The Egungun festival is a popular event in the Yoruba land; it symbolizes the presence of the ancestors amongst the people, they are said to bring good luck, fertility and ward off diseases in the land.
Ibadan is more synonymous for masquerade festivals than all the other Yoruba land, owing to its history of warriors, some masquerades were used during war fares in time past, such masquerades include Oloolu, Alapansanpa, Obadimeji, etc.
The Egungun festival is celebrated annually and it runs from June to July ending, the celebration commences with the “Oloolu” which is the most respected of them all, it carries a sacrifice round the designated areas in the city, this is expected to appease the evil in the land, cleansing, and also for peace and prosperity.
The areas that the Oloolu is expected to carry this sacrifice include: Ode Aje, Idi ape, Beere, Oja oba, the Olubadan’s palace who is the King of the land, then he eventually drops the sacrifice at Idi Ape at midnight, only after this cleansing can the other masquerades be expected to commence their own celebration.
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The Masquerades in Ibadan are well over 100 in number, their histories can be traced to different areas of Yoruba land, due to migration from their different areas, well, according to history some were also conquered warriors brought as slaves to Ibadan such as the “Oloolu” he was said to be a Warrior in a village near Akoko, Ondo state, he was a fierce masquerade that no one could defeat, some Warriors from Ibadan went to the war to confront him, and was eventually conquered by one of the Ibadan Warriors called “Ayorinde Aje”.
As was their practice in those times, he automatically became a slave and was led to Ibadan in chains, shortly after this war; there were lots of calamities befalling the people of Ibadan, drought, outbreak of diseases, the elders consulted the oracle, and it was suggested that they carry a sacrifice to appease the deities of the land.
Oloolu was volunteered by his conqueror, who had also become his master to carry this sacrifice, immediately this was done, things began to return to normal, there was rain, the spread of disease stopped and the people began to prosper once again, the Aje family, till date have remained the custodian of this masquerade.
Another masquerade in Ibadan who was brought in to Ibadan is the “Aladin Osogbo” it was brought during a war in Ibadan, perhaps to reinforce the military strength of the land from Osogbo, the present capital of Osun state, this masquerade is worshipped by the Aladin Osogbo family in Ibadan, whose original origin is Osogbo, the masquerade is believed to bring prosperity on the land, the family and also the carrier.
The “Sihaba” masquerade was brought in to Ibadan from Igboho, somewhere in Oyo state, it was brought during many of the wars Ibadan fought, it is still worshipped till date by the Olodo family who are residents of Oja-Igbo area of the city.
The “Atipako” a masquerade synonymous for carrying a mortar and pestle on its head, which indicates surplus of food and prosperity in the land, it also performs cleansing functions, highlighting the immoral behaviors of the land and recommending that these should be addressed in order to receive the blessings that it has brought.
“Alapansanpa” masquerade puts up a peculiar show, it is famed to have fought and won many wars for Ibadan, this masquerade is very important in Ibadan such that, on the day of its show, it goes straight to the Olubadan’s palace and whips the King himself thrice, the Olubadan is then expected to bless him with gifts after receiving this whipping, a Dog is brought forward for the masquerade and he is expected to slice off the Dog’s head with one blow, the dripping blood is used to appease the gods of the land, after which it proceeds to dance in the markets.
All these masquerades are usually led by a person called the “Atokun” or coordinator who is solely in charge of the conduct of the masquerade, the destinations for their show and also from preventing people from getting too close to the masquerade.
When masquerades put up a good show, they receive gifts of money and food from dignitaries and the onlookers, some masquerades are known to entertain the crowd more, they are famous for their excellent dancing skills; these include the “SODO” masquerade worshipped by the Oro family of ita-ege area ,any form of violence is forbidden during the outing of this masquerade, but unfortunately, this practice has been infiltrated by political thugs and perpetrators of evil, they seize the opportunity of the masquerades show to rob, rape, maim and settle scores with rivals and enemies. A lot of violence and destruction precede this event, a breakdown of law and order.
Many masquerades have been charged to court as a result of these unfortunate events, though the state government and the Police have put in measures to ensure a peaceful celebration, such has making all stake holders sign a memorandum of understanding, taking responsibility for unlawful acts that follows any masquerades outing, such masquerade is held responsible for it, yet it has had little or no effect in curbing the excesses of this celebration, this has affected the celebration’s popularity, people fear to travel from far and wide like they used to in the past to witness the festival, security has become a concern.
In all, it is a very colorful and important event in the land, tourists and students of Culture and Tradition from Universities all over the world come to witness and document this event yearly, and there is a boost in the commerce of Ibadan due to the presence of foreigners and visitors from neighboring states.
It is a time people look forward to make more sales, sell souvenirs, hotels are fully booked, restaurant owners and commuters make a lot of profit during this festival, which goes on for well over a month.
One can conclude that perhaps, these masquerades bring blessing to the land in truth, as the effect is felt for the rest of the year after the celebration.