Lawyer advocates holiday for traditional worshipers
A human rights activist and senior lawyer in Nigeria, Femi Falana, has advocated a public holiday for traditional worshipers across the country.
Falana said traditionalists have constitutional provisions like other religions practiced in Nigeria.
The SAN revealed this on Saturday during an orientation and inauguration program for traditional devotees under the aegis of “Ijo Babalawo Onifa of Egbaland” held at the government headquarters in Abeokuta.
Falana, who stressed that traditional devotees have the right to a special day as a public holiday, said, “Under the Nigerian constitution, particularly article 38, there is freedom of religion of conscience.
“You have the right to worship God or not to worship God at all. You have the right to be a Christian, a Muslim or a traditionalist. But whatever you do, you must respect the rights of other citizens of the country.
“Under article 10 of the constitution, the government will not adopt any religion as its official religion. Thus, the government is required to be neutral while recognizing the rights of each individual to worship the God in whom they believe.
“You are also entitled to public holidays like those influenced by Christians and Muslims.”
He, however, urged traditionalists to inspire respect by distancing themselves from criminal elements.
He said, “I have made it clear to members of this organization that as lawyers, our experience is that when armed robbery suspects are arrested, they claim they have been fortified by Babalawo.
“When you arrest a ritual murder suspect, he also claims he has a Babalawo behind him. Ditto for armed robbers and other criminal elements of society.
“So I challenge the members of this organization to distance themselves as much as possible from these criminal elements. And this is the only way to be respected by society and the government.
“In every Yoruba city, when a king is to be chosen, Ifa is consulted. Therefore, you have a high place in society.
“I challenge the members of this organization to try as much as possible to ensure that the name of this organization is put in a respectable manner, so that the government and our people can respect you all.
“It’s when you’ve gotten to that level that you can start making requests. You have the right to request holidays.
“Today, all holidays except a few were either influenced by Christians or Muslims. Others have a right to assert their claims.
“But before you can begin to formulate your requests, please organize your body very well. Make it a respectable organization, so the government can listen to you.
Falana, however, assured traditionalists of his support, saying: “From us as lawyers, you can be sure that we will not allow anyone to harass you. We are not going to allow anyone to intimidate you for operating under the law.
“But I will warn you, don’t make it difficult for us because if you commit any offenses it will be difficult for us to defend you.”
Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi advised the traditionalists to set up a task force and register with the police to identify fakes among them.
Oyeyemi said the findings revealed that the ritual killings are being carried out by fake members of the organization.
He said “Then set up a task force to fish out these criminals and I promise you you have the support of Command.”
However, Egbaland’s Sakoso Onifa, Ifadimeji Biobaku, revealed that the association has inaugurated a task force to identify impersonators across the state.