By Lukman Olabiyi
Kayokayo Festival is the biggest cultural-cum-religious event in Epe, Lagos. It is celebrated annually a month after the Eid-El-Kabir (Ileya) festival. It literally translates “eating to satisfaction.”
The festival was initially celebrated by the descendants of Oba Kosoko for his historical arrival in Epe in 1851. According to oral history, Oba Kosoko arrived with 1,500 people to lay the foundation of Eko-Epe.
This brought about the yearly observation of Kayokayo.
It is observed during the first month of the Islamic calendar in celebration of “Yaom-al Ashura,” the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar, about a month after the Eid-El-Kabir Muslim festival. It is a week-long festival celebrated in three dimensions.
The first is the religious dimension which aims at heralding the new Islamic Year with the 1st Hijra calendar Muharram. Then the cultural dimension, which celebrates King Kosoko’s arrival in Epe. The third is the social dimension celebrating the long-preserved communal bond of the Epe people through the sharing of food.
For this year’s celebration that began on August 19, 2022, it provided indigenes, non-indigenes and tourists with a platform to experience the unique cultural heritage of the kingdom.
The event was embedded with activities like Islamic lecture, quiz and Quranic recitation competition, lightening of the highly symbolic “Etufu,” medical mission, visitation to the Olu-Epe of Epe by royal families and royal procession to Marina waterfront and Fanti carnival/youth day.
Other activities included novelty matches, children’s parties, special Jumaat service and awards presentation. The grand finale on August 27 was full of fun, thrills and excitement. People from far and near trooped to the town to celebrate with the indigenes and the Kosoko dynasty.
Olu Epe of Epe, Oba Shefiu Olatunji Adewale, said the festival has always been a major boost to the economic, religious and cultural sectors of the community: “Epe, being dominantly a Muslim community, the religious aspect of the festival serves as an opportunity to pray for the growth and stability of the community, state and country.
“Kayokayo is a platform to promote the socio-economic activities of the community. The event has evolved to be interesting and acceptable to all, young and old.”
The Oloja of Lagos, Abiola Kosoko, said: “Kayokayo festival is a tradition that is being kept alive to enhance the grand entering of King Kosoko into Epe land from Lagos.
“Tonight, the ‘Etufu’ light is going to change face and it is going to be lighted with a gas fire instead of the previous camping fire. This festival is being remembered by everyone in Epe, Lagos Island and other towns having connections with Epe.
“Kayokayo festival is the only festival that unifies the whole of Epe and the festival that reminds them about their ancestors most especially King Kosoko. “King Kosoko was the 10th King of Lagos. He was king when Lagos was bombarded on December 25, 1851, by British.
Kosoko moved out of Lagos with almost everyone on the Island into Epe kingdom. His movement resulted in the founding of over 33 communities such as Lamgbasa, Badore and Ajah.”
The senator representing the Lagos East at the National Assembly, Tokunbo Abiru, said: “The growth and development experienced in Epe have been as a result of decades of peaceful coexistence among the people. The path of unity and peace chosen by the two sides of the land occupied by the Ekos and the Ijebus, to live harmoniously for over 171 years is worthy of celebration.
“This has opened doors for the economic and political emancipation of sons and daughters of the town. They have made tremendous contributions with landmark achievements and ground-breaking successes in the scheme of things in Lagos and Nigeria.”
Federal House of Representatives member, Wale Raji, representing Epe Constituency, said: “I am happy that the essence of this festival has been retained. It has afforded all of us the opportunity to eat and dine together in unity.”
An indigene and Chairman, Ibeju Lekki Local Government, Mr Sesan Abdulahi, claimed: “The influx of visitors, tourists, investors and the presence of top government officials at the celebration of the Kayo-Kayo signalled Epe as a tourist destination in Lagos and Nigeria.
“The festival will grow the Epe economy. The state government should invest massively in publicising the festival to the world at large.”
Otunba Gbenga Abass, coordinator, Kayokayo Organising Committee, said:
“The festival is a veritable platform for the celebration of the history, heritage and greatness of Epe. Culture is so important that it is the key to development. It unlocks the economic potential of any community.
“Culture is an important aspect of life. It is a key part of our existence and a major income earner for the community and the state.
Kayokayo is celebrated annually and to welcome the Islamic calendar year. It has become a part of our life.”
Nollywood star and descendant of the Kosoko family, Prince Jide Kosoko, said: “The influence of western culture has so much polluted our own culture to the extent that we are all practicing what they handed over to us. We are no longer seeing our own culture and tradition as anything.
“Youths are no longer willing to speak our local languages. This is perhaps the only way they can promote the language. It is only when you preserve the language that you can preserve the culture.”
A tourist, Banke, came from America. She urged Nigerian government to develop tourism potential of the country to check over reliance on crude oil as a means of foreign exchange: “The country is blessed with many historic sites but were neglected by the government.”
Hotel manager, Mr Ibrahim Bowale, said: “The festival is a source of blessings to our business. The level of patronage during the period is always high.” He called for Lagos State Government involvement in packaging and promoting the festival.