Soyinka also decried the detention of an Isese advocate by Kwara State police.
Prof. Wole Soyinka, a Nobel laureate, has warned Nigerian Muslims to stop assaulting Yoruba traditionalists, also known as Isese devotees.
Nothing, according to the acclaimed dramatist, would weaken the Isese heritage, which he says has come to stay, notwithstanding recent occurrences in Kwara State over the proposed celebration of the Isese festival.
Soyinka insisted that Isese had always been with humanity and would continue to be so in eternity.
The Nobel Laureate made these remarks during a public exchange on Friday, September 1, 2023, at Kongi’s Harvest Art Gallery, Freedom Way, Lagos State.
Soyinka’s statements follow recent controversy surrounding an Osun priestess, Yeye Ajesikemi Olatunji, who advocated celebrating the Isese festival in Kwara State.
Olatunji faced verbal attacks from some Muslim clerics in the state following her decision to host leaders of traditional worshippers who had identified Ilorin, Kwara’s capital, as the venue for the 2023 World Isese Day.
In addition, the Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, and other Muslim believers requested the Osun devotee not to celebrate the day.
According to a statement issued by the Emir’s spokesman, Mallam Abdulazeez Arowona, there has never been a moment in history when “idolatry activities” were carried out in the Ilorin Emirate.
In the similar spirit, Adegbola Abdulazeez, commonly known as Talolorun, a prominent Ilorin Isese devotee and activist, was arrested and held for alleged defamation following his campaign for Isese recognition in Kwara State.
Abdulazeez was later accused with “insulting the Emir of Ilorin, among other offences.”
Speaking at the public debate, Soyinka decried Talolorun’s arrest and confinement, saying that no one deserved to be jailed and imprisoned for questions of faith.
The Nobel Laureate also said that the Muslim faithful had launched a slander campaign against Isese, warning them against embarking on such a jihad.
“It transcends religion because it appeals to what is inherent in all sentient beings, those strange advocates of freedom who, paradoxically, persist in fashioning chains for themselves and their fellow beings.”
“Isese frees.” It is a manifestation of the collective human spirit, with its enveloping, loving accommodation of human experience, but it aspires for the seemingly unattainable, intuitively sensed as an elevating dimension of one’s material estate.
“Isese is a path, not a destination; it is a seizure, but it is also a pursuit of what we perceive as the inner quest for ultimate illumination.” Isese does not conclude and does not exclude. It does not shrink, but rather expands. It trains the community to accept, investigate, and adapt.
“Isese promotes gratitude for and the sanctity of human life as a foundational consciousness.” It rejects any supremacist claim of one spiritual system over another. Isese is content with the search of inner serenity, which is the culmination of, and extraction from, celebration. “All true religions understand that celebration is a prerequisite for community equilibrium,” the playwright explained.