Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Unlike some masquerades whose outings are usually characterised by violence, Sokoto is a masquerade whose followers are mostly women and children. Though the owner and the bearer of the masquerade are males, most of its devotees and followers are females. Reason for females to be in love with the masquerade was later discovered to be because of its ability to “bless” barren women with fruits of the womb.
In Kugba, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Sokoto is very popular among the people. Its biennial outing is always celebrated with people coming from far and near. As usual, this year’s celebration of the “fertility” masquerade witnessed a large turn out of not only its devotees and followers but, some culture enthusiasts. Tawo’s Compound in Kugba where Sokoto originated from was filled to the brim with people who wined and dined with gusto amid jubilation.
Drummers and folk singers had a field day, while children, youth and adults who dressed in colourful attires danced and danced. Inside the Ogun (god of iron) shrine located in front of the compound, a dog was sacrificed to appease the god. Intermittently, the head of egungun initiates would come out from the coven (Igbale) to pour libation on the grave of originator of Sokoto masquerade.
After spending few hours preparing the bearer for the task inside the coven, he was brought out to the Ogun shrine for a propitiation. He was later led to the grave of the originator of the masquerade to invoke his spirit for his blessing and protection.
The bearer, who appeared possessed by the spirit of Sokoto, sauntered into the coven and few minutes later emerged in a colourful eku (masquerade attire). This time around, drumming reached a crescendo, Sokoto, surrounded by his conductor and some initiates started to dance. People also joined in the frenzy as the masquerade was going from compound to compound to pray for the people.
Origin of Sokoto
Alhaji Razak Ishola whose cognomen is also Sokoto, explained that the masquerade belonged to his father, late Sumonu Alabi. He said the man who was a devotee of Oro cult, was seriously searching for a child when he was told by an Ifa diviner to own a masquerade.
He added that his father hesitated because he was already an Oro worshipper, but he later heeded the instruction of the diviner and launched the masquerade. Ishola stated that his father was later blessed with children:
“Sokoto is a popular masquerade in Abeokuta for its ability to intercede for the barren from the god of fertility. That is why most people who follow it are women. My father was never an egungun devotee, but his search for a child turned him into one. Just as like my father’s prayer was answered, many people have also benefitted from the fertility invocation of Sokoto.
“The name of the masquerade was my father’s alias. For over 40 years, I was the bearer of Sokoto; I had to stop when I went on holy pilgrimage to Mecca. But I still partake in the organisation and celebration of the masquerade, which is now being handled by my nephew. Sokoto is not associated with violence, but drumming and dancing as well as celebration of God’s blessings.”
He pointed out that though the masquerade belonged to his late father, many residents of Kugba and its environs have accepted and cherished it as their own.
He disclosed that Oro activities will be carried out and Ogun will be appeased, few days to the day Sokoto would come out. This is to ensure that the biennial event is a success.