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Lagos agog for Eyo Festival today.
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Today, Lagos residents, local and foreign visitors are expected to troop out in their large numbers to watch and enjoy one of the prestigious and cultural masterpieces in display, the Eyo festival, otherwise known as Adamu-Orisha masquerades.
Eyo as it is popularly known, is perhaps the most popular social masquerade in Lagos. It was brought into Lagos in the year 1750 by Ejilu and Malaki the two male cousins to Olori Olugbani, the wife of Oba Ado and mother of Erelu Kuti of Lagos.
Group of Eyo masquerades‘Agogoro Eyooo” (meaning what a tall an imposing Eyo),“Mo yo fun e, mo yo funra mi”(I, Eyoo Masquerades, rejoice with you for seeing this day and I rejoice with myself), is a statement that normally ring out loud all over Lagos, during the Eyo festival masquerade festival.
Over 1000 Eyo masquerades in their white regalia with different hats made of various colours from the five groups, Adamu Orisa, Laba Ekun, Oniko, Ologede and Agere will partake in the festival organized in fond memory of the first Minister of Information, late Chief T.O.Sobowale Benson who died last year February. Today’s festival which has been repackaged as tourism attraction will take place at the famous Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) on
Lagos Island amidst tight security to ensure safty of lives and property. Going down memory lane, the first performance of the Adamu-Orisha parade on Lagos Island took place on September 11th, 1852 and it was staged in memory of late Chief Dosunmun Ashogbon while the last Eyo masquerade parade in the city was on August 2nd, 2003, in memory of late Oba Adeyinka Oyekan 2, the Oba of Lagos between who lived between 1965 and 2003.
The Eyo festival, by tradition, is staged only in memory of an illustrious deceased person, hence, the day of staging Adamu-Orisha play is significant for the great occasion and for the relations and friends of the deceased person to be honoured.
The origin of Adamun-Orisha play according to findings showed that the genesis of Eyo masquerade public performance must be rooted in legend.
It was also gathered that origin of Eyo masquerade could be traced to two areas in the South-west part of the country. While people of Iperu, Ogun State, claim that Eyo masquerade originated from their town, the people Apa coastal area of Badagry also claimed that the masquerade originated from Badagry where Eyo masquerade play used to take place on market days in the olden days. The Badagry origin seems more agreeable.
However, Eyo masquerade parade began on Lagos Island by traders from Badagry long time ago. The point of performance then was known as Oke-Ita which was later found to be the lagoon end of Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. This was the site where successive kings in Lagos and their chiefs used to visit to watch the Adamun-Orisha play in those days.
Further research into origin of Adamun-Orisha play in Lagos revealed that about the middle of 19th century, the then British Governor could not tolerate long absence of those who matter in the running of affairs of Lagos colony who are fond of going for days from Lagos Island to watch Eyo parade in Ikoyi that was by then could take about three days journey. The British Governor complained that absence of concerned officials was serious enough to disrupt the affairs of Lagos colony. Thus, he ordered that the idea of going to Ikoyi should be stopped.
The British Governor’s directive prompted the elders, chiefs and prominent indigenes of Lagos to invite the maskers of Adamun-Orisha from Ikoyi to relocate to Lagos Island and the maskers agreed to the suggestion. Thereafter, they settled on Lagos Island and became part of the people till date. Hence, the first performance of Adamun-Orisha on Lagos Island took place on February 20th, 1854 and it was staged in memory of late Oba Akitoye of Lagos.
On that day on Lagos Island, the general public of Lagos saw what they never saw before and witnessed the performance with an exceedingly tumultuous turnout which had remained a characteristic of Eyo masquerade parade till today.
Eyo masquerade parade used to last all day long and it is staged as the funeral obsequies of a King or Chief, and in honour and memory of a deceased eminent Lagosian, who had contributed to the progress and development of Lagos during his or her life time. The festival is only staged for this reason.
Eyo masquerade speaks a ventriloqual voice, suggesting that he was not human and also that he represents the spirit of a departed person. The Eyo symbolizes the arrival on earth of the spirit; in view of this believe, when one meet an Eyo and greet him with the words :‘Agogoro Eyo’ , he is expected to respond thus: Mo yo fun e, mo yo funra mi
On the order of events, a full week before the festival (always a Saturday), the ‘senior’ eyo group, the Adimu (identified by a black broad-rimmed hat), goes public with a staff, when this happens it means the event would take place on the following Saturday. Each of the four other ‘important’ ones — Laba (Red), Oniko (yellow), Ologede (Green), Agere (Purple) — in this very order take their turns from Monday to Thursday.
There are also revered special outings like that led by the Olori Omobas, the leader of the Princes currently Prince Michael Omoyele Ajose, a Prince of the royal house of Oba Ologun-kutereof Lagos (1749-1775), who himself was a direct descendant of King Ado, the founder of Lagos dynasty (1630-1669). Prince Ajose is from Igaa Suenu, to which the ancestral home of the current Lagos State governor, Raji Fashola could be traced.
Eyo Festival is unique to Lagos area, and it is widely believed that Eyo is the forerunner of the modern day carnival in Brazil. On Eyo Day, the main highway in the heart of the city (from the end of Carter Bridge to Tinubu Square) is closed to traffic, allowing for procession from Idumota to Iga Idunganran.
Here, the participants all pay homage to the Oba of Lagos. Eyo festival takes place whenever occasion and tradition demand, but it is usually held as the final burial rites for a highly regarded chief. Among the Yoruba, the indigenous religions have largely given way to Christianity and Islam, but the old festivals are still observed. The traditional leaders of the Yoruba are the Obas, who live in palaces and used to govern along with a council of ministers.
The Obas’ position is now mainly honorary, and their chief role is during the observance of the festivals. Yoruba festivals honour their pantheon of gods and mark the installation of a new Oba. The Engungun (“en-GOON-gun”) festival, which honours the ancestors, lasts 24 days.
Each day, a different Engungun in the person of a masked dancer dances through the town, possessed by one of the ancestors. On the last day, a priest goes to the shrine of the ancestors and sacrifices animals, pouring the blood on the shrine. The sacrifices are collected, and they become the food for the feast that follows.
However, ahead of today’s Eyo Festival in Lagos, Governor Babatunde Fashola has assured residents and visitors alike of adequate security of lives and property during and after the festival, just as he warned that any Eyo masquerade found to be of mis-behaviour would be arrested and prosecuted. Earlier, Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu I, appealed to all participants on the need to be peaceful in their conduct as unwholesome behaviour would not be tolerated.
The state government also announced the suspension of commercial buses and commercial motorcyclists,” Okada riders” from plying some designated routes in and around the venue in other to ensure smooth and traffic free festival..
Some of the major routes where movement will be restricted include: Third Mainland Bridge, Carter Bridge and Eko Bridge, some part of inner Marina among others.
Fashola, in company of the state Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture, Mr. Babatunde Balogun, Special Adviser on Transportation to governor, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, Managing Director of Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, (LAMATA) Dr. Dayo Mobereola and organizing chairman of the festival, Mr Disu Holloway, stated this at a world press conference on the activities and measures put in place for the event, earlier held in Alausa, State House, Ikeja.
The Eyo Festival which is scheduled to take place with a grand parade of the five major Eyo groups at Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos Island will commence at 6.00 am and end at 6.30 pm same day. The festival is being held in honour of late Otunba, Theophilus Owolabi Benson who died on February 13th, 2008.
Fashola who stressed that today’s festival is intended to be a little different from past performances, strongly warned that Eyo members, which are estimated to be over 1000, “who do not abide by the rules of performance will be guests of the Police Commissioner”.
His words: “The Eyo Festival day is a joyous day of gaiety and splendour during which Lagos Island is filled with the exuberance of young Eyo masquerades and prayers and sobriety of the older practitioners.
“Security in the car parks, in and around the TBS and on the Island will be heightened from Friday through Saturday.”
For effective coordination of traffic tomorrow (Saturday) when the Eyo Masquerades will be on parade, Fashola disclosed that 310 buses in the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme has been arranged to commute people from 52 different locations in the state free of charge to and from Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) where the festival is slated to hold.
According to the governor, the Adamu Orihsa Festival in the views of many international spectators rank in the pageantry on a higher plane than the Rio Carnival.
“Our current investment in the festival is therefore within the context of uplifting the play to an international standard with an eye for its potential economic impact on the lives odf the residents of Lagos State.”
He the festival which has a robust history has in cent time been associated with some unwholesome behaviour, which he said is nothing but a deviation from its rich cultural antecedents. According to the governor, the festival is being repackaged to serve as an international tourism destination and retain some of the tradition that gave it that international appeal.
He called on Nigerians coming in to watch the festival to take advantage of the free buses adding that vehicles would not be allowed into the Lagos Island.
Fashola cautioned that members of the public should not to spread their umbrella and put on caps or shoes except those designed for traditional and religious leaders inorder not to attract provocation of the Eyo members.
The governor added that medical personnel would be on patrol at various locations while 800 Lagos state Transport Management Authority (LASTMA) officials would be on hand to complement safety measures.