Traditional Religion Worshippers in the country have kicked against their non-inclusion in the national conference scheduled to begin soon following the announcement of modalities for the nomination of participants to the talks by the federal government.
The traditional worshippers, under the banner of practitioners of African Traditional Religion, said their exclusion from the dialogue would “haunt the country in many years to come”.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday in Abuja, President of International Council for Ifa (African) Religion and Dean, School of Earth and Mineral Sciences at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Prof. Idowu Odeyemi, therefore, demanded at least three slots for the indigenous religion practitioners.
He said he had received the blessings of a former Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Wande Abimbola; the National Coordinator of Oodua Peoples Congress, Otunba Gani Adams; and “millions of other practitioners” to register the practitioners’ grievance on their behalf and seek reconsideration by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, whose office serves as secretariat for the national conference.
He said, “Most disturbing and perplexing of this arrangement is the representation of the religious groups. In the listing, six “Muslim” leaders and six “Christian” leaders, each representing each of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria, were invited.
“A major flaw in this is that Nigeria, acting in accordance with the dictates of the foreign media, gives the impression that Nigeria is made up of only Christians and Muslims. African religion does not exist in Africa’s largest nation. Both ingested and imbibed impressions are plainly off course, clearly false, patently self-demeaning and self-abnegating. To consciously alienate and ignore this massive African religious class is therefore totally unacceptable.
“Ignoring African Traditional Religion now or ever, will come back to haunt our country Nigeria for several decades to come. According to Edmund Burke (1790), People will never look forward to posterity, those who never look backwards to their ancestors. All practitioners of African Traditional Religion in Nigeria demand and should be given three slots to the national conference to represent and articulate the interests of African religion and spirituality”.
The don lamented government’s accordance of due respect and recognition to other religions at the detriment of traditional religion, which he noted was fully established long before the introduction of Christianity and Islam to Nigeria.
He stated that the exclusion of traditional religion worshippers indicated that Nigerian forefathers had been ignored by their children and regarded as inconsequential to the development of the country.
He, therefore, urged the Federal Government to have a rethink of its decision to exclude the traditional worshippers from the conference, adding that he had been receiving series of complaints from traditional religion adherents from all over the world for explanations on the reasons for the government’s decision.
Professor Odeyemi said that his group had appeared before the now rested Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue, headed by Senator Femi Okunronmu in Lagos, where it presented a position paper on the way forward for the country.