Ikorodu residents kick over daytime Oro festival

IMAGINE a tradition slamming daytime indoor restrictions on a community on a Monday. That was the lot of Ikorodu people in Lagos State last Monday when the traditional Oro cult grounded the community throughout the day.

The Oro festival is an ageless tradition celebrated by many communities in Yorubaland. However, like many other traditional festivals, Oro is battling for survival and relevance in today?s world where technology reigns supreme.

Yet, despite various changes induced by modernisation and which seem to have boxed Oro into a corner, its faithful, especially those living in villages and other rural places, remain resolute and devoted to it. They ensure that they carry out the Oro rites from time to time.

Available reports reveal that there are different kinds of Oro. While some require both male and female folks to remain indoors while the Oro comes out, many others forbid only the females from venturing out. Whenever such an Oro is to be celebrated, women understandably scamper for safety and vanish from the streets. It is believed that any woman who sets her eyes on Oro will die mysteriously.

Ikorodu is widely regarded as the home of the Oro festivities in cosmopolitan Lagos; therefore, it did not come as a surprise when the Oro emerged last Monday, the first work day in the week, when thousands of Ikorodu residents were getting ready to find their daily bread.

Saturday Tribune gathered that the Oro festival started in the early hours of the day. Female members of the community stayed indoors for safety, having been informed earlier.

According to information gathered, economic activities were practically shut down as many market women, who ordinarily would have flocked to the markets in various parts of Ikorodu, remained indoors. Many female students did not go school as well, while many public servants who were females also used the occasion to take a break at home.

For years, Oro festivals in Ikorodu have evolved into an apple of discord between Oro faithful and those who do not share the belief but who are often the ones who count their losses because economic activities often reach their lowest ebb during such periods.

When narrating her ordeal to Saturday Tribune, a resident of Igbe area of Ikorodu, Mrs Tosin Omojola, said that her entire day was rendered useless by the Oro festival, because she had been warned by one of its organisers that it was better for her to stay at home.

?I was informed on Sunday (the day preceding the festival) that there was going to be an Oro festival within our neighbourhood.

?Though I didn?t hear it myself, a friend had also told me that it was even announced on radio that all female residents should stay indoors throughout the duration of the event, which was expected to last for a whole day. I couldn?t go to my office in Ikeja, let alone take my kids to school.

?I feared for my life because I was informed that a woman who sets her eyes on the Oro would not live to tell the tale. I was so scared to go out that I couldn?t even dare step out to observe if any woman flouted the order,? said Mrs Omojola.

Another resident of Ikorodu, Memunat Ajibade, also stated that she and her household had become used to the Oro festival in Ikorodu, saying that her husband was even the first on the list of those who advised her not to venture out.

?When the Oro festival for this year was announced, my husband, as usual, asked me to stay at home. His usual advise is always ?Give unto Caesar what is Caesar?s.? I stayed indoors throughout because there was no way my husband would allow me to go to my office,? she disclosed.

Mrs. Iyabo Adedolapo, a hairdresser in Ikorodu, noted that the tradition had become a source of worry for residents. She argued that it was unfair for the government to allow the practice to go on.

She opined that the continued observance of the tradition by its adherents suggested that the country was tilting towards barbarism.

?It is so sad that in spite of the level of civilisation globally, we still condone some archaic and barbaric traditions that ought to be extinct,? she said.

In the meantime, residents of Ikorodu have again called on the state government to stop the Oro festival in the area.

According to them, the major grouse they?ve always had about the tradition is that it often hinders their movement and stands as a disincentive to the economy of the area.

A self-employed businesswoman, Mrs Abimbola Akintomide, said?that for close to two decades, the tradition had continuously put restrictions on her business.

?We urge the government to put a stop to this Oro tradition. If the government does not cancel it, they should restrict the event to midnight. Usually, Oro is done in the night when no normal person should be outside. But the one done here in Ikorodu is often in the daytime, when people ought to be involved in fruitful ventures,? she lamented.

Investigations by Saturday Tribune about the Ikorodu Oro festivals suggest that for over three decades, it has been celebrated. Also known in some quarters as Magbo and Liwe festivals, Oro is celebrated annually in May and June, but it does not hold on Fridays and Sundays as a mark of respect for the Muslim and Christian holy days.

When commenting on the importance of Oro festivals recently during one of the Oro festivals in Iseyin, Oyo State, the National Co-ordinator of Odua People?s Congress, Chief Gani Adams, said that in any society, there must be a method used by the people to remove bad deeds or bad people from the society.

According to him, one of the ways this is done in Yoruba land is through Oro. When the Oro festival is celebrated, according to him, development comes to the society and the people. He declared that the Yoruba socio-cultural group had never and would never be involved in human sacrifice.

Debunking claims in some quarters that Oro is against the will of God, the factional OPC leader, who is also the founder of the Olokun Foundation, insisted that celebrating Oro festival was not in any way against the will of God; rather, failure to do so could result in untold calamities.

However, there had been reported cases of touts and thugs who hide under the guise of Oro festivals to perpetrate evil and victimise residents, especially over land issues. Saturday Tribune recalls that it was in response to such social vices in Ikorodu that made the governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, to threaten to deploy a special police unit to Ikorodu to snuff out such criminals.

Speaking recently, Fashola said he would never fold his hands and allow harassment of law-abiding citizens by cultists, gangs and land speculators.

?We hear that there are lots of problems here in Ikorodu, especially with you young people working in groups as gangsters, cultists and the likes. I am sending the police into Ikorodu to make peace. You can complain about government, but you also have a role to play. These attacks on citizens by gangs must stop,? Fashola had reportedly warned.

Reports show that the different towns that make up Ikorodu usually hold the Oro festival on different days.

Towns such as Igbogbo, Imota and Agbowa, all in Ikorodu, are well known for celebrating the Oro festival, and serve as leaders of the pack of other communities that celebrate it.

Source : The Tribune, 8 June 2013