Wole Balogun, Ado Ekiti
Recently, Ido-Ile, in Ido-Osi Local Government Area of Ekiti State was agog with a week celebration of some Yoruba deities. They included Obatala, god of justice; Orunmila, god of creation; Osun, water goddess; Osanyin, divination god; Ifa, also a divination god and Sango, god of thunder.
Each day of the week was devoted to a god or two for appeasement and worship. There were also displays by some masquerades. The festival was sponsored by Madam Ike Obaleye, head of Sango worshippers in the South West. A native of Ido-Ile, she practices as a traditionalist in Ibadan, Oyo State, in a place she called her traditional healing home.
The festival attracted folks and initiates of the deity from far and near. One of them was a man from the South Eastern part of the country, Ngoka Anthony, from Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State. He was conferred with a traditional title of Atunluse of Ido-Ile as a result of his rapport with the community and development effort.
Every year, Ngoka travelled from Delta State with his family and friends to celebrate Sango festival with other initiatives of the deity in Ido-Ile. He said he finds not only happiness and fulfillment in this venture but also derives economic and social benefits from it:
“The culture unites us. Being an Ibo man coming to celebrate culture in a Yoruba land binds us. I have come to show my respect as a person. I come here every year to celebrate with my people. I am part of this as a traditionalist. It is by virtue of being a traditionalist that I always come every year to be part of this and it gives me fulfillment.
“My gains include happiness and the fact that this festival unites us. Sango is a god of thunder and lightening. He is called Amadioha in our culture because of his thunderstorm and lightening. He protects you from evil and in my culture Amadioha also makes us to have bountiful harvest in our farms.
“This is my third year of being part of this and l always come with my family and friends to be part of this. I support this so much because we must not forget our culture. We must not allow foreign religion or culture to make us forget our culture. There are differences between what we do in celebrating our culture in the East and what obtains here.
“For instance, we celebrate Amadioha during the rainy seasons and there are always thunderstorms at such times. But such festive culture is fast fading in my part of the country because the foreign religion is destroying this aspect of our culture. They no longer exist in their raw form like we have it here in Ido-Ile. This is part of the reasons we come here to feel this and be part of it.
“We urge government to develop these aspects of our cultures to promote tourism and togetherness and even commerce. With our coming here we have bought things especially huge farm products from this part of the country. That has promoted business transactions among us and people of this community.”
A community leader and Oluwo Akepe Ola of Ido-Ile, Chief Olayiwola Bankole, (Head of Ogboni) said: “I am to preserve our cultures the way our forefathers did it in their times and with which they were prosperous, wealthy and had many fruitful children.
“Today, we have three masquerades we are celebrating as part of this festival. One of them we call, Aberemotuntunide, meaning a needle always passes through clothing materials. It signifies that life must continue. Every year we must have this masquerade. His name means needle, which usually weaves the clothing materials and such endeavour occurs from time to time.
“The second masquerade is Ako Eegun. It is from a powerful masquerade family of men who possess great powers. They can assume the physical form of anything such as a lion, tiger, and elephant. They can become anything and can kill any animal. They also possess powers that bring goodness to people and cure them of all their illnesses.
“The third one is Egun Oba, meaning the King’s masquerade. He is the last one who offers prayers for the community. Whatever he prays are answered by the gods. He is graceful and elegant not aggressive like the Ako Eegun.”
For 26-year-old Mrs. Yetunde Ibrahim, the gains she got from participating in the festival was bidding farewell to having her babies through Caesarian Operation (CS). She told Daily Sun:
“I live in Ibadan. I gave birth to my third baby without having to go through Caesarian operation this morning thanks to the gods of Mama Obaleye. My first and second born were through CS. When we approached Mama Obaleye, she assured us that by the powers of the gods and Sango deity, and the herbs she would give, I would not give birth through Caesarian operation again. Since then, she has been administering the herbs and making prayers for me. Today, with her help and the gods and the grace of God Almighty, I gave birth to my baby without operation.
“The hospital doctors used to say that I have a pelvic assessment of a man which has been making it difficult for me to give birth to my babies with ease. But the Mama who is the traditionalist said with the herbs, it would be easy for me to give birth without a CS.
“Since the month I took in I have been going for traditional ante-natal care at the traditional clinic of Mama Obaleye and eventually today I gave birth to my baby without having a CS.
“Anytime I went to the hospital they usually told me that it was almost certain that I would continue to give birth through CS but because I have faith this has happened. I want to enjoin other women who have this kind of challenge to have faith that one day their problems will be solved like mine has been solved with my faith in the traditional care of Mama Obaleye.”
Obaleye reacted: “lt is the gods of our forebears, and the grace of the Almighty that made all these possible. I have at a time wandered away from my roots and I was unsuccessful. But since I came so close to my roots, I have discovered myself and I have been prospering. I want to urge everyone not to forget their roots and get carried away with foreign religions and cultures.”