Omo Ijebu Alare!! Omo Alagemo Merindinlogun!!
The Yoruba and the Ijebu have many deities or Orisha that include Ifa, Sango, Egungun, Ayelala, Oluweri, Ogun and Obatala.
Apart from these, there are various festivals that are celebrated which allow the people like any other tribe in the world to enjoy life to the fullest and with great joy.
Each one of these festivals brings the community together to participate in dances, songs and music of their own unique tradition. The dances can be wild, the songs powerful, the rhythm of the music hypnotic and the costumes and masks colourful and fanciful.
The venues for these celebrations can vary from the royal court filled with dignitaries, dressed in native costumes, to the simplicity offered by the shade of a mango tree under which villagers fill the air with their revelry.
This happy feeling radiates in the daily life of the people, whether it is in the chatters of women selling tomatoes in the market, children dancing on their way to school, loud gatherings around the water pump, fishermen straining with their nets to land their catch, or the adherents of the foreign religions, heading to the mosque or the church.
Everywhere one turns; one will find radiant faces beaming welcoming smiles at the visitor.
The Ijebu are so generous. They will share with the visitor their land, culture, their rich heritage and harmonious atmosphere.
Here are some of the major festivals one can attend during a tour of ijebu Kingdom:
A brief description of some of the festivals:
The month of August is usually devoted to the worship of Leguru, although no longer a popular festival.
The festival was marked in remembrance of the bravery and sacrifice of the Onisemu Leguru, who volunteered to sacrifice himself to save Ijebu Ode from being taken over by the lagoon.
Traditional stories have it that the town was then faced with the threat of the Lagoon taking over the whole place, and as was predicted, the town would only become a port (not habitable as it is at present).
Leguru, it was said, was a foremost priest who decided to sacrifice himself when Ifa talked about the grave implication of retaining the water in the town.
OBINRIN OJOWU (EBI)
Also celebrated is the Obinrin Ojowu (Ebi) festival, which usually falls between February and March of every year, coinciding with the beginning of planting season. Obinrin Ojowu is celebrated during the first week of every third month of the year by the people of Ijebu Ode in compliance with the directive of Ogborogannida who was also known as Obanta by some and Ajagunla by others
The Olowu is the priest of Obinrin Ojowu who directs the rites and takes responsibility for its worship. Before the Obinrin Ojowu celebration, the Olowu would have had to consult with the Awujale and secure his consent on three different occasions. He will then pass death sentence on dogs that have no palm fronds around their necks. The Iroko tree at Odo-Esa is very important to devotees of the Obinrin Ojowu as some rites are performed under it and a dog is usually killed and hung on it throughout the year. Also associated with the festival is the Woro carnival (which usually takes people round the community)
The Ijebu people are the ‘omo alagemo merindinlogun” (children of the sixteen Agemo masquerades). Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey reminded us about this Ijebu attribute in one of his popular albums in the early 1970s.
The Agemo Deity is one of the traditional festivals that unite the Ijebu annually. It is celebrated between the month of July and August when the Agemo priests converged at Ijebu-Ode to offer prayers, sacrifice and felicitate with one another for witnessing another year.
The 16 Agemo come out every July and they all meet at Ijebu-Ode before moving to Agbala Imosan, for parts of the rites. The Agemo of Ijebu-Isiwo is the LEADER of all AGEMO in IJEBU LAND. Women are forbidden from seeing the Agemo on their way to Ijebu-Ode. A public announcement is made on radio and television to inform everyone the exact time Agemo will be moving.
There are sixteen prominent Agemo masquerades of Ijebuland who have priestly duties along with dancing at Agbala Imosan and Ijebu Ode.
The Agemo are: Tami (Odogbolu), Olumoro (Imoro), Serefusi (Igbile), Posa (Imosan), Moko (Okun), Alofe (Ijesa-Ijebu), Onugbo (Okenugbo), Iju (Imosan), Lapen (Oru), Magodo (Aiyepe), Bajelu (Imuku), Lubamisan (Ago-lwoye), Petu (Isiwo), Ogegbo (Ibonwon), ldobi (Ago-Iwoye), Nopa (Imushin).
Other fetish Agemo Priests that do not perform dancing rites are: Onijagbori (Imosan), Adie (Ago-Iwoye), Ogi (Idogi, Ijebu-Ode)
The Ojude Oba festival of Ijebu-Ode is usually held two days after the Muslim Eid-el-Kabir festival. It is a festival whose main purpose is for the people of Ijebu to come together as one to honour their king and is regarded as one of the biggest in West Africa.
This festival is usually held in the month of June/July every year. It is used to cleanse the communities of bad omen. It usually comes up before the Agemo festival to prepare the ground for the Alagemo and expel evil spirit as well as epidemics out of the community.
It is believed that communities are safe after Oro festival (Igbalu) and so "Eiye a ke bi eiye and Eran a ke bi eran.” (Birds will chirp like birds, animals cry like animals)
Women are not allowed to witness the Oro, who comes out mainly at night, when women naturally are expected to stay indoors.
The celebration of Obinrin Ojowu starts on the first day with a walk that is done in the night – “irindeoru”- during which the youth of the town carry the traditional eguntan (light), set up fire in front of Obinrin Ojowu, and walk round the town till morning. They also sprinkle “ero” round the town and make atonement for peace. On the second day, they go for “woro” at Odokala after which they were received by the representatives of the Awujale of Ijebuland.
The grand finale of Obirin Ojowu festival is when Olowa Iberu goes to Isewu and presents Obirin Ojowu to the representatives of the Awujale.
Sacrifices are made at the point where Enisemu, otherwise known as Leguru, was said to have sat on a mat centuries ago and driven away water from Ijebu Ode
Leguru performed the divination and was then not prepared to change or twist the facts as revealed by Ifa that he (Leguru) was the one that could save the town by sacrificing himself. People still claim to hear him perform divination (under water) around a portion of the Lagoon at Epe.