Ancient wisdom rightly counsels that we would do well to ” beware of a man who reads only one book” even if that book is the Holy Bible or the glorious Qur’an. Ironically however ,the Bible consists of sixty six books while the Qur’an comprise One hundred and fourteen books which old Yoruba Islamic scholars often refer to as ” ogota alkurani”. Hence those who,conversely, confine to reading passages only from their own sacred book while using it to judge others are part of the group which ancient wisdom is asking us to be wary of.
But this pleasantly brings us to the unparalleled creative energy of the Yoruba especially across the whole field of religion, as it is a race that has become a net exporter of religion while using religion,wisely as a means of bringing about peace and harmony in the societies across many ages. The author of “Yoruba Religion”: Seeing it in history; Seeing it whole”, J.D.Y. Peels (FBA ) of the School of Oriental and African Studies ,University of London and scholar described as an authority concerning the history of Aladura churches in Africa once said it openly that ” something that has fascinated him as a scholar for over sixty years is the creative energy of the Yoruba across the whole field of religion. “
When some white missionaries during the world wars gave up on Nigeria and left the country ( tail between their legs) as a result of the war epidemic diseases ravaging the whole world, it was a time God used the Yoruba clerics of old to start healing divine revivals that saved the lives of many people and gave birth to true Pentecostalism across the whole land . When king George of England, the fifth, was seriously sick in the late 20s and his illness defied Western medicine,it was a Yoruba prophet, Moses Orimolade that was a divine vessel that God used to heal the respectable and respected King of England who was loved by all the colonial countries which were then being ruled by the colonial power. To know about the Yoruba’s unbroken tradition of promoting intermarriage between Christians and Muslims is to read excerpts from J. K. Randle’s Punch article on the subject ,as the author documented a bombardment of case studies of instances in which the Yoruba have used mixed marriage to promote concord and peace in the country. It is on record from impeccable sources that when the project that gave birth to one of the new “Atoka Bible”projects sponsored by Kayode Balogun was seriously threatened for lack of funds, his brother , a Muslim contributed huge money as his own widow’s mite to bless the sacred project and saved it from grinding to a halt .
Sometime when the Bible Society of Nigeria was holding its meeting at Aiyepe , the Muslim community spontaneously contributed money and donated it to the Bible society as their own form of encouragement to christian mission ,regarding themselves as lucky to be a community that has been found worthy to host a meeting in which the sacred book is being discussed.
MKO Abiola’s presidential project was an interreligious presidential project blessed by Christians, regardless of the fact that it was a project seeking votes on a muslim- Muslim ticket .
To many ignoramuses in today’s Nigeria however, the Arabic language is synonymous to Islam, as this group of people fail to realise other nonreligious uses of this language which is now a universally recognized language ” occupying a position which is not less in status and rank than that occupied by other international languages. ” It may also sound eye-opening to some conservative Muslim scholars who ignorantly regard the Arabic language as an exclusive preserve of Muslims to realise that some non Muslims have had a legacy of ” firsts” in their unequalled contribution to the study and promotion of Arabic language in some of our Ivory tower and in some governmental duties in the South western part of the country.
“The first head of government to establish Arabic Teachers’ Test in the Southwest of Nigeria was a Christian ( Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo ) . It was also his government which initiated the first pilgrimage project by Muslims to Mecca. *The first graduate to make a First Class degree in Arabic at Nigeria’s Premier university is a Christian too. ( Professor Isaac Ogunbiyi ) * Also the first product of the Department of Arabic and Islamic studies of the university of Ibadan, to bag a PH.D in Arabic is a Christian, David Ayagere.
- The first Yoruba to become a Professor of Arabic is a Christian, Professor Isaac Ogunbiyi.
- The first Ibadan graduate to receive a PH.D in Arabic Drama at the University of Edinburgh is a Christian, Professor Kole Omotosho .*It is also interesting to know that the first Arabist to be honoured with the National award of Officer of the Order of Niger OON for his service to Arabic language is a Christian, Professor Isaac Ogunbiyi.
(Apology to Oloyede Abdul-Rahmon’s 2011/2012 inaugural lecture)
With Arabic language becoming a universally recognized language, does it not occur to the Christians of today that the knowledge of Arabic language could help his own evangelization project and as a way of promoting mutual understanding among different religious groups in the country ? I was the first journalist to organize an interfaith workshop for working journalists in Oyo State in 2001 , using proceeds from my book when I sensed that the form which unbridled religious bigotry was taking in this country would blow no one any good. Regrettably our so-called ” progressives” didn’t allow the project to fructify beyond that year .This unique initiative which was a value-reorientation workshop for journalists ( as agents of social communication that make crisis PUBLIC ) would have provided an ethical and moral inoculation to nip in the bud the problems of Boko-haramism which arose from “Brown envelope” seige mentality. ( another robust topic for another day)
It is however a different kettle of fish with our new generation of Christians and Muslims in the country, amidst their propensity to whittling down this traditional legacy of interreligious coexistence through their downright arbitrariness in which they compound the nation’s problems with their ignorance which keeps talking authoritatively on religious and spiritual issues about which they know little or nothing about.
To some people, the mere inscription of Arabic language on our currency note means a secret agenda to islamize Nigeria.
As if to worsen an already bad situation, some half- baked scholars who are fond of reading only one book, read the book of Jeremiah 5:6 ( in the Bible ) in a hurry and out of context while brandishing it with the false impression that leopards (Amotekun project )were a sweet music in christiandom ; Too bad.