The bustling town of Omu-Aran, of Irepodun Local Government in Kwara State, was recently brought into the spotlight when Bauchi State Commissioner for Education, Dr Aliyu Tilde, wrote an elegy for one of its daughters, Alhaja Asiyat Yusuf Oladije, who died after resisting all attempts by her two Christian children to renounce her Islamic faith.
Her death on December 13, after a brief illness in Ibadan, led to eulogies and adoration for her doggedness in holding on to her chosen faith despite the pressure from her two pastor children.
Soon, pictures surfaced on social media of Salat al-Gha’ib, absentee funeral prayer, offered in her honour, not just in her hometown but also across the country.
In Omu-Aran, a predominantly Muslim community, her burial generated some controversy as her children refused to release her body to the Muslim community.
There were insinuations she converted to Christianity on her deathbed. But this claim was dismissed by many.
In his elegy, Dr Tilde gave an insight on the pressure mounted on her to leave her religion, forcing her to embark on a clandestine journey for hajj when her children refused to allow her to embark on the trip.
Before her death, she was a member of the Ansar-Ud-Deen Muslim Society, Omu-Aran branch and it was expected that her remains would be handed to them for burial. But days after her death, the request was turned down.
Before her death, she had lived in her husband’s house in Omu-Aran but her sickness made the children transfer her to a hospital in Ibadan, Oyo state, where they live. It was there she breathed her last.
Asiyat was only buried on December 22, nine days after her death as the two parties tussled over her corpse.
A Fidau prayer, a post-burial gathering to pray for the deceased, was subsequently organized by members of the society on January 3.
Marriage ties to Oyedepo
A visit to the community by our correspondent revealed that contrary to media reports, late Asiyat was not a stepmother nor a sister to the renowned Christian cleric, Bishop David Oyedepo, but was married to Mr Yusuf Oladije, a younger brother to the father of Bishop Oyedepo. The younger Oyedepo, Daily Trust, gathered was born a Muslim before he converted to Christianity, becoming a revered clergy and founder of Living Faith Church (a.k.a Winners Chapel).
He converted many in his extended family to Christianity, including the two children of late Alhaja Asiyat.
Efforts to speak with Muslim leaders in the community did not yield results as they said the king had barred anyone from commenting on the issue.
“Nobody will speak to you on this issue because it almost caused a conflict between Muslims and Christians in the community,” said the Chief Imam of Omu-Aran, Alhaji Sodiq Alalobo.
The imam who stressed that the issue became a security threat directed this reporter to a cleric who served as the spiritual guide for late Alhaja Asiyat, Malam Saadulah Bello for any comment.
Malam Saadulah also declined to comment but after much prodding, he muttered, “it is not that we do not want to speak but we are careful not to make comments that would be considered a security risk. The fact that the matter did not degenerate into a conflict and split the community last time was a favour from Allah. So, we do not open a healed wound.”
When asked to describe Alhaja Asiyat before her death, he said, “What I know of her is that she was a good person and a devout Muslim, which made us close. She practised her religion diligently. On judgement day if I was asked about her, I will say this.”
When asked if she was buried, he said, “I was not in town so I don’t know.”
How her corpse was brought back to Omu-Aran
At Ansar-Ud-Deen, Omu-Aran, two banners hung proudly from the fence railing, announcing the that a fidau prayer was organized for Alhaja Asiya. One of them even had her face on it.
A cleric, who does not want his name in print, wondered why burying Alhaja Asiyat would cause a storm in the community when Bishop Oyedepo’s stepmother was buried without rancour.
“When his stepmother died, we held the fidau prayer at the Oyedepo’s family house and everyone was accommodative. I do not know why this one is different. Maybe, it was because none of the children is Muslim,” he said.
He said that her corpse was brought to the town under the cloak of darkness amid tight security and was buried very early in the morning, adding that the family is yet to make any other form of a procession as obtained in Christian burials.
He added that the low-key burial was done to test the water and see how the Muslim community would react. He said that a large number of people trooped to the family house to offer prayers for her.
“Before the corpse was brought, the family had a meeting in which it was agreed that the whole process should be done without informing the head of the Muslim community. They also agreed not to answer any calls. But one of them, who was not privy to the information, was called and answered.
“When he returned, the head of the family slapped him, thinking it was the chief imam who called him. He retaliated and a fight ensued between them. He was taken to the police but was freed later,” he said.
The source added that the Muslim community has done the best they could and prayed for Allah to accept the prayer conducted on her behalf.
“We know it is what is the soul that matters but it is their mother, if they like they throw the body in a river or eat it up, we have done our best,” he said.
The secret burial of Alhaja Asiyat by her children, no doubt has left a bitter taste in the community.
Halimotu Jimoh, Alhaja Asiyat’s sister-inlaw, who spoke with our reporter at Alhaja Asiyat’s family house insisted she would not change her faith on her deathbed.
“I once suggested to her to convert since her children have been insisting on it but she responded that she would rather her soul be taken than for that to her. She said she would be content to die in such circumstances.
“She said since her father and mother were Muslims, her children would not decide what she will practice. I am sure she did not change her stance on that. The children buried her the way they did for whatever reason known to them,” she said.
She described her as a kind and generous person who detested cheating and commanded great respect in the community due to her kind nature.
“She told me that when she first fell ill and was taken to Ibadan, she always attended to her daily prayers. She told me that after performing ablution, she would stay close to a wall and put her head on it to pray,” she said.
On the effort her family is making, she said Alhaja Asiyat’s brother, who was in Lagos when our reporter visited, said he would also organize prayers for her.
She renounced Islam before her death
However, when Daily Trust visited the palace of the Olomu of Omu-Aran, Oba Abdulraheem Oladele Adeoti, he reiterated that by law, her children are responsible to state what happens to their mother.
“I do not know why you people want to turn an anthill into a mountain. It is in Omu-Aran you will see two brothers practising different religions. The woman you are talking about, all her children are Christians and they are pastors.
“In Nigerian context, the right of inheritance belongs to the children. The two surviving children, one is 58 and the other is 54 years old. Their mother was sick and they took her to take care of her before she died, she renounced Islam. That is exactly what happened.”
“But the bottom line is that the right of inheritance belongs to the children,” he stressed.