On Thursday, the Oro festival, a traditional Yoruba rite usually performed to cleanse a community, kicked off in the Akesan area of Lagos State, disrupting the activities of residents.
Nojeemdeen Abidemi Aberejo, the Oba of Akesan, had told Premium Times that the rumour that the rite would be held in the election week was baseless.
“It is absolutely untrue; there is nothing like that. I will not be a part of illegality,” the king was quoted to have said on Monday.
However, at about past 11 am on Thursday, residents started raising the alarm about the conduct of the ceremony and how it left them stuck in their locations.
“Oro is taking place now at Akesan, Igando. We’ve been forced to lock up, children still in school. @jidesanwoolu, help us,” Sonia Isioma, a tweep, tweeted at 11:17 am on Thursday.
At 11:26 am, Abdullah, another Twitter user, confirmed Sonia’s report. He tweeted, “I live in Akesan, Oro is going on right now.”
Patriarchal in nature, the festival forbids women and non-indigenes’ participation in it.
READ ALSO: Open Letter to the Governor of Lagos State
News of traditional rulers in Lagos State planning to initiate the Oro festival on Saturday, March 18, started circulating almost one week prior.
But there was still uncertainty about its validity.
Abdul Mahmud, a senior lawyer, wrote on Twitter that a friend of his who resided in Akesan was disturbed by the oba’s decision to hold the Oro festival on the same Saturday governorship and house of assembly elections are to be held in the state.
According to residents, the ceremony was scheduled for Thursday, March 9, to Saturday, March 11.
Several of them confirmed to FIJ that the ceremony did commence on Thursday, but a few others shared a slightly different sequence of events.
READ ALSO: Lukman Gbadegesin Is One of the Favourites To Become Alaafin of Oyo. But He Has a Multimillion Naira ‘Fraud’ Stain
Mark (not real name), a trader I met in Akesan, said that the festival did commence on Thursday, and that they were made to lock up their shops. He also said that the rite was abruptly cancelled and postponed until Saturday, March 18.
Ada (not real name), a lady I met at Mark’s shop, also said the rite kicked off on Thursday.
On Monday, there was yet no official announcement, only rumours that the ceremony had been moved to the election day.
A worker at the king’s palace confirmed to FIJ that the ceremony had been held off in the meantime, and that people could go about their normal activities. There was no information on the rescheduled date.
By Wednesday however, more residents had begun to testify that the festival had indeed been scheduled for the election week, and that it wouldn’t end before Saturday morning.
“They have marked Saturday as the last day of the Oro. Time, 12 – 3pm as rightly informed,” David told FIJ.
READ ALSO: Lagos NURTW ‘Asks Members to Submit PVCs’ Ahead of Governorship Election
Customarily, the Oro festival is held in the wee hours to avoid disrupting people’s daily activities.
On Thursday however, reports that the festival had commenced, leaving people stuck in their respective locations, began to pour in.
“Right now, everywhere in Akesan is under lockdown because of the Oro,” Odinaka reported on Twitter at 2:50 pm.
By past 3 pm, unsuspecting Folabi, a resident of Akesan, who was on his way home, met an empty street. Having been away for a while, he was unaware of the festival.
“I saw a group of young men from afar. All the streets were empty, so I was wondering what could be happening. Even my street gate was locked, but a man who knows me helped me open it so I could run home.”
At 4:35 pm, Folabi confirmed to FIJ that the area had become calm and that businesses had reopened. He said news going round was that the festival would continue at 10 pm.
Many think the timing of the festival gives it out as a political stunt aimed at disenfranchising citizens in the forthcoming governorship and state assembly elections.
The festival, according, to several Akesan residents, was first slated for March 11, the same date the election was to be held. After the postponement of the election until March 18, the people said their king postponed the festival.
Many of them do not think it to be a mere coincidence, and the impromptu commencement of the festival during the day further deepens their suspicion.
Curiously, the same pattern was recorded in the Eti Osa and Ojo areas of Lagos State.
The Elegushi (traditional ruler) announced that the Oro festival would be done for three days, starting on Wednesday and ending on Saturday. He announced the time for the activities to be between 12 am and 5:30 am. Residents were instructed to stay indoors.
Although the Elegushi, on Wednesday, said that the rite would end by 5:30 am on Saturday and would not interfere with the elections, the people have little faith in his assurances, more so after the shutdown of activities over the unexpected performance of the ceremony in parts of Eti Osa in the morning hours of Thursday.
Be the first to receive special investigative reports and features in your inbox.