Why the Soun holds exclusive right to appoint Ogbomoso Chief Imam

The dispute between the Soun of Ogbomoso, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Afolabi Ghandi Olaoye and the Chief Imam of Ogbomosoland, Alhaji Dr Taliat Yunus Ayilara generated much public interest. Given kingship in Western Nigeria is rooted in the Yoruba traditional religion and not in Islam, many have wondered why the Soun-in-Council claims authority over the chief imam, even barring him from the palace precincts after Imam Ayilara instituted legal action against the palace. In this report, MOSUNMOLA AYOBAMI explains why the Head Imam of the Ogbomoso Central Mosque’s appointment lies solely within the power of the Soun.

How the Ogbomoso Central Mosque at Oja’gbo came into being

According to the Aare Musulumi of Ogbomoso land, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Owodunni, although there were Muslims in Ogbomosoland in the 16th century due to the influence of Muslims from the Bornu Empire, the number of Muslims in the region increased significantly during the Islamic Jihad of 1804, led by Uthman Dan Fodio.   

A central location for congregational worship was required because of the Muslim population’s rapid growth. Though the Ogbomoso rulers at the time were traditional Yoruba religious practitioners, it was their duty as the overlord to meet the requirements of the followers of the many religious beliefs.

The Ogbomoso monarchs were forced to respond to the expanding number of Muslims in the region by creating a location for their congregational worship centre, or Friday prayers.

Ogbomoso Central Mosque

According to Alhaji Owodunni, Oba Toyeje Akanni, who reigned from 1797 to 1825, appointed Imam Mohammed Nafiu from Abogunde Compound, Laka area of Ogbomoso as the first Chief Imam in 1818. Imam Nafiu served until 1870.

“The first officially appointed Chief Imam for the Ogbomoso Muslim Community was Imam Mohammed Nafiu from Abogunde Compound Laka Area, Ogbomoso by the then Soun who was not even a Muslim. Imam Mohammad Nafiu led the Muslim congregation between 1818 and 1870.

“It was purely the discretion of the Soun to pick an Imam from any Muslim compound of his choice,” Owodunni revealed. 

Due to the expansive land that the Ogbomoso palace possessed at the time, “The present Ogbomoso Central Mosque at Oja’gbo was then in the compound of the palace, Owodunni added.

According to him, on the same piece of land where the Ogbomoso Central Mosque stands today, Oba Olayode officially approved and built a new mosque for the Muslims.  

His Imperial Majesty Alayeluwa Oba Dr. Jimoh Oladunnin Oyewumi Ajagungbade III. J.P. CON, CFR

“Oba Olayode the 1st formally approved and built a new mosque for the Muslims on the same ground where the Ogbomoso Central Mosque Stands today with mud.”

WESTERN POST also spoke with an Ogbomoso high chief on condition of anonymity to ascertain the relationship between the past Soun and the Chief Imam of Ogbomosoland.

The high chief disclosed that the chief Imam of the land has always been Soun’s appointee.

“It’s Soun that appoints the Chief Imam in Ogbomoso, the two have been having a good relationship ever since,” he said, adding that there had always been a cordial relationship between the traditional and religious leaders before now.

Chief Imam of Ogbomosoland, Alhaji Dr Taliat Yunus Ayilara

As proof that the right to choose any capable Muslim to lead the Muslims during Friday prayers rests with the reigning Soun, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade lll, appointed the current Chief Imam, Alhaji Taliat Yunus Ayilara, on November 19, 2021.

Following the demise of Oba Oladunni Oyewumi, the present Soun Oba Ghandi Afolabi Olaoye was crowned.

Expectedly, many have argued that the current Chief Imam, bound to the stool and the occupant of the Ogbomoso royal stool by precedence should transfer his allegiance to the present Soun who now holds the exclusive administrative authority over the Chief Imam as he oversees the Ogbomoso Central Mosque, as a historical legacy.  

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