Below is a an interview with an Aku (aka Omo Oduduwa) woman who returned to the Way, having been drawn to home to Ifa by Olodumare – a sample of the mass return to the Truth to happen in these times as prophesied in Deuteronomy 30; notice her apparel which is probably similar to Osara’s, Deborah’s, Moremi’s (Miriam/Mary), etc. The interview was first published in page 48 of The Guardian of May 5, 2012 but is no longer available on The Guardian website.
Ebun Osunnike a.k.a Iya Adunbuyinbo, is the President of International Congress of Orisa Congress, Lagos State Chapter, an umbrella organization for all the Orisa Worshippers in Nigeria and in the Diaspora. She had once been a Christian named Ruth, She had once been a Muslim, named Falilat, but today Osunike is dedicated to the propagation of traditional religious worship. She fervently believes that a return to tradional religion will bring about a better society. In this interview with Yemi Olakitan, she bares her mind on various issues affecting tradional religion in Nigeria and why she believes that traditional religion is the best . Excerpts.
MOST people have abandoned traditional religion for Christianity and Islam, Why have you remained in it?
The Christians and Muslims have not abandoned our traditional religion. They deceive themselves when they say that they have abandoned our traditional practices and I will tell you why. There are ways in which they still observe our traditional religion. The Muslims still use what they call ‘‘Tira’’ which is a kind of charm if you look at it well. During the Salah celebrations, a good Muslim must slaughter his own ram and share such with the neighbors.
In the Christian Bible, Jesus was sacrificed for the sins of the world. The death of Christ was a sacrificial offering. In the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, God told them to make sacrificial offerings of bulls and rams. Therefore, it is all interwoven and related. Tradition is supreme and we are all involved in these practices in one form or the other. Each religion has its own rites and rituals. So, don’t tell me that they have abandon tradition. In actual fact, traditional religion is the first-born. Look at our Muslim and Christian brothers, particularly in Yorubaland, there are few names that do not have a connection with a Yoruba deity. Our names are either attached to Ogun the god of iron, Ifa the god of Divination, or Osun, the River goddess. These are deities that are attached to traditional religion, although these people may claim to be Christians or Muslims. The fact is that traditional religion is the religion of our ancestors. Look at Governor Fashola. He may claim to be a Muslim; his name is derived from Ifa. Traditional religion is the first. Islam and Christianity are foreign religions. Islam was imported from Saudi Arabia, while Christianity was imported from Europe. They are not our culture originally. We accepted these religions because we do not know the value of what we have. The white man knows what he has and he packages it well and he gave it to us and we accepted his own religion to the detriment of ours. I had been a Christian before, my baptismal name was Ruth and I had been a Muslim as well, my Muslim name was Falilat. I have examined the two and I prefer Orisa Worship.
Don’t You feel odd Atimes, being a traditionalist among a sea of Muslims and Christians?
I grew up with traditional religion. My father was a staunch traditionalist and so was my mother. I know the value of what we have. We have inherited a strong religion full of deep spirituality and strong philosophy of life. Honestly, there is nothing in Christianity or Islam that is not in Orisa Worship. My father’s name was Ogundeyi, my son’s name is Ogunshina and my other son’s name is Ifashola.
You see, traditional religion works if you practice it with truthfulness and right living. I believe in the Orisas. People have different problems. Christians, Muslims and even atheists all come to us for help including those who condemn us in public. I want to appeal to Christians to stop castigating us. They say, all we do is evil. That is a lie!
People come to us with problems and we are able to help them. Some come with unemployment problems, some barrenness, some business problems. We consult the Orisas for the solution and the solutions are always there.
What is the position of traditional religion on life after death?
In Yoruba traditional religion, there is a strong belief in life after death. Life does not end here on earth. If you do good, you will have your reward and if you do bad, you will also be rewarded. Everyone has spiritual groups in heaven (egbe orun). These groups depend on your character and the kind of life you live on earth while you were here. You see, birds of the same feather flock together. If you are a robber when you are alive, you will have spiritual affiliations with robbers in heaven and you will suffer with them. Let me give you a very classic example. A woman came to me in search of a child. She had been married for many years. I told her what she must do to cure her barrenness. She must offer sacrificial offerings to her spiritual group but she screamed “Jesus!” She went away because she found it difficult to accept because of her religious background. She came back to me after two years ready to offer the offerings. Today, she is blessed with a bouncing baby girl because of her obedience. You see, there is no one without groups in heaven. However, you need to live right in order to enjoy their blessings.
Tell us about your work and your association
Well, I am the president of the Orisa Congress in the whole of Lagos State. I went to Abuja to establish it. I have established it in Minna, Sokoto, Benin Republic and every state of the Western Region. We are present in the United States of America. We are in Europe as well. Professor Wande Abimbola in Ile Ife established Orisa Congress, when he was a Professor at the Obafemi Awolowo University. He is the President of the Association, worldwide. Araba Awo of Oshogbo, Chief Yemi Elebun Ibon is the National President of the Congress of Orisa Worshipers. Traditional religion is the first-born and it is supreme.
Our Association is fully registered with the government. We are registered just like the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). However, the government does not recognize us. They give attention to the Muslims and the Christians but not to us. We want to move close to the government, but our government is like a woman who gives birth to three children but abandons one. They have thrown traditional religion away.
But we are the true identity of the country. The others are foreign importations. In traditional religion, you cannot lie. If you do evil, evil will overtake you. Many people today cannot practice traditional religion because their works are evil; and the Orisa don’t condone evil. That that is why they hide under Christianity and Islam and yet many still come to us for deliverance. As an Osun Priestess for example, I cannot lie or cheat. It is what Osun asks for that I must ask for from the client. If Osun does not ask for money, I cannot ask for money. Yet, you will never lack. All the Orisas do not encourage wickedness. Therefore, it is wrong to associate traditional religion with evil. I also want to appeal to the Nollywood people who are making films to portray us in good light. They are castigating our collective cultural heritage. The images of Christianity and Islam are just products of good branding. Let us portray our culture and tradition in positive light to the outside world.
True, there are some people that go about parading themselves as Orisa Worshipers. They are dressed in white and they sit in public places begging for money. These people are not part of us. It is not Yoruba Culture to beg for money. It is not even in the tenets of Orisa worship. It is completely unacceptable. You don’t beg for money. You work with you hands. This is what the Orisas instruct us to do, although there is a certain deity that instructs his followers to go and ask for money and pray for those who give. However, this comes up at a particular season and when that season is past, you cannot continue to do it as if you are a beggar. It is totally against the religious inclination of Orisa Worship to turn oneself into a beggar and be begging in the name of religion. I have trained several priestesses. You cannot find them begging for money. Those who are doing that have deviated from tradition.
What other advice do you have for the Government?
The government should recognize us more. A father who has three children but throws away one is not a good father. If the Christians can help in nation building, we can also help. The Boko Haram issue, for example. They are not spirits, they are human beings. The government should involve all of us in finding solutions to the problem of the nation.