidden or kept secret by individual youth. This is what can be seen as hidden agenda for each person. The hidden goal of each of the members of the youth group does contradict one another. Despite the contradictory interests, the chief common interest does lay its foundation on a slogan. The slogan is “we are stronger than the old ones”. There are many hidden beliefs behind the said slogan of the youths. The hidden beliefs are what can be seen as connotative meanings or views to the slogan. Among the notions are “we youths are more prudent than the old ones,” “we youths can perform better than the old ones”, “we youths are more civilized than the old ones” and so on.
In every religion of the world, there is youth organization. Here we shall talk about Christianity and Islam being the two popular religions in Nigeria. In Islam, there are youth organizations like National Council of Muslim Youths Organization (NACOMYO) and The Young Muslim Brothers and Sisters of Nigeria (YOUMBAS ANJAENA) formed on 19th April 1974. YOUMBAS ANJAENA is the one who contributed immensely to the growth and development of Islamic Gospel Music in the late 1970s and early 80s.
In Christianity, there are many organizations for the young ones, the youth. They have Christian Youth Association of Nigeria(YOWICAN), the Youth wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Nigeria Christian Corpers’ Fellowship (NCCF) and so on.
Youths in Ifa/Orisa Religion:
When Islam and Christianity were introduced to Nigeria, the first targets of the missionaries were the youths. They planned to withdraw the youths from the African Traditional Religion. With that, they knew there would not be continuity in the spirituality and that would lead to increase in the number of converts to their respective brought religions. One should not be surprised at all because, this is one of the things that Islam and Christianity teach their preachers, warriors, Jihadists and Crusaders. In the holy Bible of the Christians, Jesus himself said in Mathew (10:34-35) that:
Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, rather, a sword. I have come to set a man against his father and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law
The missionaries were truly working for Jesus and they set youths in Africa against their fathers and mothers by telling them to renounce the religion of their parents and see the parents as devils. In fact they are still doing it till today. As the Christians were and are playing their diabolical role, so are the Muslims doing the same thing. The Muslims also do that in accordance with what the holy Quran says. In the holy Quran, Chapter 9, verse 23, the Almighty Allah says:
Believers, do not befriend your father or your brothers if they choose unbelief in preference to faith. Wrongdoers are those that befriend them.
In some parts of Africa, the missionaries were violent while they used psychological war in some parts. However, the Muslims were more violent and aggressive in their struggle for converts in most part of Africa. They forced many people to convert to Islam. It is a matter of “Accept Islam and live; refuse Islam and get beheaded with sword”. The traditionalists (Ifa/Orisa believers) responded to this oppression with the song below:
E wi fun Lemomu
Ko ma wemo alawo ni wonka
E kilo fun Dadani o
Awa o temo yin kan nifa ri
Help us inform the Chief Imam
To stop forcefully Islamizing the children of Orisa devotees
Help us warn the assistant Imam
We have never initiated any of your children into Ifa belief systems.
All the lamentations from the Orisa devotees are just meaningless and useless to the Muslims and Christians propagators. The only thing in the minds of the Muslims and Christians propagators is the assignment of snatching the children of the Orisa devotees from their parents and turn the children enemies of their parents. Thus, the parents would be left isolated and be forced to convert to either Christianity or Islam when they realized that none of their children is ready to follow their path. The frustration killed many Orisa Priests and Priestesses while many committed suicide. Those who were neither strong enough to continue worshipping without children, nor strong enough to commit suicide converted to Islam or Christianity.
In 1971 when Judith Gleason came to Nigeria, she was aware of the fact that the youths were not interested in the way of Orisa. She saw that the priests and priestesses were dying in isolation and poverty. She then wrote with sympathy in her book titled, “Orisa; the Gods of Yoruba land” that:
Yet, no reasonable person can, with confidence, predict the survival of the cults in the traditional style. The old priests, the “strong” men are dying. Perhaps, at some future date with some concessions to the modern world, a renaissance?”
Critically looking at the statement above, one would see that Judith Gleason was not talking without sympathy. However, we are happy that the “renaissance” she predicted has emerged.
In the early 1980s, many youth organizations emerged among Ifa/Orisa devotees in Yoruba land to propagate the religion. In the history of the youth organizations, Lagos was very prominent. It is not a fallacy when we say that in Nigeria, the destruction of African Traditional Religion by the Christian Missionaries came through Lagos as the destruction by Muslim Missionaries was allowed through the Northern part of the country. It is however ironical that the youth movement to reinstall the religion started in Lagos.
There was a youth group known as the “Orunmilarians” in Lagos prior to 1980. The members were all members of Ijo Orunmila Ato, Ebute-Meta, Lagos. In Ibadan, a youth organization known as Ifa Youth Movement International (IFAYOMI) was formed in 1980. Around the same time, Ijo Orunmila Ato at Ebute Meta, Lagos witnessed influx of educated converts from Islam and Christianity. The Organization known as Orunmilarian then metamorphosed into Orunmila Youngsters International (OYIN) in 1982 with Late Prince Adewale Egberongbe as the First President. In Oyo township, an Organization known as Itesiwaju Progressive Association, coordinated by Chief Famoriyo Agboola, was formed in 1982. The Association of Progressive Ifa Youth Movement (APIYOM) coordinated by Chief Fakayode Olanipekun was formed in 1994 in Ibadan. Later, in 1997 there were organizations known as Adimula Improvement Movement (AIM) in Ibadan and Orisa Youth Movement (OYM) in Oyo. In 2005, Isese Youth Organization (IYO) was formed which was headed by Otunba Kehinde Idowu. Besides all those organizations, the Youths in Ifa/Orisa religion have established Students Organizations in tertiary institutions. Such organizations include Orisa Students’ Association (OSA) formed in 1986 at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife headed by Abiodun Agboola and Ifa Religion Students’ Association (Former African Traditional Religion Students Association) at Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, headed by Elder Ojebowale Olojede as the first President and Fayemi Fatunde Fakayode as the first secretary in 1997.
Roles of the Youths in the Religion:
The youths in the religion are expected to work hard to promote, propagate and improve the religion. They are in the best position to preach the religion to make it popular and acceptable to people.
Challenges Facing the Youths in Ifa/Orisa Religion in Nigeria:
The level of religious bigotry is high in Nigeria. This has created many challenges facing the youth practitioners of Ifa/Orisa religion. These challenges have bad effect that many weak minded youths felt frustrated and left Ifa/Orisa Religion.
Getting admission into schools can be difficult for an Ifa/Orisa devotee. This happens when the head of such school or the person in charge of the admission has aversion for Ifa/Orisa. We cannot be surprised to hear this when we remember that it was through school system that they converted many children of Orisa devotees to Islam and Christianity. Many people were forced in those days to change their name to either Christian or Muslim names before they could be admitted into the Christian or Muslim school. Those who were interested in western education cooperated with the school regulations then while few strong minds preferred remaining illiterate to converting to Christianity or Islam.
To secure job in Nigeria is also difficult for Ifa/Orisa youths. In the daily newspapers, it is not strange to see vacancy advertisement with the instruction “... Vacancy! But for Christians only...” or “...Vacancy! But for Muslims only…” In another way when it is not written, the interviewers will still ask the applicant or job seeker the religion he/she practices. The response will determine his/her fate. This issue also affects all types of job and professions without sparing the people who choose trading and those who seek contracts. The Muslims and Christians conspire against anybody who practices Ifa/Orisa. The consequence of this makes the practitioners of Ifa/Orisa to be deprived of many things in the society and to suffer economic regression and this exempts them from the high social class in the country.
The governance of this country is in the hands of the Muslims and Christians. Those who hold the power hold the control of the resources. Therefore, the economic condition of the practitioners of Ifa/Orisa cannot be compared with that of the Muslims and Christians in the country.
Another challenge is that of the holy book. The Bible is the sacred book of Christianity, and the Qur’an is the book of Islam (Mbiti 1975:15). Till today Ifa/Orisa religion has no generally acceptable sacred book. This is a great challenge facing the youths in preaching or spreading the religion for people ask them of the “Holy Book” or “Sacred Book” of the religion.
Moreover, the youths are always seen by many elders as impolite and insolate. To such elders, the youths are disrespectful and rude. The elders are just like the big cock that prevents the small one from crowing. After dancing for many years, the elders are not always ready to vacate the arena for the youths. In most cases, when the elders vacate the theatre for the youths to perform, the elders will be looking for the downfall of the youths. At times, some elders feel as if the youths should not be allowed to exist.
It is very pertinent for the youths to note that the challenges they are facing are not only in Ifa/Orisa religion. If one leaves the religion for another religion, he will surely be disappointed for he will meet more challenges there that may be related to the ones facing in Ifa/Orisa or different entirely in nature.
How the youths can prepare:
In the sacred verse of Ifa, a verse from Oturuponwonrin says:
Bi a baji
Ogbon ni ka maa kora eni
Ka ma ji ni kutukutu pile were
When we wake up
We must teach each other wisdom
We must never wake up in the morning to start foolishness
For the youths to face the challenges successfully, they must prepare themselves with a lot of things including wisdom. Knowledge gives one the audacity to face challenges and it also gives wisdom if applied appropriately.
For any person to be liberated, education is necessary. Education gives freedom to people. Education, both formal and informal builds a person and makes him a useful being. Youths must strive to have sound education for them to be able to withstand their counterparts from other religions. There should be presence of the Ifa/Orisa youths in all fields of education.
It is very compulsory to have a stable source of income. Smooth flowing of income banishes difficulties in catering for one self and the family. When one is found wanting financially, poor recognition is given to the person in the society. The classes in the society have made it imperative for people to struggle in other to find seat amidst the high rated class. The rich ones talk with authority and people are always ready to listen to them. This is what Ifa says about this:
Bi olowoba n fohun
Ohun re a maa se bi ina
Orun ni ebiti ti wo lu ohun otosi mole
When the rich one talks
The utterance is as powerful as fire
Right from Heaven, the poor’s voice has been killed
It is a popular saying in Yoruba land that “Money has warned that in its absence, nobody should make any plan”. When one is poor, people do not see wisdom in his plans and utterances. The rich ones are popular and “loved” by many. When the rich talks stupidly, people see wisdom in the utterances but when the poor talks with wisdom, people do not see any wisdom in the utterances.
The authority is in the hand of the people who rule the state. They have the control of the state and the resources. These people who are supposed to be the servants of the Masses are the masters while the masses are the servants. To even hit the nail on the head, without beating about the bush, if people would not see it as a blasphemous statement to undermine the position of Olodumare, the Almighty, it seems the destiny of the citizens is not in the hand of Olodumare but in the hands of the people in control of the state. The youths must struggle to be part of the group that rules and controls the society and the public resources. A popular saying in Yoruba land says “when you were not part of the system, you dare not query how the property was shared”. Therefore, if the youths want to be relevant and not be deprived of their privileges and rights, they must be in government.
Unhealthy relationship results into rift which later gives birth to battle from which war germinates. What benefits the society is nothing but mutual relationship which yields mutual assistance. For the youths to attain greatness, there should be mutual cooperation and they must be ready to assist one another. A verse of Ifa says:
Igi igbo abiduro kitikiti
Igi odan abiduro katakata
Igi odan e ma e sogbenu mo
Igi odan e fara yin mora
A difa fun Iwori
To n lo ree weri Owonrin
The forest trees are close to one another
The savannah trees are aloof to one another
Let the savannah trees stop keeping malice
Let the savannah trees move close to one another
Ifa revelation to Iwori
Who was going to reshape the life of Owonrin
The youths must always do with honesty and faithfulness to one another, to the community and to the religion they profess. With this, the support of the Almighty is sure for Ifa has said it that:
Eni to so otito
Ni Imole n gbe
He who is righteous
Is the one who gets support from the Deity
It is very compulsory for one to be rigid and consistent in pursuing one’s goal. Once the youths have set their goals, there should not be u-turn in their movement towards accomplishing the mission. In Odimeji, Ifa says:
Bi eniyan o ba se akin
Ko ma fi ohun se ojo
Bi eniyan o ba se ojo
Ko ma fi ohun se akin
He who will face issue with bravery
Should not talk like a coward
He who will face issue with cowardice
Should not talk like a brave man
In Oturagbe, Ifa says:
Eniyan to fe ki eyin o dun
Ko tun iwaju se
He who wants a better future
Should work towards it in advance
For the future to be sweet there should be proper preparation as highlighted above. The youths must strive to have useful knowledge and sound education. There should be stable source of income for them. Political arena must not be seen as forbidden stage for the youths. Among themselves, there must not be unhealthy relationship but mutual one. Also, their minds must be set as no abode for dishonest but faithfulness. To crown all these, their determination towards achieving their goals must not entertain flexibility. When the youths are determined, the sky is their limit. In Iworimeji, Ifa inter alia says:
A difa fun Kubilu Atepela
Tomo araye ti ro laropin
Kubilu Atepela donire gbogbo
Keni ma ro wa pin
Cast Ifa for Kubilu Atepela
One who people did not expect to achieve anything
Kubilu Atepela has possessed all good things
See what the future can hold in stock!
Let no one despise his fellow human being
The continuity of the way of Orisa is in the hands of the youths who are the great priests and priestesses in the future. Long life and prosperity is needed for the youths to be able to elevate the religion to the highest degree the youths always dream for Ifa/Orisa religion. May Olodumare grant our youths long life and prosperity. Ase
Ki iru eku ko ma ra
Ki iru eja ko ma ra
Ki iru eye ko ma ra
Ki iru eran ko ma ra
Ki iru odo ko ma ra
Iji Elemere gba wa o
Let the rats never perish
Let the fishes never perish
Let the birds never perish
Let the animals never perish
Let the youths never perish
Iji Elemere, we call upon you.
ABORU ABOYE ABOSISE
Oluwo Fayemi Fatunde FAKAYODE,
Director of Ejiodi Home of Tradition,
Kaa Compound, Alade Near Moniya,
Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.
Tel: +2348034991873, +2348077285390