By AHMED 'LATEEF
For sometime now, residents of Ilorin have become apprehensive over the new trend of exhuming corpses from graves by suspected ritualists. AHMED 'LATEEF looks at the ugly trend and its consequence for the city highly revered as melting pot for Islamic scholars.
Ilorin has become known and reputed as an Islamic city. What makes the city to be widely acclaimed as capital city of Islam in Nigeria is discernible. As an ancient city, it serves as a confluence for prominent itinerant Islamic scholars, who had traversed communities, cities and even borders on Islamic mission.
Historically, the city plays host to renowned Islamic scholars from Sokoto, Gwandu and as far as Mali. The name of places they were coming from on the propagation of the religion they professed played critical role in identifying them with ease. Some also got nicknames, which distinguished them among other contemporaries before joining their ancestors.
There are compounds in Ilorin today which were basically named after certain scholars in recognition of their erudition, scholarship and utmost fear of their creator while on their adventures. It is thus not strange to hear names of households or compounds such as Nda Salaty, Agbarigidoma, Mimosa, Alfa Koro, Jawondo, Alfa Sooro, Agbaji, Gbodofu, Oniwiridi, Sakama and Ikokoro among others.
Revered scholars from these houses distinctly carved niche for themselves and acknowledged for their individual contributions not only to the propagation of Islam but also to scholarship. Their selfless service to God and humanity manifested in the level of spirituality they attained, which made Ilorin to be widely referred to as sanctuary and city of knowledge.
But most importantly, there is no way Ilorin is mentioned without the name of a highly reputed Sheik Salihu Janta, popularly known as Shehu Alimi, ringing a bell. Before finally settling down in Ilorin, the renowned Islamic scholar made a stop over in a village called Kuo in Asa Local Government Area of the state.
Up till today, the spot where Sheik Alimi settled temporarily in Kuo prior to arrival in Ilorin city, has since turned to Mecca of some sort where Muslims seeking face of the Almighty Allah assemble for spiritual supplication.
The Islamic scholars then were reputed for selfless service to Almighty Allah leading to their being acknowledged worldwide. All these put together has made Ilorin to be revered and perceived as modicum of spirituality.
However, the reverence that made the city to become envious of all eyes is gradually cascading if the new trend of ritual prevalent among those referred to as contemporary scholars is anything to go by.
In recent times, there has been growing concern over reported cases of graves being dug and corpses taken away in some parts of the city. Though those fingered so far in the heinous act were referred to as Mallams, pundits were of the opinion that the culprits were 'impostors' and not real clerics as being portrayed.
For instance, residents of Oke-Ebo and Oke-Agodi, Pakata Area few weeks ago raised alarm over incidences of digging of graves where buried corpses are stolen.
In the wake of the ugly trend, no fewer than seven corpses had been allegedly taken away by suspected ritualists.
The latest in the series of the escapade, which threw Ilorin into frenzy was the exhumation of a corpse at Oloje Area by one Babatunde Folorunsho after few days of burial. He was said to have dug the grave belonging to his bosom friend, who few days earlier, attended a function with him and gave up the ghost shortly after returning from the event.
Expressing outburst over the trend, Hajia Husseinat Issa, a resident of Oke-Ebo Area, said the people of the area had been embroiled in sleepless night because of the incidences of digging of graves, where suspects mostly escape with corpses.
She said, "We have been experiencing incidences of unknown people digging graves, exhume corpses and take them away. If I can recollect vividly, a grave was dug at Ile-Olowo Compound, Oke-Ebo Area within the last 10 days fo Ramadan.
"On August 7, 2017, another grave was dug at Oke-Agodi Area, but this time around, the corpse was left behind after it was exhumed for unknown reason".
Another respondent, Mr Muhammed Fawaz, disclosed that head and two arms of the exhumed corpse was taken away at Olokun Compound, Oke-Agodi Area.
He stated that a total of graves had been dug by men of the underworld in Oke-Agodi Area while only one was recorded in Oke-Ebo Street.
Fawaz noted that residents of the two areas had engaged the services of night-guards and vigilance team to mount surveillance in the communities, pointing out that no culprit had been caught or apprehended.
Other respondents in the area stated that the latest incidences of ritual cast the city, reputed for spirituality, in bad image.
As fear intensified in both Oke-Agodi and Oke-Ebo, so also other communities in Ilorin city with the new trend of digging graves allegedly by some people, said to be parading themselves as muslim clerics.
Commenting on the development, an eminent citizen of Ilorin, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, described such incidence as appalling and disturbing.
He explained that Ilorin was known as sanctuary where people from different parts of the country flood to take cover and said that the issue of ritual was alien.
Baraje said the case of certain individuals indulging in ritual activities was strange to the city, saying it was high time genuine Islamic scholars come together to wage war against the ugly trend.
"That is a very touching question. Not only as a citizen of Ilorin, not only as a Kwaran, but as a human being, who actually valued life, and the teaching of Islam connotes peace. Every religion has a moral. The Islam per se teaches peaceful co-existence. This town (Ilorin) is deep rooted in Islam; Islamic knowledge, Islamic practice and Islamic tradition, that is what we know Ilorin for.
"And when disturbing incidences are happening around Nigeria, people come here to take cover, they come here to seek peace and they get it. So, it becomes very disturbing when you hear.. I was in London for example when one of the most dastardly effects was reported in the media, and I was reading on the social media that a man, who called himself a cleric, went, exhumed and dismembered the corpse of his bosom friend. It is appalling, it is disturbing, it is a matter of concern.
"Not that in the past you don't have disturbing issues in Ilorin but not like this. The disturbing issues that we witnessed when we were growing up in this environment is when there seems to be famine, when people are hungry and there is no food or when work becomes difficult for people. We cried out to the clerics, religious leaders in our society and they put their heads together and they employed all sons and sundry of Ilorin and we go into special prayer. Within a twinkle of an eye, such difficulties will disappear.
Therefore, as disturbing as this one is, it does not pass the ability, the capacity and knowledge of the clerics from Ilorin. I therefore call on them, this is now their time, they cannot sit down and look. Strange things have come to Ilorin. It could be as a result of development. These are parts of the panacea of development. But this is not the kind of result of development that we desired.
The kind of the result of development we desired, is positive. Bringing in of industries, knowledge and new innovations that will keep our youths busy. That is the kind of thing we desired and not this kind of dastardly act. So, as a citizen, as a Nigerian, as a political leader, I feel highly concerned, highly disturbed and as a result, I'm calling on our revered fathers in religion, to please come together and do what they inherited from their forefathers, gather and put their heads together.
"These strange things should be banished from our own land, and I believe very sincerely, with collective opinion, sense of belonging and collective actions with osmosis of knowledge upon these Malams, believe me, it wouldn't take them a week before some of these things will begin to disappear in Ilorin. I therefore call on them through the media, that I feel highly concerned that our fathers should not sit down and look, otherwise posterity will not forgive all of us", Baraje said.
In his reaction, the Kwara State Commissioner of Police, Mr Lawan Ado, regretted that the issue of ritual killing was on the increase and called for amendment of the existing law in order ot tame the culprits.
"I believe laws need to be reviewed from time to time. So, it is not out of place if the laws are reviewed, because these issues of cultism or kidnapping have done so much evil in the society. It has become a big menace in the society. The laws were initially made when all these things were not so rampant.
"Now that they are rampant, I believe if the punishment is increased, is not out of place. Because I believe there are some states in the federation that are trying to bring death penalty for kidnapping. I believe it is okay. But even the existing laws can serve the purpose. So long they (the suspects) are arrested, prosecuted and convicted. I think it is okay".
When asked whether there should be a special law for ritual killers, Ado "That (special law) should not be for ritual killers alone, I think even the kidnappers. It is not out of place. I think it is in order. Because it has become a very serious menace in the society now. It will be good. May be when the punishment is very harsh, it may serve as a deterrent to people to stop people from involving themselves in such heinous crimes".