By Rotimi Ojomoyela
IKUN-EKITI, a hitherto peaceful and obscure community, home to an obsolete and moribund dairy farm, gained notoriety in recent times because of the clash between the Muslim Community and the Traditional ‘Egungun’ Masquerade worshippers.
The last week of May to the first week of June every year is very significant to the people of Ikun-Ekiti, in Moba Local Government Area of Ekiti State, because it is the period set aside for the celebration of Egungun festival and virtually everyone in the community participates in the ceremony. However, that of this year was ill-fated because it fell within the same period of this year’s Ramadan, a period Muslims worldwide, including those at Ikun are observing it being one of the pillars of Islam, which is fasting .
How it all began: On the ill fated day, which was on May 30, 2017, the Muslims, had converged at the Ansar-ud-Deen Central Mosque in the community, the same place where the shrine of Ajagunmole was located, just about 20 meters away from each other, this was just as the procession of the masquerades was also making for the shrine.
Absolute silence and solemness
It was gathered that the fasting Muslims had converged at the central mosque in the community to break their f ast, while the masquerades were heading to the shrine of Ajagunmole for propitiate the Egungun deity.
A source in Ikun claimed that “in the community, the tradition is that when the masqueraders, which appear once in three years, hold their procession, any form of noise is not tolerated. It is done in absolute silence and solemness, but the Muslims’ call to prayer was done at about the same time and this, I believe, caused the clash.”
Vanguard gathered that it was the Muslims’ loud call for prayer that irked the masqueraders, and prompted a violent reaction from them.
They descended on the Muslims with cudgels, stones and metals, resulting in varying degrees of injuries among the Muslims, just as the mosque was vandalised. Windscreens of two vehicles parked at the mosque were also smashed just as the panes of the mosque’s windows. The Imam of the mosque, Alhaji Abdul-Rasak Abubakar-Bello, received a head injury and was treated at the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital in Ado Ekiti (EKSUTH), while five other worshippers were also injured.
Abubakar-Bello said they were held hostage at the mosque for hours by the masquerades, who he said threatened to kill them, saying “there was no way we could escape because they laid siege outside the mosque after initially attacking us inside the mosque with iron and wooden rods. When we succeded in locking ourselves inside the mosque, they started throwing stones at us.” The Muslim community alleged that the Monarch of the Community, Oba Olatunde Olusola orchestrated and physically supervised the attack. They also alleged that the police ignored their distress calls.
Monarch’s reaction: The Onikun of Ikun-Ekiti, Oba Olatunde Olusola, who denied complicity in the allegation level against him, said he was the father of all and the custodian of all religions in the community. Oba Olusola said that it was not true that he orchestrated the attack, pointing out that “I have been fair to all faiths and the ugly incident happened in the full glare of a large crowd of people in the town.”
He said he had written a letter to the Muslim community in Ikun, dated May 26, 2017 entitled “Appeal for Cooperation,” saying he had done that to avoid any kind of trouble as this had always been the situation even before he became the traditional ruler. In the letter signed by his secretary, Akinwumi Jimoh, Oba Olusola had asked the Muslim community to grant the traditional worshippers Tuesday, May 30, 2017 for the grand finale of their triennial masquerade celebration.
Part of the letter read: “This is to inform the congregation that this year’s ongoing Egungun festival will come to an end on Tuesday, 30th May, 2017. And as part of our culture, women are to be kept indoors in the evening of the final celebration rites on the said day. ”You have all the year round, please grant the Egungun celebrants this one day in three years.”
Oba Olatunde said “there has always been a crisis between them because the shrine is very close to the mosque; that is why we took the step of informing the various bodies before hand, to avoid trouble. Because they have to go to their shrine, there’s always trouble that is why I wrote a letter to them to ask them to do their thing and it takes less than one hour.”
He said the Muslim community had met with the traditional council and they had agreed that there would not be noise during the procession, pointing out that “I gave them another option of using the other mosques in the town instead of the one close to the shrine, all in a bid to avert trouble.”
According to him, “in the full glare of everybody, when the Egungun procession was coming at about 6:35 or 6:40, the call for prayers began to ring out and it was a surprise to everybody. They even threw a missile from upstairs which smashed one of the vehicles parked at the mosque.”