Saturday, November 6, 2021 2:06 pm
By Bayo Adeyinka
Growing up, I experienced how my Aunts visited our home. Almost all my aunts- my dad’s blood sisters- are Muslims. But my dad is a Christian. Whenever my aunts visited, they had their corner in our house where they prayed on their mats. I still recall how they clapped their hands to let us know they were praying anytime we kids disturbed. So I have cousins who are Muslims. I actually have more cousins who are Muslims than Christians.
In the early 80s up to the mid 90s, my dad held annual Christmas and New Year parties in our house. We called the Christmas festivities ‘Odun Kekere’ (the lesser festivity) and New Year ‘Odun Nla’ (the bigger festivity). During both festivities, we had everyone in our house- my aunts, cousins and extended family. I still recall that my Aunts would pray on their mats while some of their children followed my dad to the Christmas or CrossOver Services. We all ate together.
Whenever we visited my hometown of Ode-Omu in Osun State, we had more Muslim relatives than Christians. My dad had many apprentices then who served under him. We had a Boys Quarters filled with them as they lived with us. I recall many of them were Muslims. My father’s favourite and longest standing driver was a man called Mukailu- a Muslim. Today, the person who drives my mother is an Alhaji. He takes her to church while he waits outside.
My late father-in-law was a Muslim. My wife has a Muslim name. She is Monsurat. We had our wedding in church with my late father in law, an Alhaji, walking my wife down the aisle. During the recent 40 days Firdaus prayer for the repose of his soul, I was in attendance and participated actively in the prayers. After the prayers, I went to Mokola with my wife to distribute food items to the less privileged based on the Islamic concept of ‘Sadaqat’. That concept is premised on the belief that the dead will continue to benefit from acts of charity done in their names.
Before he passed on, I was actively involved in the Nikkai where he married his wife. I can still recall a very humorous moment that day. The Alfas were praying for the participants and when it got to my turn, the Imam conducting the prayer said they should pray for ‘Alfa Bayo’. As if on cue, more than three people responded that I am a Pastor. The Imam corrected himself and all of them started praying for Pastor Bayo in the Islamic way.
I remember when we were on campus, I belonged (and still belong) to a political group called The Group. We had Christian candidates as well as Muslim candidates. As a matter of fact, some of our coordinators and leaders are practicing Muslims while some of the candidates we presented for election are also practicing Christians- some of them very active on their campus fellowships. We all still retain that bond today. Some of them sleep over in my house and pray the Muslim way when they visit me. Now, replicate all I have written among 40m people.
The Yorubas don’t really care if our leader is a Muslim or Christian. Awolowo was a Christian. In his team, he had Lateef Jakande who was a Muslim and was referred to as Baba Kekere. Lateef Jakande was the Governor of Lagos State, the most prosperous out of all the LOOBO states as they were called then. Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a Muslim. His wife is a Christian- an ordained Pastor. The late Senator Abiola Ajimobi was a Muslim. His wife is a Christian. We don’t choose our leaders on the altar of religious convictions. Some have said Femi Gbajabiamila is a Muslim while others have said he is a Christian. We Yorubas don’t really care as we are more concerned about proper representation than personal beliefs.
It is that culture of tolerance that we are known for as Yorubas. I am very proud of this aspect of our lives and I flaunt it at every opportunity. It is that same religious tolerance that has made the Yorubas easily accept other tribes. We are so accommodating of ourselves and others. That is the real ‘Omoluabi’ ethos. This is one reason I cannot forgive Rauf Aregbesola who tried to destroy that fabric that held us together with his ignoble policies in Osun State. And this is the reason I can’t understand Farooq Kperogi’s attempt to obfuscate issues.
You cannot use an isolated incident and build a template out of it. And with the way all these younger fellows are looking for opportunities to ‘trend’ in the name of ‘catching cruise’, it will amount to lack of rigour and a sacrifice of the fundamentals of basic journalism to plug into an unverified online story in a bid to justify your line of argument. He shouldn’t be allowed to widen the gap that politicians are attempting so hard to dig.
Am I saying there are no incidents just like he referred to? Not at all. We have had incidents of Christian/Muslim adherents clashing with masquerades or other worshippers. But these are very isolated incidents which don’t define who we are. We must continue to guard this aspect of our lives very jealously because I believe this is the glue that is still holding our nation together. If the Yorubas lose it, Nigeria will lose it totally.
Bayo Adeyinka, a banker and public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.