By McPhilips Nwachukwu & Elizabeth Adeyemo
Eyo is one festival that the original owners of Lagos State look forward to with eagerness. In the past, it was said to be associated with secret cults. But in recent times, it has assumed some form of syncretism by not only involving participants from diverse religious background, but more importantly, has turned out to become one of the most important socio cultural picnics and carnivals.
Since its introduction in 1854, the festival, which is defined by the appearance of Eyo, masquerades believed to be the reincarnate souls of dead ancestors, like the Hausa Durba festival is hosted on important occasions in honour of important dignitaries and as a form of final burial rite for a deceased King.
It is therefore not surprising that the Present democratic regime in Lagos State right from the time of Senator Ahmed Tinubu through to the present Governor Fashola has adopted the much cherished festival also known as Adamu Orisa as the tourism and cultural face of new Lagos.
As a tourism product, the Government has upgraded the once Lagos indigenous family festival to the level of a State cultural party, where both local and international tourists come together to have a first hand experience of the rich, wealthy and gorgeous culture of the people.
In recent times, the State government has also introduced some palliative measures to ensure that the chaotic Lagos traffic does not prevent people from witnessing this August festival. In this regard, the State mass transport system is usually made available for would be visitors to be conveyed to the Tafawa Balewa Square festival venue for the occasion.
This year’s festival like in the previous years is celebrated in honor of Late Chief Yesufu Abiodun Oniru, a very prominent chief from one of the ruling Lagos families and also a member of the Eyo cult.
Present at this year’s festival was, the Executive Governor of Lagos Sate, His Excellency, Governor, Babtunde Fashola.
He was dressed in his white agbada regalia with the festival cap on his head and the Oba of Lagos State, H.R.M Oba Riliwan Akiolu, who apart from being the Chief host of the occasion also graced the occasion with all his wives and Chiefs as well as other titled Chiefs from neigbouring States and Kingdoms.
Other important dignitaries at the occasion were; Africa’s first Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and some members of the State House of Assembly. The Faji Agba group led by popular octogenarian musician, Fatai Rolling Dollar, who entertained the audience with old school Lagos music.
At first, in the morning of the occasion, there were only a few people around. But as the day wore on, people started turning in en mass and the stadium was filled to the brim with some people standing. Two tourist buses were seen moving round the arena conveying tourist mostly white people to enable them have clearer view of the event.
During the occasion, various Eyo groups paraded the arena dressed in white garments with hats of different colors adding to the beauty of the occasion. Some of the groups are; Agaranku, Awise, Taiwo olowo, Iga Faji, Oloye Salawe, Shasi, Olorokun, Ilu oke, Bashua, Onitan, Oniru, Olokun(claded in all white from head to toe), Iwase, Sobaloju, Onikoyi, Aromire, Etti and a host of others.
It was gathered that in the course of the festival, foot wears, head scarves, ladies wearing trousers, “suku” hairstyle (a hair style in Yoruba land)and smoking are all prohibited around the arena and whenever in contact with the Eyo.
According to our source, any erring person if found would be beaten with the staffs held by the Eyo and its followers. Orderliness is strictly adhered to by the Eyo and this was seen in the manner in which they composed themselves while entering the arena. They danced into the arena well arranged and dressed in traditional attires and brilliant colours.
During the procession of the lesser masquerades, people were allowed to take photographs or record the event in video, but with the procession of the four most superior Eyos, people were banned from taking pictures or recording the event because it was believed that they represented their “orisa”.
It was also revealed that anybody who was caught violating the rule was beaten with the staff and curses rained on him/her. The amazing revelation is that the Eyos are said to have the power to detect if somebody was taking their pictures.
The four supreme Eyos according to our source are: the “Agere” in purple and stilts followed by the “Ologede” in green, the “Oniko” in yellow and the “Laba ekun” in Red. However, and the commander in Chief, referred to as the gods, is the Adimu dressed in black and white. The four supreme Eyos during the occasion ended their procession in the arena.
In his remark at the occasion,the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola re-emphasised the need for the country to make use of its many potentials in tourism and culture in mapping out a new revenue line for the country.
Fashola, also called on Nigerians, and especially Lagosians to hold on fastly to their culture and tradition arguing that, “ Eyo festival is one of the foremost festivals which identifies us as a people . They are part of our beliefs and distinguishing emblems.”