The claims by the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka on the position of the Emir of Ilorin and Chairman Kwara State Council of Chiefs, Mai-Martaba Alhaji (Dr) Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari CFR, on the prevention of Isese festival proposed to be hosted in the ancient city of Ilorin by one Yeye Ajesikemi Omolara, an Osun Priestess, is not only nauseating but also uncharitable to the people of Ilorin Emirate who have by all standards remain peaceful with people of different faiths and tribes.

This response is to provide some clarifications to our highly respected scholar who has for many decades, continued to dominate the media as a celebrated academic Icon and promoter of African cultures globally. In order to set records straight, Professor Akinwande Oluwole Babtunde Soyinka tends to be economical with facts forgetting that War is nobody’s want, even Musolini as he decided to settle with a factor that is capable of causing chaos in the society, if not quickly averted.

The secret behind the peaceful co-existence in the ancient city of Ilorin Emirate and Kwara State at large is the wisdom and ability of successive governments, with maximum supports from traditional institution, to prevent crisis and not waiting until it erupt because the cost of managing crises cannot be equated to the wisdom or courage required to prevent it. Such proactiveness is necessary in order to sustain peaceful co-existence in the society.

It is therefore surprising to hear that the position of Professor Soyinka is identical to someone who does not put consider what might transpire if the programme was hosted and visited with rowdyism which may also lead to reprisal attacks by sympathizers or promoters of such belief (Isese festival) in other parts of the country.

Assisting the people of Ilorin Emirate to shave their heads in their absence by condemning a crisis preventive formula by constituted authority in the land is a great blunder committed by Professor Soyinka, a well-travelled scholar who has virtually become an ancestor in the land and expected to be an advocate of global peace and not fanning the ember of violence under any guise.

There are so many non-Kwarans who are serving or retired public servants, military/para-military personnel and business owners who have vowed to move their families away from the state due to the relative peace and harmony enjoyed therein. Yeye Ajesikemi also confirmed that she has been living harmoniously in Ilorin for many years, not until she decided to go beyond her boundaries.

It will be of great importance for Prof. Soyinka to use his intellectual prowess to promote peaceful co-existence in the society, rather than challenging constituted authorities on the reason why they averted a crisis in their community when they know that ‘prevention is better than cure’.

It is however pertinent to note that governments at all levels are already overwhelmed by the numerous crimes and criminality happening in their domain and the people of Ilorin shall not sit on the keg of gunpowder by allowing violence of any kinds to flare-up through hosting of Isese festival which is not part of our culture and tradition.

As an incorruptible Presiding Judge of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division before he voluntarily retired in 1995 to become the 11th Emir of Ilorin and haven worked across the country after acquiring knowledge from the prestigious University of London, His Royal Highness, Alhaji (Dr) Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari CFR has remain father to all and sundry in the state irrespective of tribe, religion or political affiliations with the main objective of fostering peace and harmony in the land.

The cancellation of Isese festival by Yeye Ajesikemi has further confirmed her cooperation with the law enforcement agencies and most importantly respect for the leadership strides and commitments of the Executive Governor of Kwara State and Chairman Nigeria Governors Forum, His Excellency, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq CON who is the Chief Security Officer of the state saddled with the responsibility of the protecting the lives and property of residents of the state.

At this point, it is pertinent to share my experience during my visit to Amsterdam in The Netherlands which further confirms that one man’s food is another man’s poison. From the Olympic Hotel, located at IJsbaanpad 12, 1076 CV Amsterdam, Netherlands, I ordered a ride and I decided to enter the car with a cup of tea. The driver told me to finish my tea before entering his car and I swiftly inquired the reason for such a statement and he responded that drivers are not allowed to eat nor drink while driving ditto to passengers. I asked him again why? He said: “That is the Law here in The Netherlands”, so I quickly trashed the tea cup into a bin nearby in order to commence my journey to Leiden University for a workshop.

Therefore, if truly Law is the system of rules which a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and which it may enforce by the imposition of penalties, then culture and tradition which is the total way of life of the people should be respected. Dear Professor Soyinka, the culture of the people of Ilorin Emirate is synonymous to peace and unity and it must be respected and adhered to.

However, the stool of Emir of Ilorin belongs to the three monarchs accorded and answering the title of Shehu in Nigeria namely; Shehu Usman Danfodio of Sokoto caliphate, Shehu El-Kanemi of Borno Empire and Shehu Alimi of Ilorin Emirate. It will be wrong of anybody under any guise to relegate, throw or drag such status into the mud of controversies.

Annual Grand Durbar is one of the platforms used in showcasing our very rich heritage and this has over the years attracted many visitors to the ancient city of Ilorin and during the just concluded Ilorin Durbar festival, a tourist wrote:

“For over two decades, I’ve been attending festivals and cultural events, and I must say, the economic values and potentials they hold are truly remarkable. These gatherings offer overwhelming opportunities for local communities, tour operators, content entrepreneurs, festival-goers, and especially brands aiming to connect with a mass audience.


“During the recent Sallah celebration, I had the privilege of visiting Ilorin for the first time with Goge Africa Destination West Africa Project Faridah Sagaya Pelu Awofeso and I am still in awe of the experience and cultural immersion. The energy of the mammoth crowd is unforgettable! The Sallah celebrations in Northern Nigeria often mark the beginning of the Durbar, and Ilorin takes center stage.


“Beyond the festivities, Ilorin can be aptly described as a center of peace. Its strategic location as the capital of Kwara state makes it a bridge between the north and south/west of Nigeria. With its predominantly Islamic culture, the city embraces non-indigenes with open arms, treating visitors like emissaries from God almighty.


“At the helm of Ilorin’s traditional leadership is His Royal Majesty Alhaji Sulu Gambari, a retired Judge and revered Emir. The people of Ilorin hold deep respect for their Emir. This reverence is beautifully displayed during the Durbar, where the Emir and his entourage of horsemen parade through the streets, making stopovers at specific family houses to pray for and connect with his subjects. The sea of loyal citizens, admirers, and visitors chanting “Shehu! Shehu!!” further exemplifies their love and loyalty towards their Emir.


“During the Durbar, the sheer number of attendees is astounding, as witnessed in this video. It’s safe to say that Ilorin Durbar draws the largest crowd of all.


“During my visit, I had the opportunity to explore two significant locations. Firstly, I visited one of the Aso-oke weaving families, as Ilorin is renowned as the center of Aso-oke production. This visit unveiled a compelling business opportunity, which I’ll keep under wraps for now. Additionally, I explored the pottery center known as Dada Pottery, where creativity and passion overflowed. These centers yearn for investment, expansion, marketing, and export opportunities.


“I’m thrilled to share that I purchased a stunning complete Aso-oke ensemble and a set of exquisite clay pots for my kitchen. The craftsmanship and artistry are truly exceptional!


“Ilorin’s Durbar is an experience that captures the essence of culture, unity, and economic possibilities. If you haven’t had the chance to witness this spectacle or explore Ilorin’s thriving industries, I highly recommend adding it to your list. Together, let’s celebrate the rich heritage and unlock the immense potential of these cultural festivities!”


Finally, the people of Ilorin Emirate are tolerant and hospitable but they will not be friendly with anyone insulting the Emir. Our amiable Professor should please take note and desist from such a cheap blackmail.


Mallam Abdulazeez Arowona, the Spokesman to HRH Emir of Ilorin and Chairman Kwara State Council of Chiefs writes via [email protected]

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