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Origins of Eyo

Adamu Orisa, the man that started Eyo festival

Eyo OlokunAdamu Orisa was introduced to Lagos by Ejilu and Malaki brothers to Olugbani, the Olori to Oba Ado. Oba Ado was the first ruler of Lagos to have his seat of government at Iga Iduganran.

One source stated that Ejilu and Malaki first visited Lagos during the funeral of Oba Ado and as their contribution to the funeral, they brought their set of Adamu Orisas (that is, Adamu, Oniko and Ologeda) to take part in the funeral rites.

History had it that Oniko was first brought to Lagos, because it was reputed to have spiritual powers like, the Elegbara of Esu, as well as those of Ogun (God of Iron) and, therefore, capable of driving away all evil spirits and forces on their routes.

Ologede came next because it is also a representative of Elegbara, sharing powers as stated above with Oniko. However, in the hierarchy of Adamu Orisa cult, the Oniko takes precedence.

Adimu Orisa or Adamu Orisa, Orisa for short was the last to be brought to Lagos, but, however, was regarded as being more sacred than the other two and the eldest.

In the early days, the Adimu was usually kept in a boat on the Lagoon to parade the fore-shore for people to view and pay homage. It was at this stage of its history that it acquired the appellation of Orisa Oko.

The order upon which three Orisas were brought to Lagos has since been the order of their outing on each, Adamu Orisa play day. It is a taboo for Adimu to come out without due notification that Oniko and Ologede have paraded the streets, and visiting the various shrines in the early hours of an Adamu Orisa Day.

In fact, it has become a practice for the Oniko and Ologedo to call at the conclave of Adimu which today is at Ita-Ado on their return or homeward journey which usually is around 5.00 or 5.30 in the morning. At the conclave, the Orisas would be received by the elders of the Adimu Cult where prayers and necessary rituals would be exchanged.

It is necessary to state, for the avoidance of doubt, that what Ejilu and Malaki introduced or brought to Lagos were the three Orisas (that is, Adimu, Oniko and Ologede) excluding the Eyo, the masquerade, that wears the flowing gown (Agbada) with an over flowing cloth, carrying the Opambata stick.

The name Adimu Orisa or Adamu Orisa

The name Adimu simply means one with blocked nasal passage (with blocked nose) while Adamu suggests obstructed nose. But the names are applied to suit each occasion, if you have an Adimu, then you can pick the voice when it speaks. But if you have the Adamu, then it does not speak of himself but by demonstration or through the aide de-camp, is the Laba (bag of mystical powers) bearer.

The other Orisas while retaining their district name and characteristics became identified with the name Adamu Orisa.

Awo-Opa

It is also an historical fact that Ejilu and Malaki established an "Irele," conclave of Awo Opa cult at Idunmagbo which is known as Irele Oke Ipa or Irele Ita Ado.

It is interesting to note that the story of Awo Opa and its brother Egungun stated in Ife in the Odu Okanran-Ogunda and its origin is tied to the early Oyo settlement. Evidence of contact with Oyo by Ejilu and Malaki would be seen when we examine the Igbo songs for the Orisas.

It is not certain if they were the first set of people to introduce Awo-Opa to Lagos. The Onikoyi Chieftaincy Family claimed that their ancestor, one Adeyemi, a former Onikoyi at Ikoyi Ile in old Oyo, who migrated to Lagos at the time of Olofin brought Awo-Opa to Lagos. However, it is to be noted that the Eletu Awo owned the Irele Ishagbe which is regarded as the headquarters of Awo-Opa in the whole of Lagos State.

Two other Lagos chiefs, the Modile and Onisemo, both Ogalado chiefs owned and maintained an Irele each. Namely, Irele Offin at Olowogbowo in Lagos and Irele Agege Omi at Pedro Village, Shomolu. It is to be observed that the Ijebus, particularly within the Lagoon area have adopted the Awo Opa and today it appears as if Awo-Opa originated from the Ijebus.

Camping the Orisas

It was the belief in the ancient time that the dress, the head carvings and all instruments for the staging of the Orisas should not be kept within dwelling houses or within urban communities.

Therefore, it was the practice to create camp for them in villages of scheduled places to protect their sacredness. History had it that the Orisas were kept at places like Ibefun, Oke Ipa and even near Iperu. It was, therefore, common in the past for people to say that Eyo was coming from Oke-Ipa or at the close of Eyo Day, people would say Eyo, was going to take a boat to Iperu.

Oke-Ipa is a village across the Lagoon beyond Ikoyi. It was as a result of lodging the Adimu in various places for safe keeping that you have it today at Ita Ado, though it is stated that there is a blood relationship through marriage with the Abegede group.

In fact, the Adimu was once kept with a Chief Olumegbon. The fact, therefore, remains that keeping the Orisas in any particular place does not change its ownership or origin.

The origin and family of Ejilu and Malaki and the Orisas Ejilu Malaki and Olugbani their sister were said to have come to Lagos from Benin at the time of Oba Ado.

The descendants of Ejilu and Malaki subscribed to the above history as a result of their testimony at the inquiry into the Onilogbale Chieftaincy. The second opinion as advocated by the late Chief Aminu Kosoko is that they (that is, Ejilu and Malaki) came from Ibefun to Lagos to ask for their sister Olugbani. It is, however, to be noted that Benin Influence covered a larger area of the Water side, the Lagoon Area of Lagos State.

Benin influence has been noted in Ikorodu, Baiyeku, Ibefun and a host of towns and villages within Lagos State.

Today, the various Orisas are kept by descendants or relations of Ejilu, Malaki and Olugbani. Oniko is kept by the Onigemo family who are descendants of Adamu or Sogbo. The Ologede is maintained by the people of Erelu Olugbani (Olori to Oba Ado) at Idunmagbo.

The Adimu is maintained by the Abegede group of the Olorogun Igbesodi or Olorogun-Ntebo and the Ita Ado Group who are also descendants of an Akarigbara Chieftaincy. It is claimed that Chief Kebo or Olorogun-Atebo, brought Adimu and Esu from Benin to Lagos. The Akinshiku, the titular hard of the Adimu Cult is usually appointed from the Abegede Group. The Adimu is called, Mole Ejilu, Mole Malaki. The Oniko is called Mole Ejilu, Mole Malaki, Egungun Onigemo. The Ologede is called Mole Ejilu, Mole Malaki Egungun Olugbani.

Agere as an Orisa

Agere was created an Orisa in the present century. It ranks last on the list of Orisas. It is, indeed, a modern edition to the play. One Bante Seda is said to be the first Agere.

Inclusion of Eyo

adamu orisha 1912The Adamu Orisa play continued in Lagos after its establishment with the three Orisas as the only set of masquerades.

In order to protect the Orisas and control the surging crowd the idea of the Eyo in white flowing robes (Agbada) was conceived.

With the approval of the Oba, the idea was implemented and a number of Eyos in white Agbadas came out on the Adamu Orisa Day at the Oba's Palace and six each were allocated to each Orisa for its security. The Eyo Group became known in later years as Eyo Oba, Eyo Oniloba or Eyo Alakoto Pupa.

The Eyo group thus became the fore-runner of all Eyos and was made the leader and Police with a carrier of "Loba", a bag containing mystical powers of juju to enable the group punish both Eyos and individuals who might break the rules and regulations governing the Adamu Orisa Cult and play.

After sometime, the Orisas and later the chiefs were granted permission to constitute a group of Eyos in their conclave of palaces.

Thus, you have Eyo Adimu, Eyo Oniko, Eyo Ologede and for the chiefs you have Eyo Eletu-Odibo. Eyo Ojore, and Eyo Egbe etc.

From the above, it clear that Eyo Laba is the fore-runner of all Eyo groups and hence it is right to call the group the "Olori Eyo." It has to be stated that the Eyo Laba Group is attached to the Akala Cult and most of the leaders of the group in the past belonged to the cult.

The Adimu Cult has some interaction with the Osugbo Cult due to the involvement of late Apena Ajasa, who held the offices of Akinshiku, the Apena of the Osugbo Cult and that of Olorogun-Atabo, all at the same time.

The origin of Eyo

To which tribe or ethnic group does Eyo or Adamu Orisa play belong?

In answering the above question, one has to examine the history of Ejilu and Malaki and other related matters in order to come to a fair conclusion.

The origin of Malaki and Ejilu is a bit confused, some said Benin, some said Ibefun. Previous writers have advanced different origins to it. Talbars in his book The People of Southern Nigeria described "Eyo as Ijebu Juju." But Rev. J. Olumide Lucas in his book The Religion of The Yorubas stated that the cult of Adamu Orisa is peculiar to the Aworis. Another author Rev. Johnson in his book The History of the Yorubas disposed that Eyo was an initiation of Egungun seen at Oyo.

From a document collected from the National Archives titled Report from Yesufu Agoro, The Head of the Family of Agoro Ogebi Eletu-Iwasha descendent dated November 3, 1937, at page three of the document the following were recorded as Item 10: "Abudu Karimu Docemo and Bakare Jose went to Oba Falolu at Iga-Idunganran to request for their grand-mother father's masquerade, Adimu, from Apena's people to return it to them. Adimu and Esu are brought by Chief Kebo from Benin to Lagos."

Abudu Karimu Docemo mentioned above is likely to be a member of the Dosunmu Family at Abegede while Bakare Jose was a former Chief Eletu-Iwase of Lagos. In considering the subject matter, it is essential to consider, the principal actors or participants of the Adamu Orisa Play and their origin. The Abegede and Ita Ado group belonged to the Benin class of chieftaincy, the Akarigberes. They belonged to the following: Olorogun Igbeaodi, Olorogun Atebo, Olorun Agan.

However, it is necessary to consider the contents of the "Igbe" songs that are used in glorifying the Orisas and Ejilu and Malaki over the years on each Adamu Orisa Day.

The Igbe runs thus: Imalaki won ki saiye Ijaiye ejilu sa yato Eyin gbo o , 2ce Iyee, o moo lo si oyo Ajaka Oyo Ajako o, On rohun mu bo si irele O fi akala mawo mesi ikole On lo nse oniko, eleyo Eyin iba gbajo kato, ti ito a ho, E do ri iwo kodo si irele Omo wewe abese lo ma leko A i kowo lo si oja lara agba

In the the Igbe song quoted above, the story is related of how, Malaki and Ejilu, were performing wonders and how one of their stock visited Oyo Ajaka (that is, the ancient Oyo where Sango reigned as king) and he brought something back to the 'Irele,' the conclave of Awo-Opa Cult.

He thereafter initiated the Akala Court into the secrecy of the new thing brought from Oyo. He was the link or delegate that brought Eyo. Finally, the song says, let all co-operate for the success and all initiates should gather at the Irele conclave of Awo-Opa.

From the above, one can see some basis for Rev. Johnson's assertion that Eyo was an imitation of the Egungun made at Oyo. The sticking similarity between the Egungun Baba-lago, and Eyo cannot be over looked. It is pertinent to refer to the history of Elegba at Iddo on the Lagos Mainland as typical example. History has it that Opeoluwa, An Ogalade chief consulted Ifa and suggest to Olofin to worship Elegbara.

There is a popular Elegbara shrine at Iworo in Awori area and the Iworo people were contacted and Opeoluwa and Olofina people were initiated into the cult and granted permission to establish an Elegbara shrine and grove at Iddo. As a result of this history, it has become a custom to sing the following Elegba song for the first Elegbara masquerade that would appear at the grove to dance.

"Eku lo koko njade (2ce) Alara Omo won ni Iworo Eku lo koko njade."

Meaning: Rat is usually the first to come out

The wonder-one, child of Iworo. The song is, therefore, a testimony to the history of Elegba as stated above. In answering the question which I posed, my answer is that Eyo and Adamu Orisa play belonged to the Ekos. Although it may be a mixture of the Esu from Benin, the Awo-Opa, the Akala.

It is Eko's creation, it has no parallel, anywhere in Yoruba land. There is no trace of Eyo in Ijebuland, not even Ibefun. The Ijebus are noted for Agemo, Oro and Eluku. The main purpose of this writing is to remove the impression created in the mind of many people by past writers and commentators on the subject ascribing the foundation of Eyo to the Ijebus. The Lagos Island Council should resuscitate its special committee on the history of Lagos to examine the aspect relating to Eyo.

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