There was a blend of culture, tradition and dance as Lagos State recently concluded this year’s Eyo festival at the Tafawa Balewa Square, held in memory of Chief Yesufu Oniru. The Eyo Festival is also known as Adamu Orisha Play. Being a unique festival among the people of Lagos, there is a widespread belief that Eyo was the forerunner of the modern day carnival in Brazil.
The white-clad Eyo masquerades represent the spirits of the dead, and are called “agogoro Eyo (tall Eyo). It is a one week event that usually ends with the parade and display of colours. The show is restricted to the Island area of Lagos and it is forbidden to be staged outside the approved boundaries in the Island.
The fiesta is regarded as the highest post-humous honour that any community can bestow on a deceased person in appreciation of his contributions to the society. It is primarily held to celebrate and commemorate the passage of an Oba or an illustrious son who contributed immensely to the development of the state. Although it does not have a specific date for the celebration, the Oba of Lagos, on who’s land the celebration takes place, grants an approval for the hosting of the event after holding due consultations with the Akinsilu of Lagos and the custodians at Awe-Adimu, the base of the senior Eyo group. After consultations, the Akinsilu announces the date but not without him communicating first with the deity after the family of the deceased must have offered gifts to him which would be distributed among the deity families.
The Eyo groups that participated in the procession are Bashua, Erelu Kuti, Egbe, Eletu Iwashe, Eletu Ijebu, Ologun Agbeje, Opeluwa, Aromire, Obanikoro, Oshodi- Bukku, Bajulu, Onitana, Oloto, Akogun Olofin among others.
Speaking at the event, the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola said that the festival was designed differently to accommodate a larger audience without diluting the core values of the play.
According to him: “We have chosen again to use the Tafawa Balewa Square which was befittingly the spot where our nation gained independence and where our national colours were hoisted for the first time 51 years ago. My administration is mindful of the economic effects and benefits of festivals and tourist destinations in our State and this edition of the Eyo has not been an exemption as it has stimulated economic and other entrepreneurship opportunities for our people”.
He recalled that the late Chief Yesufu Oniru in whose honour the Eyo was being staged, was a leader who through the instruments of law, sought to ensure that his people were not deprived of their inheritance.
Fashola continued: “The late Chief who was also the father of the present Oniru of Iruland, Oba Idowu Abiodun won many legal battles against the acquisition of his ancestral property by the then emerging colonial authorities. Whilst the Eyo festival provides an occasion for us to celebrate, it is also important for us to be introspective. We should remember this festival’s significance which is largely within the context of preparations and performance of formal acts by the Oba of Lagos and the elders of the craft.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, a native of Lagos State, Mr. Akeem Olorundare said that the Eyo was a unique festival that differentiated the Yoruba’s among other ethnic groups in the country. He called on the government at all levels to continually support the fiesta saying that the late Chief Yesufu Oniru was one man that exhibited good leadership qualities during his reign.