It is time again to celebrate a messenger of God from heavens. It is a god-sent warrior to protect Yoruba nation. It protected and delivered them during the slave trade in Yoruba land. The annual celebration of Egungun marks the end of slave trade in Yoruba land, according to Egungun worshipers.
It usually appears in colorful pieces of cloth sewn together and speaks in guttural voices to give the impression that it is truly from heavens.
It blesses its believers and followers. Egungun do bring blessings to people who are childless, sterile, barren, sick or possessed of demons the believe. As a messenger from God, Yoruba believes it conquered wars for them. The visiting ancestors (Egungun) helped them increase the produce of their farms abundantly.
In Ibadan, the festival is at its peak at the moment. The socio-cultural festival is always exciting and captures the essence of the ancient city of over three million people. The festival usually falls in the raining season. People travel from far and near to celebrate the glamorous festival. The colorful event, however, attracts violence which Chief Dr. Ojetunde Akinleye Asoleke, the leader of all masqueraders in Ibadan land blamed on other religious worshipers. He said other religion worshipers of other religious believe Egungun followers are not worshiping God, but idols, therefore they tend to cause mayhem at their celebration.
However, unlike the past when the festival usually begins with violence, so far Ibadan is calm and peaceful.
From Beere to Molete, from Oopo iye-osa to Idi Ape, and from Oranyan, to Akobo, the city of Ibadan is witnessing unprecedented calmness.
Oyo Govt and Olubadan efforts to ensure violence free Egungun festival
Owing to the usual attacks in the past, the governor of the state, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, and the Olubadan of Ibadan land Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso I cautioned against violence during the Egungun festival.
The duo stated that the law enforcement agents have assured the people of their readiness to maintain law and order by arresting and prosecuting offenders with intent to cause mayhem during the festival in Ibadan land.
Why Yoruba celebrates Egungun
To the Yoruba, Egungun is from heavens and whenever it is around on earth, it brings blessings from God.
Yoruba also believes that when they celebrate masquerade, it’s makes farm produce to yield abundance fruits because it is from God. Another belief is that when a barren woman dances with Egungun, such a woman receives blessings and return to Egungun festival the following year with a baby.
As a result of this, Egungun devotees travel from far and near to celebrate a gift from God, who descended from heavens to bless the earth dwellers.
First Egungun in Ibadan
The first Egungun in Ibadan land started at Awotan area of the city. The unnamed Egungun was embarrassed by his wife when she was aggrieved and unveiled the masquerade at market square in Awotan which resulted in distabilization of old Ibadan land, according to Chief Dr. Akinleye.
105-year-old Ibadan historian
A 105-year-old custodian of Ibadan history, Chief Samson Oladejo Lakondoro relates little history of Egungun in Ibadan land.
“Egungun is the culture of our forefathers. They use it to capture some towns and villages at war. For instance, Oloolu was captured by Ibadan from Aramoko Ekiti during the kiriji war. Our forefathers also used it to secure their slaves and properties in the ancient days. Alapansanpa is also a very powerful masquerade which they use to protect the jurisdiction of Yoruba land. Atipako, Iponriku, and Abidielege and others are very powerful.
“We celebrate masquerader in June to mark the end of slave trade in Yoruba land because slave trade ended in June”, he said.
Chief Dr. Akinleye said Egungun made sacrifice for establishment of Ibadan land. Egungun is very important in ibadan land because it is the father of all idols. The Yoruba believe that Egungun was the first creature sent to the world by God. He was sent to come and help the human solve their challenges. When Egungun arrived, he was unable to live on the earth because mud was everywhere. Egungun therefore consulted an oracle and the oracle told him what to do and he did just so. After the sacrifice, the Egungun began to walk with the help and support of fowl which has been on earth before the Egungun. So, the Egungun used the oracle as compass. There is nothing you can’t get from Egungun. If you want baby, Egungun will give you. If you want good health, Egungun will give you. If you want promotion at work, Egungun will give you. Egungun is very important to all Yoruba. Everyone who wears cloth is a masquerade. Even when we die, we shall return to God with masquerade’s kits. There is nothing you ask in the name of God that Egungun will no do for you. Those of us doing Egungun here in Ibadan are not much and we are doing fine. We are decent and polite. Those who are causing crisis are not members of our association. But God has been helping us to reduce the level of violence during the Egungun festival. It has been peaceful. Yes, from time immemorial, Egungun festival has been celebrated in the month of June. It is usually falls in the time of harvest of major farm produce because we use such farm produce to celebrate our festival. That is how we inherited it from our parents and it can’t change forever. If you are doing Egungun, things will be going on well for you because it is from God. In terms of security, we, the masqueraders, Olubadan in council in collaboration with government have done many awareness to ensure that the festival is violence free. Despite assurance from the security agencies, we also embark on prayers and sacrifices to ensure that no life is lost during the period of the festival celebration. For you to know the importance of the festival, people travel from every part of the world to celebrate with us. Some kill cows while some engage the services of musicians. Definitely, such person will not like to destroy his celebration himself.
Atipako father of all Masquerades
Atipako which is regarded as the father of all masquerades in Ibadan begins the annual festival. Atipako will need to dance in the front of the Olubadan with his followers and sacrifice a dog for gods to signify the beginning of Egungun festival in the land.
Oloolu the most revered of the masquerades in Ibadan is a warlord. It was captured during the Kiriji war between Ekiti and Ibadan. It is one of the powerful masquerades in Ibadan land today.
Oloolu also signifies the beginning of Egungun festival by carrying a pot full of ritual sacrifice round some designated areas in the city to ward off calamities and cleanse the land to usher in peace and prosperity.
The Oloolu was said to have taken the sacrifice from its ancestral home at Ode Aje in the heart of the city by 1 pm to Idi Ape, Beere, Oja’ba down to the Olubadan of Ibadan palace before depositing it at Idi Ape by midnight.
It is the believed among the locals that without the Oloolu carrying this sacrifice every year and depositing it at Idi Ape, which is of spiritual importance to the city, Ibadan would not know peace and no Olubadan dares toy with this tradition.
After the Oloolu must have cleansed the land with the sacrifice, the other masquerades take the stage, one after the other before the Oloolu returns in after the six weeks of the festival to close the masquerades’ festival.