Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti
In Ewo, Ilupeju-Ekiti, Oye Local Government Area of Ekiti State, kolanuts exist in abundance as an average member of the community has over 10 hectares of the product. Kolanuts have huge deposit in the area, which has not been tapped by successive governments.
Besides having kolanuts, the community has some strange features. According to the Obanla of Ewo, llupeju-Ekiti, Oba Awe David Sunday and some chiefs including Daodu, Olomeyin of Ewo; Nurudeen Bakare, Oluare of llupeju-Ekiti; Florence Fasanmi, Eyelobunrin Egosi of llupeju-Ekiti and Ojo Jimoh, Elesa of Ewo, the community has a healing stream, the Imao River. The river has healing powers as well as power to destroy charms used to afflict any indigene of the town.
River lmao, Daily Sun gathered, rescued the people of the town from invading assailants by sending some spiritual signals to the devotees who decoded such signal and carried out necessary rituals of appeasement to their forbears for them to rise to ward off evil from the town.
The monarch said this explains the mystery behind a rock in the forest of the town, which has the shape of a drum and indeed, sounds like a drum, as confirmed by Daily Sun: “The story of this rock birthed a primordial festival of this town, called Egunmo festival. It is a story of a drum turning into a rock and that rock still making a drum like noise when beaten or hit till today.
“Our forefathers said that it all happened when some invaders were coming to attack our town. Our warriors then had used their juju power and commanded that all the invaders become rocks while they were invading the town. It happened that they all turned into rocks including a huge drum that they were beating to announce their invasion. That drum now turned rock, gives drum like sounds when beaten.
“The Egunmo festival has now become a major communal annual event, which draws all and sundry and almost all indigenes of the town from home and abroad to the town.”
Eighty-year-old Chief Fasanmi also spoke about the Egunmo: “In those days, whenever there was a war, our fathers have a ritual as our tradition, they would visit the place and beat a certain object in the grove. They would also assign powerful people to ward off the war. Every season, they would perform the ceremony of Egunmo with Iro (traditional metal object) wore like a chain round the legs on their legs, they would dance and sing.
“They have unusual clothing and chains on their necks too. That ritual later became a seasonal ceremony called Egunmo and is being celebrated every year till today. The chiefs and people of the town watch the performer of this war-like ceremony.
“Egunmo is an Aremo festival for the elderly, it brings goodness to the town and peace and ward off evil. The elders have their local swords, and pay homage to the land and their Oba during the festival, they sing their panegyrics, which narrate their past deeds.
“Omo Alakoko, one of the praise chants show that Ewo people have a link with the Ooni of Ife. Custodian of the festival is Chief Elesa Ajo, which is me and my duty is to offer prayers for the people. It lasts for two days. Six quarters of the town jointly lead in the festival, and they include Igesu, Ebele, Ereketa and Igbole.”
Chief Michael Ogundana is another elderly member of Ewo, he spoke about the community youths’ participation in the festival of Egunmo: “It is all of Ewo people who participate in the festival and it is done for the Kabiyesi. We have the Obutu, age grade, which are formed as tradition dictates.
“Every one from Ewo once they become adult must be initiated into an age group: This is called ‘Gbegan’, on the festival day, they dress, take wooden swords, sing several soulful songs and dance among others.
“Only those who are initiated into the Egbe Isa can participate in Egunmo. Young men and women are part of the age groups. They are actively involved in community development and policing. They hand over badly behaved members of the community to the law enforcement agents and take care of the environment, clean gutters, public places and others. Any true blood of Ewo who fails to get initiated into this age group can die prematurely. The war-like dance for Egunmo is done it on top of the rock, which is a grove far outside the town now.”
He also spoke about some taboos in the town: “We don’t allow a bundle of palm fronds in public. Our married women don’t expose their hair in the town. If a woman tries it they would bring her to the palace for severe punishment.
“We craft a sculpture that represents our ancestor seven days before the final day of festival, which is the Egunmo day. It is this effigy that is clothed, decorated and taken round the town in celebrative mood.
“We are very warm to our visitors, and treat them better even more than our own children and we don’t cheat them. Apart from the main festival of Egunmo, which holds toward the last week of August every year, we have other festivals such as Olu Ero, Egungun festival in January.
“Some of the natural resources in our town are kolanut, yams, clay pots and cassava. We have kolanuts in abundance here, a person farms up to 10 hectares of kolanuts here,. But we haven’t got government help to develop our kolanut and we need their help so much. It is very important we have such help.
“We also need social amenities like roads. Our road is gully it doesn’t allow us to move out from 8pm. We have constant erosion issues, we have power only once in three months. Some of our age grades help in maintaining the roads but they can’t do it well like the government would do it.”
“Another historic aspect of the town is Isi Olomo, now called Oja Odi. It is a place where the townspeople first settled before they moved to the area now called Ewo Ilupeju. It is a market place but now has turned to a shrine where the people appease their gods during the Egunmo festival.”
Oba Awe said: “Ilupeju is loved by God as He brings progress and peace to us. River Imao is divine gift to us, it cures ailments such as barrenness, when we pray with it for barren women, they give birth after nine months.
“During the Egunmo, no one falls ill, anytime war is coming, the river signals to us. And once we get the signal, we go and do some appeasement there and that war disappears.
“When we dance during the festival, many women who come to watch or participate and pray for husbands get their own husbands. We have many of them here and they are married. Ewo is a powerful place in Ilupeju, our place is great and our children are very good. Egunmo, hives progress, comfort, it is celebrated for seven days.
“During the dance in Egunmo, any cow, or fowl that intrudes is killed but not eaten, it is left there and later taken to some place for appeasement and this is what wards off the war. We carry a certain charm around the town during Egunmo, the power comes down on the dawn of the festival, the butus will dance in the night and Imao gives sign for time to start the dance.
“August 24-25 is the next Egunmo festival in Ewe are inviting our governor to come and see the wonders his youths are creating. The dance by the youths is graceful and the Iro they wore on their legs bring peace and progress to our town. By the time we dance in the festival there is peace and progress we use that thing I spoke about to round the town, no one meets them on the way while doing this.
“We also have a spiritual water called Ero water from Imao water. Our children bath with it when they are through dancing and we pray for them. This festival has no issues with other religious practices as we see it as our own way of reaching God.
“Governor Kayode Fayemi knows the challenges we face in the state and in evey town here. Ilupeju as a case study the governor knows what we need. We have bad roads.”
Some women leaders spoke about their roles in the festival. The lye Lobinrin Ilupeju said: “Once Egunmo is near, we will start organising and preparing, offering prayers, and advising the youths who are main participants. All of us, the women, would have prepared well, women don’t take active part in Egunmo, but men do.
“I am the head of all the women. We visit Imao to offer prayers and offer appeasement to the gods, sing and dance so that there will progress and peace and our prayers are answered. We urge government to watch this year’s edition of Egunmo and help support it to package it for tourism development of the town.”
Chief Abigail Oriowo, the Olole of Ewo, said: “We assist our leader of women, Chief Fasanmi, we take care of food refreshment. I am the Onisuku, who carries and dresses the effigy, which we carry and dance around during the festival. This brings peace, as women we do Aremo ceremony and do merry making during any event such as conferment of chieftaincy titles, naming ceremony etc.”