INTERVIEW: Why I abandoned Catholic priesthood, embraced traditional religion, married – Ex-Reverend Father


Former Head, Department of Religion, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Prof Pius Abioje, tells ALEXANDER OKERE why he left the Catholic Church where he served as an ordained priest for 15 years before becoming an adherent of the African Traditional Religion, among other things

Despite your busy schedule, you are an active Facebook user, and on your wall, you condemned the performance of the Oro ritual close to the recently conducted governorship and House of Assembly elections in Lagos. What exactly did you mean by that?

It is clear that the purpose of the Oro divinity is not to disrupt anything. In fact, if there is any disturbance in town or evil spirits are suspected, it is Oro that people call to chase evil spirits away.

Do you think some politicians use traditional religion to instil fear in non-adherents and ensure they win elections?

Yes. That is why I called it abuse. It is not even in the purview of the divinity. Every divinity in the African traditional religion is holy – those chosen by the supreme head of creation to be his ministers; as Prof Bolaji Idowu calls them, the ministers of Olodumare. So, if you regard them, you will not use any of the divinities for evil.

You are an ATR adherent but used to be a Catholic priest before you decided to abandon the priesthood. What informed such a decision, which many see as radical?

I was taken away from African traditional religion in primary school. The missionaries saw that I was not going to church and sent their men after me to ask me why. I told them that I was a traditional worshipper but they told me that there was no contradiction and that I could practise ATR and go to church. So, they played on my infantry intelligence and I started going to school. God is a conspirator because he brought a Catholic priest to sponsor my education after primary school. I don’t know how he (the priest) connected my uncle and took me back to the church. One day, I started feeling like becoming a priest and went to consult a diviner when I was a mission boy. The diviner looked at me and shook his head and said I was to become a priest. I asked him what he meant and he said what he told me was what he meant. I became a priest and later left to oppose the uncharitable ways of Christians and Muslims.

When did you join the priesthood and how long did you stay before quitting?

Ah! It’s a long story. I started with St Kizito’s Minor Seminary in Ede (Osun State) in 1973. After that, I attended SS Peter and Paul Catholic Seminary, Bodija, Ibadan (Oyo State) in 1977. In 1981, I was sent to Rome with the current Bishop of Oyo Diocese, Emmanual Badejo; we studied together in Rome and that was where we completed our seminary training with a university degree. We returned to Nigeria and I was ordained in 1985 and left in 2000, 15 years after.

Fifteen years as an ordained Catholic priest is a long time. What specifically convinced you to leave?


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