The 2019 Eid-el-Kabir popularly referred to as Sallah may have come and gone but its uniqueness will no doubt live long in the minds of the residents of the ancient Iwo town in Osun State of Nigeria.
The Sallah celebration was so unique in the sense that for the first time in the history of the town, there was Durbar display.
In fact, this was the first time in the Yoruba populated South-West part of the country that a traditional ruler would engage horses for such a display.
The Oluwo of Iwo land, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi Telu I, in preparation for the celebration, had “imported” 30 horses from one of the states in the northern part of the country but due to constraints, they could not get to Iwo as expected.
Unfortunately, they arrived the palace of Oluwo of Iwo few hours to the prayer slated for Eid ground which is about 30 minutes trek from the palace.
They arrived at the palace with 10 horses amidst shouts of Shehu, Shehu by the anxious residents including the Muslim worshippers.
The late arrival of these horses no doubt affected the time of the Sallah prayer, as the monarch and his entourage arrived late to the praying ground.
After dressing the horses, the monarch and the princes left the palace in a convoy which can best be described as Durbar-like Sallah celebration, the first of its kind not only in Iwo but in Yoruba land generally.
The journey from the palace to the praying ground which ought to have taken them 30 minutes, took about 45 minutes as they moved in a snail pace.
The side attraction was the lining of the residents along the routes from the palace with salutations and shouts of Shehu, Shehu while the monarch acknowledged their cheers.
At the praying ground where thousands of worshippers were awaiting the arrival of the king, those who did not understand why the delay and the need to wait for the monarch, some of who sought for another praying ground, were astonished when the monarch and princes arrived on horse back for the prayers.
Noting that it was to boost the image and encourage tourism in the town, they praised the monarch’s efforts towards developing the town and ensure peaceful coexistence among the residents.
Speaking after the prayer, the monarch who prayed for continued peace to reign in the town, urged sons and daughters of his kingdom to contribute positively to the socio-economic development of the town and Nigeria in general.
The journey back to the palace was also slow and it took another 45 minutes.
At the palace, there was Durbar display by the horse riders to the admiration of the people. For almost 40 minutes there was various displays.
Speaking on the uniqueness of the celebration, the monarch who said he felt fulfilled noted that this was the first time the people of the ancient town would witness Durbar display.
“This is the first time in South-West people are witnessing such display and we are doing it, we are starting if from this year, we are going to be doing it every year,” he said.
On whether he was trying to import northern culture into Yoruba land, the monarch debunked claim of borrowing culture, saying “we all borrow things. There is nothing that anybody is born with. You see things, you update and key into it. There are many things that white people took from us which they upgraded and made better.
“Today, we think they are the original owners of most of these things. Didn’t we say civilization started from Africa but where is civilization today? Is it with us? Where is it? West.
“You said we hijacked it, so if I can upgrade on this and overtake the same thing, every country does that. In everything, nobody is born with anything. You have to copy, learn and overtake and you will see how better. You see China, they didn’t know how to do cars before but today where do they make almost everything?
“You will even think that there is nothing like Made in America anymore. So if we can have such mindset, this is not something that will go down in a value change,” he said.
According to him, this is just a metaphor of something greater that is coming in the future.
The Oluwo described the ceremony as a tip of the iceberg of what “we want to start upgrading, uplifting. Anything that we see, we are making better. What you see today, was it good? Better. So are we going to discriminate things that are coming from somewhere. It doesn’t matter where it comes from.
“Did we have sewing machines before? No. So why are we using sewing machines today? Why don’t people say we are using western culture? Were we using phones before? Is it our culture or our tradition? Government today, is it our culture or tradition? No. So it is not, you can borrow and make it better and do better.
“Today, the houses we build, the ones we knew about were mud houses, palm fronds and everything. But today, we are building skyscrapers. Is it our culture or tradition? Did our forefathers build skyscrapers? So, if you borrow something good, do it better and upgrade it. I will emulate everything good to make my children better to have a better future and that is what I’m all about,” he said.
While noting the socio-economic and tourism potentials of the Durbar display to the ancient town, Oba Akanbi disclosed that many from outside the state were invited to come and witness the first Durbar display in the South-West geo-political region.
He disclosed that many people came because they heard that this year’s Sallah celebration was going to be different.
“Next year celebration will be better than this. We are making it, doing better and it will be better every year and that is how I want not only Yorubas but I want Yorubas to start and other people in Nigeria are all my children (Hausa, Fulani, Igbo) even President Muhammadu Buhari is my child because I’m a traditional ruler,” he declared.
The traditional ruler who recalled that Islam as a religion first started in Iwo before other places in the South-West said unfortunately, it went down and disintegrated.
“So, what I’m doing now is to upgrade, update not only Islam but our culture and tradition. And not only about culture, I am also for Christianity, Islam and everyone. There are some theories we have pushed apart, that are not working for us.
“There are some proverbs that is not working for us now that we need to take out. We have to be greater, wiser and better than our fore fathers and our children must be better and wiser and better than us,” he said.
Since his ascension to the throne of his fore fathers, Oba Akanbi said he would want to be remembered better than some Yoruba ancestral leaders like Ogun (god of iron) and Sango (god of thunder) “whose prayers were that their children should be better than them.”
According to the oba, if there are no more people that can be called Sango and Ogun then it means that “this heritage, our Yoruba tradition, our people are going extinction.
“It means there will be no greater people and that is why I said ‘Alase lori Orisa’. I will be greater than Sango and Ogun and when I am greater than them, my children must be greater than me. You can see how greatness passes.
“Yes, Fulani, Hausa, Igbo, Ijaw, they are all my children. I treat them the same way. I call all of them princes. I am Ooni to an Ife man who lives here, to an Ijesha man that lives here, I am his Owa. To a Nupe man that lives here, I am his Etsu. To the Igala man, I am his Ata.
“I am everything any king can be in the whole Nigeria. Nigeria is our land, Kano is my land not only this place. How many size is Yoruba land? Is Kano not my land?
“As a Nigerian, Is Enugu not my land? Is Kano not my land? I am not a stranger in Nigeria. I am not a Yoruba in Nigeria. I am a Nigerian that has the right to live in Maiduguri.
“If the security situation is bad there, it is bad here too. Anything that concerns people in Borno concerns me here too.
“Anything that is happening in Sambisa forest, it is happening to me because when people are coming to Nigeria for investments, if I invited people, they will ask me about Nigeria as a whole. They won’t ask about Iwo and when they say security in Nigeria is bad, then nobody will come,” the monarch said.
While some residents appreciated the monarch’s efforts by introducing Durbar display during the Sallah celebration, others did not see any reasonable sense in it.
An indigene of the town, Suraju Bashiru, while speaking with our correspondent on the celebration, said it had no positive effects on the people.
He wondered how “importation” of horses for the celebration of Sallah by the traditional ruler could have positive effect on the socio-economic development of the town.
Bashir who claimed that most of the people who opposed the Durbar display might not be able do so publicly, said “we are tired of the monarch’s attitudes which are unexpected of a king most of which are contrary to our culture.
“Nobody will be ready to talk with you on the monarch’s actions because they trying to avoid any possible crisis in the town. If you observed, you would see that many of the worshippers left the praying ground with annoyance because the monarch arrived late.
“You can see that none of the scholars could condemn his (monarch) action because they cannot. How can an Oba delay the observation of Salat prayer because he wanted to ride horse to Eid praying ground, keeping thousands of worshippers waiting?”
He said since the monarch had decided to declare himself as the “Emir of Yoruba, there is nothing we can do about it than to keep mute and await the result of his action.”
Speaking on whether or not the monarch was trying to introduce Hausa culture, he declared that there was nothing he could do to erode Yoruba culture and tradition from the town.
It would be recalled that the monarch was recently reported to have adopted a new title, “Emir of Yoruba” which is novice in Yoruba land. Giving reason for the new title, Oba Akanbi was quoted saying that he took the said action to be part of the northern monarchs because they were more friendly and accommodating. The Oba had, however, denied the reports.
It was observed that during the Durbar display, rather than holding horse whip to pray for the people, the monarch was seen folding his fist like that of the Emirs in the northern part of the country.
Bashiru said the people were watching and waiting till the monarch decided to have a rethink and return to the Yoruba culture.