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Royal Rumble: Ogbomoso Muslim Leaders Back Soun Against Chief Imam

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The crisis set off by the crisis between the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Afolabi Ghandi Olaoye, and the Chief Imam of the town, Sheikh Toliat Yunus Olusina Ayilara, is far from over.

The rift between the monarch and the Chief Imam has escalated following a query issued by the Soun to Sheikh Toliat Yunus Olusina Ayilara for undertaking a Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia without prior notification.

In response, the Chief Imam asserted that his office operates independently of the monarch’s authority.

However, the Ogbomoso Committee on Islamic Affairs, representing Muslim leaders in the community, issued a statement affirming the historical tradition of the Soun’s prerogative in appointing and removing the Chief Imam since 1818.

Led by the Aare Musulumi of Ogbomoso, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Atanda Owodunni, the committee emphasised that the appointment of Ayilara was within the Soun’s authority, a tradition upheld over centuries.

Addressing the press alongside other prominent Muslim leaders including the Bashorun Musulumi of Ogbomoso, Alhaji Alimi Amole Shittu Sarumi, and Asoju Musulumi, Alhaji Mikhail Muhammed Bello, the Aare Musulumi underscored the unity and harmony traditionally maintained among Christians, Muslims, and traditional worshippers in Ogbomoso.

“The appointment and removal of the Chief Imam of Ogbomoso have historically been under the discretion of the Soun, dating back to the installation of the first Chief Imam, Muhammed Nafiu, in 1818,” stated Owodunni.

He further revealed the longstanding opposition of the Imam Ayilara family to Ayilara’s candidacy, citing their objections even before his appointment by the former Soun, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi.

The family’s dissatisfaction persisted despite investigations by the Soun-in-Council, which confirmed doubts regarding the Chief Imam’s relationship with the Ayilara family.

Following the demise of the former Soun, a new inquiry was initiated by Oba Afolabi Ghandi Olaoye, leading to the recommendation that Chief Imam Toliat Yunus Olusina Ayilara step aside pending resolution of the familial dispute.

He said, “When a new Soun of Ogbomosoland was installed in September 2023, the Imam Ayilara family immediately took their complaint to the new Soun, who also instituted a fact-finding committee.

“He has the authority to do so since it is a mosque built and owned by his ancestors. He is eminently qualified to intervene as the traditional ruler of the ancient town.

“The committee that was set up in the palace was headed by High Chief Alhaji Kasali Oladipo, the Abese of Ogbomosoland. The report submitted by the Abese-led panel also confirmed the findings of the Soun –in–Council.

“At an elaborate meeting convened at the instance of His Imperial Majesty, Oba Afolabi Ghandi Olaoye, involving all the Muslim groups in Ogbomosoland, the Abese again delivered his report to the hearings of all and sundry.

“A decision was then taken by His Majesty that Imam Toliat Yunus Olushina in the light of the report of the Abese, should step aside and go back to the Imam Ayilara family to sort out the contentious issue with them, after which the Imam Ayilara family could re-present him to the palace if they eventually reached a compromise.

“To the surprise of all, instead of Imam Toliat Yunus to go back to the family, he headed to a High Court in Ogbomoso to challenge the decision of the palace based on the findings of the Abese panel of investigation. This step taken by Imam Toliat Yunus Olushina has polarised and has caused a deep division amongst the Ogbomoso Muslims.”

The committee condemned what it described as the divisive actions and disrespectful remarks directed at the Soun on social media platforms, describing them as detrimental to the town’s unity.

The leaders said, “We shall not allow some extraneous forces to cause disaffection amongst us in Ogbomoso.

“In every family compound in Ogbomoso, there are Christians, Muslims and traditional worshippers enjoying strong bonds, and banded in harmonious relationship that has ensured we never had any division amongst us.

“We intermarry and celebrate every festival together as one united family. Any ruling house in Ogbomosoland whose turn it is to produce a candidate for the throne of Soun can present any candidate of their choice, be it a Christian, Muslim, or traditional worshipper. That is how we are made. But some people are attempting to destroy this foundation of harmony but this will fail.”

They emphasised the Soun’s authority to intervene in matters concerning the Chief Imam, highlighting his role as the custodian of traditional values and unity among religious groups in Ogbomoso.

During the week, Justice K.B. Olawoyin of the Oyo State High Court in Ogbomoso issued an injunction barring the Soun and kingmakers from removing Sheikh Toliat Yunus Olusina Ayilara as the Chief Imam.


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