Traditional religion worshippers across Nigeria have urged the Federal Government to make August 20th a public holiday for adherents in the country. These adherents also asked the federal and state governments to give more recognition to traditional worshippers the same way it is done to Christians and Muslims during public events and prayers. Baba Ifalere Ifagbenro, the spokesperson of the International Council for Ifa Orisa religion (under the auspices of Olu Isese Makoranwale Awodotun), made the demands while he was speaking with journalists on April 4, 2023, in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Ifagbenro, who is the Oluwo Ifa Idingbe temple, also condemned the alleged marginalization of traditional religion adherents across the country in terms of benefits and recognition. He advised the Federal Government to make August 20th of every year a public holiday for traditional adherents, saying that it will be unfair if both Christians and Muslims are given six or seven days as public holidays every year without any consideration for traditional worshippers. He said both Christians and Muslims enjoy public holidays for one or two days during their festivities, but traditional worshippers have no such opportunity.
Nigeria has a very minority percentage of traditional worshippers.
The country is the most populous country in Africa with over 200 million people. It is home to some of the largest populations of Christians and Muslims in the world. According to Statista, Nigeria is divided roughly in half between Christians and Muslims. The Christians live mostly in the Southern region of the country while the Muslims live mostly in the Northern region. Traditional religions native to Igbo and Yoruba tribes are in the minority. One of such is the Ifa Orisa religion.
Different sources have different estimates for the share of each religion in Nigeria. According to a CIA World Factbook estimate based on 2018 survey data, Islam has the largest population in Nigeria with 53.5 percent, followed by Christianity with a share of 45.9 percent, while other religions such as traditional religion take only 0.6 percent. According to Association of Religion Data Archives, a 2020 estimate places Islam as the largest with 46.3 percent, Christianity with 46.2 percent, and traditional faiths with 7.2 percent. Pew’s 2020 estimate pegs Islam at 51.1 percent, Christianity at 46.9 percent, and traditional religions at 1.5 percent. In all these estimates, traditional religions do not have up to ten percent of the population, effectively making the religions a minority.
The spokesperson congratulate governors-elect and Tinubu.
Ifagbenro gave a few revelations from the oracle. In January, he had revealed that Nigeria’s current president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would become Nigeria’s president, insisting that no amount of permutation can prevent him from being sworn in. Presently, Ifagbenro added that the wishes of those calling for interim governments cannot be fulfilled. He also used the opportunity to congratulate Tinubu and governors from the South West: Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State as well as Ademola Adeleke of Osun State on his victory at the appeal court.
He appealed to those who lost in the elections to accept the defeat and co-operate with the winners to move Nigeria forward as there will be no interim government. Speaking on their demands, he said, “We want the same recognition to be given to us the way it is being given to Muslims and Christians. Both Muslims and Christians are enjoying holidays for six or seven days in a year. We are demanding our own holiday. The federal government should declare August 20th as our public holiday.”
Adherents want to offer inauguration prayers for president-elect.
The traditionalist also said that they want the president-elect to include traditional religion adherents as part of the people that will offer prayer for him during the inauguration the same way that Christians and Muslims are allowed to pray. Tinubu is also urged to be the first president to do such. They also want the board of traditional medicine to be functional and strengthened in all the states, particularly in the South West. Ifagbenro condemned the burning of shrines by some non-state actors in Ile Ife and called on Governor Adeleke to intervene in Osun State. They want the government to provide adequate security for traditionalists. “We are Nigerians,” he said. “We pay our taxes. They should allow us to practice our religion without fear or molestation.”