Civil rights advocacy group- Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA), has described as unconstitutional and illegal, the harassment by police and the eventual arrest of a popular Ilorin Isese devotee and activist Adegbola Abdulazeez, a.k.a. Talọlọrun (Who is God), who incidentally has been remanded in jail for alleged defamation, in Kwara State.
HURIWA in a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, and made available to NIM, recalled that the Activist Mr. Talolorun, was reportedly arrested for insulting the Emir of Ilorin among other offences even as a post on his Facebook page Thursday, confirmed that the the popular Isese activist was arrested on August 16 in Ibadan and taken to a police station in Ilorin. “Taniolorun was arrested in Ibadan this evening (August 16) and taken to a police station in Ilorin,” the post simply read.
The group recalled that another post on August 17, disclosed that the activist had been charged to court and called on support from other Isese practioners.
The post read: “All Isese practitioners, meet Taniolohun in court in Ilorin. Very urgent.” A Youtube video released Thursday, also showed Taniolorun discussing the outcome of a prior meeting between Isese practitioners, their lawyer and the police on the ban placed on Isese festivals in Ilorin. “To those who said we would not celebrate the Isese festival in Ilorin…have you all been served breakfast now? “We (Isese devotees) went with our lawyer to the police station in Ilorin and everyone involved in this case was served, including the Emir of Ilorin. “Isese devotees are peace-loving people, we are not troublemakers, we simply wanted to celebrate our festivals but were stopped and asked to seek permission. When Muslims want to celebrate Sallah, do they need permission to do so”.
HURIWA in its reaction to the clampdown on the devotees of this genre of African traditional religion condemned it as discriminatory and a gross violation of Section 42(1) of the Nigerian constitution which outlaws discrimination on the basis of religion, just as the Rights group stated that unproven defamation being a civil matter is not within the jurisdiction of the police to embark on arbitrariness and gross violation of the fundamental human rights of this activities whose only offence is to speak out in defence of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion and worship to be extended to the ISESE devotees in all parts of the Federation.
The group called for the immediate release of the activist Adegbola Abdulazeez from detention since section 36(5) of the constitution guarantees fair hearing for all accused persons, and recognised accused persons as innocent in the eye of the law until a contrary determination is reached by a competent Court of law.
HURIWA said arresting and detaining a Nigerian for insulting another person makes the police look like tools for perpetuating the deep rooted violation of the fundamental human rights of the citizens.
Meanwhile, the group has commended the Lagos and Oyo State Government’s for the declaration of public holidays to enable Isese worshippers to celebrate the festival, just as the Rights group faulted the decision of the police in Kwara State to ask that the worshippers obtain a police permit to hold their religious programmes, describing it as illegal, unconstitutional, crude, and a cruel denial of the constitution which guarantees freedom of religion for all persons.
The Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, declared Monday August 21, 2023, as a public holiday to celebrate Isese Day.
Secretary to the Oyo State Government, Professor Olanike Adeyemo, on Friday, made the announcement in a circular titled, “Declaration of holiday to mark traditional religious festivity in Oyo State.”
The circular reads, “The Oyo State Governor, Governor Seyi Makinde has graciously approved August 20, 2023 of every year as “Isese day” in Oyo State, to commemorate the celebration of Traditional religious Festival“Towards this end, Monday, August 21, 2023, has been declared as the maiden Public Holiday to commemorate this year’s festivity in the state.
The Rights group recalled that the Oyo State House of Assembly had on August 9, passed a motion to grant a special holiday to adherents of traditional religion in the state. In response to the motion, the governor approved August 20 of every year as Isese Day in Oyo state.
HURIWA applauded both the Oyo and Lagos State governments for respecting the constitutional rights of Isese worshippers which is the legal and right thing to do since both the Muslims and Christians enjoy official holidays to observe their religious Festivals just as the Rights group said it will be writing to President Bola Tinubu to reserve a day in the official calendar of Nigeria as public holiday for all followers of the African traditional religion to observe their sacred festivals in their respective places of worship.
The group however cautioned all worshippers of both orthodox and unorthodox religions to respect the Principle of Rule of law and the fundamental freedoms of other citizens who do not share their religious ideology or belong to their belief system.