This evening, the legendary Olukotun masquerade blazed the trail for the commencement of Egungun festival in Ogbomoso.
Without the scintillating performance by Olukotun, always witnessed by a large crowd of Egungun enthusiasts, the 12-day long annual festival cannot begin in the ancient city.
This is rooted in tradition and culture but why this is so is not known.
Pa Taofeeq Akangbe, an elder in the Olukotun compound in Taraa, where the Egungun is domiciled, surprisingly also does not know, this he admits during a chat with ogbomosoinsightonline.com, this evening.
Pa Akangbe simply says, “I do not know why the tradition mandates Olukotun to be the trail blazer. We grew into it, it was like that from the time of our forefathers.
“That is how it has played out from time immemorial. I cannot fathom why it’s like that.”
Nevertheless, Pa Akangbe evinces pride that his family Egungun is vested with that significant role.
He asserts, “Unless Olukotun displays, Egungun festival cannot begin in Ogbomoso. That is the history.”
He affirms that the main performance by Olukotun masquerade revolves round offering prayers for the community, for the Oba, for family members and for whoever cares to come before it.
“Also, some Egunguns do come to celebrate with us by way of artistic displays and dancing, some Orebes came in the morning.
“It is in the evening at about 5pm that Olukotun masquerade will finally venture out, after it had used all morning and afternoon to offer prayers and invoke blessings. It dances in front of our family compound, then down and up the street, it covers the neighbourhood.”
Its performance today’s evening was beheld by a tumultuous crowd, which savoured its dexterous dance movements. “It’s mesmerizing,” a man among the spectators stated.
Pa Akangbe further discloses, “Barren women do come for prayers of breakthroughs to have their own children and they are never disappointed, those seeking to improve their financial fortune do come too.
“I must add that from outside Ogbomoso people do throng the Egungun to seek solutions to their life troubles. From Kwara, from the far north, many of them are in the midst of the crowd.”
He however notes that the preparation for Olukotun’s outing doesn’t entail an elaborate ceremony, “No, it is not preceeded by offering of sacrifices or any rituals, we only buy food items and drinks with which to entertain our guests.”
Asked to mention the types of drums Olukotun masquerade dances to, Pa Akangbe lists Ado, Dundun and Iya Ilu.”
Part of its oriki (cognomen) is “Marin mayan, baba re l’onile” (you can walk majestically, the land belongs to your father), he informs when inquired.
Akangbe, who describes himself as a devoted Muslim, an alfa for that matter, posits that Egungun is part of Yoruba culture,. insisting it doesn’t interfere with religion.
He submits it will be difficult for Olukotun masquerade to go the way of some Egunguns in Ogbomoso, which have been rested because the former masqueraders are either dead and no younger person is willing to assume the enormous task or the masquerader jettisoneed the practice on account of renewed adherence to the Christian or Islamic faith.
“That will be difficult for us because of the significant role we play in the annual Egungun festival, in fact, if we try it, the olojes (Egungun cult priests) won’t leave us alone, because without the trail blazing performance by Olukotun, Egungun festival cannot take off in Ogbomoso,” he avers.
The Olukotun masquerade’s apparel is glitzy, sparkling neat, an amazing spectacle, but reacting, Akangbe says, “It’s always like that, its costume is always neat, and it is not that we do change it, it’s always clean.”
Yes, Olukotun has had its day, it is a special day, which it doesn’t share with any other Egungun, and now it has retreated into the pavilion of the ancestors till next year again but the beat goes on even as the next 11 days will witness the resurgence of dreaded Egunguns, in veneration of the dead ancestors.