The Eyo festival of my childhood, was Eyo that roamed the whole of Isale Eko and was not constrained. Oh! What fun I had with most of my cousins and Uncles being eyos, taking me under their wings while they went around. Once, one stupid eyo slapped my mum’s bum hard with his opam bata, not knowing that one of my uncles, a senior eyo was behind her and that she was with him. That my uncle beat the shait out of him. My mum was not wearing shoes, or gele or shuku yet, because she had a big bakassi, this sadistic idiot slapped her bum hard with his opambata, just because. Ah… the fun that day. Sadistic people often hid behind the garb to just beat people.
The eyos would gather at their individual ‘agodos’ – hubs in the mornings for prayers, rituals and breakfast. This would have been before 5am as the festival started at 6am. Then from these individual agodos, they would go to the Eleko’s palace at Iga Idungaran to pay obeisance to the king. From there, they would go to TBS, in order, iga by iga. Iga means chieftaincy house, kind of like when countries walk pass during openings of the Olympics. When they get to TBS, they greet dignitaries waiting there and then when they come out, they would go to their personal homes to rest for an hour between noon and 1 pm. Around this time, there would be a lull and you could quickly go and visit whoever you wanted to see before they came out at 1pm to start the roaming all over the place. My aunties, Mama Ibeji, Mama K, Mama Ibadan, and my Uncles, Daddy Aunty Laperi, Daddy Uncle Kunle, Uncle Laotan, Uncle Akin. And my cousins who were Eyos and would come home with their fellow Eyos t eat before going out again. My favorite Eyo was Bro Ayo. He was so tall and with the hat, he ws a commanding eyo indeed. Then, Uncle Sola, Broda Folabi, Broda Laitan.
My Mother’s iga was Ashogbon and my father’s was Onisemo but my paternal cousins preferred Onikoyi because it was posher. Most of the Onikoyi eyos were abroadians who came home specifically for the eyo.
The Adinmu is the most senior eyo but there is rivalry between the Adinmu and the eyo Ikolaba with Ikolaba claiming parity with Adinmu. Adinmu is however the widely held most senior eyo. And because Ikolaba insisted on parity with Adinmu, there were usually clashes between the two eyos. Adinmu is strange in that the lead masquerade of Adinmu did not galivant around. If I remember correctly, the passing of Adinmu in the evening to the Eleko’s palace signalled the formal end of the festival. When the Adinmu passed, we were to ‘taka’ at it. I can’t translate what that means but it is a snapping of fingers in the direction of the Adinmu as it passed. It was believed that the Adinmu walked with curses so, you had to return to sender the curses as it is passing. And Oh! Yes. You also had to pinch your nostrils. When the Adinmu is passing, all eyos stand still and put the tip of their opam bata on the floor as a mark of respect to this senior eyo.
The eyo was not supposed to pass over water so, Carter bridge was a boundary. The other boundary was Sandgrouse/Igbosere area. Sandgrouse was a rough area and most of the eyos in that side would have had some intoxicant so, they were quite wild and prone to fighting. My gentle cousins and uncles avoided Sandgrouse like the plague.
My dad was a bit boujie. He never went with us, calling it idolatry but my mum loved it and so did we. And my dad was not of the school of ‘I AM THE HEAD OF THIS HOUSE SO, I MUST BE UNREASONABLE’. Nope. He would drop us off at his father’s before dawn and pick us up at night. My Dad’s sisters and brothers would all be gathered at my grandfather’s house even after the old man had died. Each Uncle and Aunty with their kids. Each aunty with so much food that we would all just eat not minding who brought up and it would be like a bazaar. Ah… Happy days. My grandfather’s house was at Enu Owa street and our family church was also at Obun Eko, infront of the igi oju olobun which was a shrine that some of the eyos had to stop by. So, we had vantage position in our church and in my grandfather’s house.
Mo yo fun e, Mo yo fun ra mi! Eesua!