The ongoing renovation of the Central Ifa Temple at Oke-Itase, Ile-Ife, by the Osun State government, is an effort towards turning the earthly home of Orunmila, the messenger of Olodumare (God), into a world tourist centre. ADEWALE OSHODI takes a look at how this will boost the image of the Yoruba traditional religion (Ifa) when completed.
Christians go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; Muslims go on pilgrimage to Mecca, while adherents of the Yoruba traditional religion (Ifa) have their spiritual home at Oke-Itase, Ile-Ife, Osun State. This is the Central Ifa Temple, where Orunmila, the messenger of Olodumare (God) lived while on earth. Just as Jesus delivered the message of God to Christians and Mohammed delivered the message of Allah to Muslims, Orunmila is the focal point for adherents of the Ifa religion all over the world.
However, for some time now, the condition of the temple did not befit its status as the place where Orunmila lived while on earth, and members of the International Council for Ifa Religion were aware of this.
This then made the Council to seek the support of the Osun State government, under the leadership of Mr Rauf Aregbesola. One of the reasons given to the state government is that a beautiful Orunmila’s temple would draw tourists from all over the world, thereby boosting the economy of Ile-Ife and Osun State in general.
Without hesitation, the governor, Mr Aregbesola, who has been championing the cause of the three religions in the state — Christianity, Islam and Ifa religions — approved money for the renovation of the temple, and work has since commenced on the building that was first renovated to the concrete form in 1932.
And while appreciating the government for its support, the President, International Council for Ifa Religion, Professor Idowu Odeyemi, said: “This gesture from the state government has shown that the man at the helm of affairs, Mr Aregbesola, is not biased against any religion.
“Considering the importance of the Ifa Temple to adherents of the religion, we felt we need a world-class structure that would boost the image of our religion, and that was why we approached the state government last year to support us.
“We know that a renovated Ifa Temple would bring tourists from all over the world to Ile-Ife, just like pilgrims flock to Jerusalem and Mecca, and we are happy that the state government acceded to our request,” Professor Odeyemi said.
While commending Mr Aregbesola for his assistance, the professor of Geology from the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) charged governors of other South West states to also support adherents of the Yoruba traditional religion in their respective domains as they were elected to be the fathers of all.
“Mr Aregbesola has shown that he is not biased against any religion, and this is what we want from the other governors in the region.”
On the ongoing renovation, Professor Odeyemi said everything would have been completed by the end of April or early May so that it could host this year’s World Ifa Festival in June.
While speaking on the festival, which coincidentally is taking place in the year Nigeria reached its centenary, Professor Odeyemi said apart from the academic symposiums that would be taking place, divinations will also be cast for Yorubaland and Nigeria in general.
He, however, said the 2014 Ifa festival has nothing to do with Nigeria’s centenary, while stating that Ifa had been in existence before the amalgamation of Nigeria.
“Ifa is only bothered about the Yoruba race, which existed before Nigeria. I must say that at the Federal level, government is not involving adherents of the traditional faith. It is only involving Christians and Muslims in its activities, and no wonder Nigeria is in the state it is now.
“There is a correlation between the growth of these two main religions and the growth of moral decadence in our country. We are witnessing corruption like never before in Nigeria, and those who are involved in this terrible acts are adherents of our foreign religions.
“So if the Federal Government will invite us to be part of the centenary celebrations, we will cast divination for the country on how to change the path it is headed now”, Professor Odeyemi said, while revealing that adherents of the traditional faith are not illiterates as many people believe.
“Let me first remind Nigerians that Professor Wande Abimbola, a former Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, is an Ifa priest. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Ifa Council, and he actually opened the way for many academics to return to the religion of their forefathers.
“Today, I can say that there are many academics and other professionals who are adherents of the Ifa religion, so nobody should see us as a bunch of illiterates,” Professor Odeyemi said.
While also speaking on the forthcoming Ifa festival, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of ICIR, Dr BIfatife Olufemi Adeseye, said it would be holding between Friday, June 6 and Sunday, June 8, 2014.
“The main event for the festival will hold on Saturday, June 7, but we are putting in place many activities that would make the festival lively. We are having different performances by musicians, academic conferences on Ifa, where distinguished scholars would be invited to discuss their papers, raffle draws, and so on.
“Although we have not outlined what we will do, these are the activities Nigerians should be expecting. We are rebranding the festival in the sense that it will promote all the aspect of Yoruba culture. The religion aspect is the practice of Ifa, but we have other aspects of the culture like our dressing, our food, our values, and so on, and these are the things we will project during the festival,” Dr Adeseye said.
The lecturer of Theatre Arts at the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, thereafter, encouraged all Yoruba sons and daughters at home and in the Diaspora to participate fully in the festival, since it has to do with the projection of our race to the outside world.
“It has nothing to do with the fact that one is a Christian or Muslim. So far you are a Yoruba person, then find a way to participate”, Dr Adeseye said, while lamenting the fact that those who brought Christianity and Islam to us in Africa first changed our mentality that our way of life is devilish.
“First, they made our culture look inferior to theirs, and have we not stopped to think that these same white people who paint our culture as devilish are now embracing Ifa religion.
“The white people are already succeeding in taking our religion away from us, and if care is not taken, a time will come when they will be casting divination for Yoruba people,” Dr Adeseye said.
At the moment, work on the sacred building is going on day and night in order for it to be ready to host this year’s festival, and when that time comes, one thing is certain from the faithful. They will pray for the continuous progress of Governor Aregbesola, because of the love he has shown the traditional faith.