Looking back into historical times to give grand reception to long lasting peace in Yorubaland
There is a new theoretical postulation having its source from the masquerade tradition in Nigeria. It is called facekuerade, propounded by a Professor of Drama, Sunday Ododo.
Facekuerade is a theoretical argument that validates the presence of “mask less masquerades” in some communities in Africa; including Oloolu in Ibadan, Oyo State and Ajunu in Abeokuta, Ogun State. The unmasked masquerades in Ekuechi festival of Ebira people of Kogi State are cited as telling examples.
In Okemesi, a town in Ekiti West Local Government of Ekiti State, no one dares unmask a masquerade as the punishment for such daring act is banishment from the town.
Women are also not permitted to see the masquerades when they come out mask less in the night. Any woman who violates this rule also gets her family in trouble by drawing the ire of the people of the town. Another unique feature of the town is that it a community with high number of professors.
The Owa of Okemesi, Oba Michael Gbadebo Adedeji, told Daily Sun: “Okemesi people originally came from Ile-Ife, Osun State, the source of the Yoruba race. History has it that the progenitor of the town was an Ile-Ife princess called Ooyelagbo, the first daughter of Oduduwa. After the death of her father, as the eldest daughter, she had to distribute the royal crowns among her siblings and she kept the best crown for herself.
“Before then, when their father was critically ill, she moved to Ilesa in the present Osun State, waiting for her younger brother, Owa Obokun of Ilesa, who went to fetch sea water to cure their father’s eye problem. When she got to Ilesa, she met some aborigines led by one okro farmer called Babaonila. She instituted Obanla, a chieftaincy title. Later she became the Prime Minister of both Okemesi-Ekiti and Ilesa.
“According to Okemesi-Ekiti tradition, the brother joined his sister in Ilesa and became the Owa Obokun there. Oyelagbo decided to leave her brother to go to another place since both monarchs could not stay in the same place. This is why till today, the Owa Ooye is praised as ‘Abule to Obokun dosi’, meaning, one who ceded land for Obokun to settle.
“She eventually got to Apole or Ipole. The place is now called Imesi Ile in present Osun State. Ooyelagbo ruled in Ipole, died and was succeeded by many children, some of who ruled the town after her.”
Raphael Adeyanju, a community leader, spoke on the historic and famous Ekiti Parapo War, the longest Yoruba intra-tribal war that lasted 11 years: “Fabunmi was a 29-year-old man, widely travelled and had seen many ways of life before he returned to Okemesi. He met an oppressive system where Ibadan residents were maltreating Okemesi and other Ekiti people. He instigated a rebellion that led a Ekiti Parapo liberation army against Ibadan oppressive rule.
“Fabunmi beheaded a certain Ajele called Oyepotun because he harassed his fiancée then. The other Ajele went to report to the head of Ibadan then who was Latoosa. Aree Latoosa sent message that Okemesi must provide 300 slaves comprising men and women and head of Fabunmi as compensation.
“When Fabunmi was called to the palace to get the message brought by three emissaries of Latoosa, he got angry and again beheaded two of the messengers and left one to report to Latoosa.
“This was what started the Ekiti Parapo War as Fabunmi had to go to all parts of Ekiti to mobilise warriors. This formed the Ekiti Liberation Army to fight the longest war in Yoruba land. It lasted 11 years and heralded the colonial era.”
He said there are many explainations on the meaning of the name Okemesi-Ekiti: “Some claim that the name emerged from the hilly terrain of he town. There is a particular hill which when people climb it they get tired and are disgraced. Getting disgraced in Yoruba is ‘mesin’, so the town’s name is Oke imessin.
“So, people used to say come to Oke where you would be disgraced or ‘mesin’ in Yoruba tongue, that is where this name Okemesi come from.”
Adeyanju however said that the most plausible meaning of the name is the breath of the mountain: “ You can see that the town is a valley, beautiful and carefully enveloped by hills, the breath of which provides fresh air for the inhabitants of the land. Our land is Okeminsi, meaning a Mount that inspires and not Okemessin, the one that disgraces.”
Chief Adebowale Adepoju, Osolo of Okemesi-Ekiti said: “The former title of Owa Ooye of Okemesi was Oloja Oke, meaning owner of the market. Traditionally, the Obas are owners of market in Yoruba land. At a point, we decided to revert to Owa Ooye, the original title of the ruler.
“Before finally settling down in the present location, the people migrated to other places. One of them was called Mesi Lasigidi, now called Imesi- Ekiti. During these migrations they usually took the main crown with them. “Okemesi people left Ipole because of more conducive land. They also felt they were being oppressed by their Ijesa neighbours. Following an advice by one of the hunters called Odunmorun Odesanmi, the people agreed to move downwards to the present Okemesi-Ekiti.”
Adeyanju, however, revealed that on the appointed time for the final migration, only 37 people and a dog followed Oba Adeniyi Agodogbo Iyun to Okemesi-Ekiti: “All the households in the town were well represented by the number of the people who went with the Owa. When they got to the present Okemesi, they had to replicate the quarters, which included Odowo, Ito, Odo Ese, Okerena and Ijana.”
Oba Adedeji continued the story: “The present population of Okemesi is a community of Yoruba tribes. Almost every quarter in Okemesi came from every part of Yoruba land like you have in Ile-lfe. They all have their own oriki, meaning praise chant:
“There are those from Odowo, believed to come from Iwo, called Omo Oniwo. We have some from Ile-Ife who are Omo Nife. Some are from Nupe, they are called Orolu. Others are called Omo Ajero, Alawe from Ilawe, Edu Elerio from Erio-Ekiti and the Okeloro people are from Aramoko. Ile Baale people are from Oyo and they brought traditional drums called Gangan. This is why Okemesi has one of the most beautiful talking drums in Yoruba land and each of these quarters have their own traditions.”
Chief Sangoloni Titiloye, the Eminile, custodian of Egungun festival, said: “Egungun festival in Okemesi lasts for 30 days. When the Egungun comes out in the evening, women are not permitted to come out between the hours of 10 pm and 6am.
“If any woman violates this rule, the family of the woman pays dearly for it. The next day, the whole town would come to her family house and seize goats, hens and others. The family will be made to pay for the seized items. This rule used to be harsh in those days but have been relaxed now. You don’t also unmask the Egungin in Okemesi if you do this, you will be exiled and the family will be severely punished.”
Chief Omoniyi Babatunde, custodian of Oke Agbonno mountain in the town also spoke: “We have a festival like Odun when Egesorisa sings ballads to abuse social ills during the Orisa festival. These ballad singers do sing songs that satirise social ills.
“They go to Oba’s Palace to sing these songs. The monarch receives them warmly and even gives them gifts. But they still sing to abuse him instead of praising him. They will even tell him that next season they will come to repeat the ritual. After doing this, they are permitted to go to town to abuse others to correct social ills.
“The most outstanding festival in Okemesi is the Oladunwo, the chief Egungun, who comes out every two years. It is a very beautiful masquerade he is the emissary of the ancestors who come to bless the people. The Oladunwo festival is a ritual drama re-enacting the visit of the ancestors. Even small Egungun in Okemesi is respected as a father by the eldest member of the community.
“He comes to the palace square with a beautiful attire. He has another attire beneath, he will later come to the Kabiyesi and addressing him as Baale and not as Kabiyesi. He would declare that he wants to reveal himself three times before the king.
“At the third time, the Oba will say he should go ahead. Once he does this, he would be protected by a sea of cane holders who would prevent him from being mobbed by the crowd of participants who usually come from far and near.
“These cane wielding protectors will lead Oladunwo to the grove for final rites of cleansing. Our people believed that Oladunwo at a time in history protected our town from external aggression.
“Oke Agbona has a very unique feature, there is a cave on the Agbona Mountain with a very tiny opening in which according to history, our people hid during war time. As very little as the hole in the cave is, a huge cow being used to appease it somehow found its way into it and this has remained a mystery
“We also have the Olookun festival being celebrated by the Okeloro people. They brought it from Aramoko, it is celebrated with beans cake called akara. We have others like Onimona, Obalufon and Erinle.”
Culled from The Sun