Though, not a native of Emure-Ekiti, Ekiti State, this partially crippled Igbirra man’s dexterity in dancing, and grasp of the native songs he sang along with native Emure women, showed that he has lived almost all his over 50 years life in the community.
The Igbira man effortlessly maneuvers his “crooked” legs in tandem with the rhythm produced from Ilu-nla, giant, ancient drums beaten with aesthetic ease by aged women of the Elemure (Oba) palace who are christened “Olori lafin” (Queens).
The Olori-lafin are aged and young, beautiful women, who are wives of the traditional rulers, present and past, residing in the palace. Their rare talents and skills for singing and drumming, naturally bestowed the honour of entertaining the Oba on festive days such as the Ijesu festival recently celebrated in Emure-Ekiti and witnessed by Daily Sun.
In Emure-Ekiti, in Emure Local Government Area, it is abominable to indulge in social vices. This is so because you have to swear to an oath that forbids you from perpetrating any vice before you could be fully integrated into the town. In the same manner, if there is a puzzle regarding the commission of a certain evil resulting into a rancour in a group, family or team, which calls for a need to find out the culprit(s) behind it, oath-taking in the palace of the traditional ruler, Oba Emmanuel Adebowale Adebayo, a former Commissioner of Police (CP) and now first-class chief, is the last resort. The Emure Chiefs-in-Council conducts the oath-taking.
Oath-taking, according to Oba Adebayo, as a traditional practice, has ridden the community of many nefarious acts rampant in other areas. He added that oath-taking isn’t meant for witch-hunt of, or oppressing anyone as some detractors had criticized: “The oath-taking tradition, where everyone takes oath to pledge his readiness to obey the rules and regulations of the town is not a new thing. In churches, government, mosques and companies, people take oath to be law abiding and pledge their allegiance. Even the president of a country would take an oath before assuming duty. It is only a way by which he assures the people that he would live and rule by the constitution of the land.”
There are other traditional practices observed by the Emure people to encourage good behaviour and discourage bad attitude, they include celebration of cultural festivals, adherence to taboos and others. Among these are; Egungun (masquerades) festival by which the evil in the land is cleansed by the visitation of the ancestors as represented by the masquerades; Aregbe festival, where maidens of the community proudly entertain the Oba in a show that displays their chastity, thereby encouraging other young, unmarried ladies to protect their chastity before marriage and the Ogun (god of iron) festival by which discipline against social vices is celebrated, among others.
Of the taboos being observed in Emure land to further ensure obedience to rules of proper and peaceful living, Oba Adebowale said: “Our tradition in Emure is a reflection of all the traditions being observed in all Yoruba land across the world. This is because we are, by history, from Ile-Ife since the year 1238. So, we have been here for long and we have similar customs on marbecause we are, by history, from Ile-Ife since riages, burial, baby christening and others.
“The taboos in the land are also the same general taboos in all Yoruba land. Some of the peculiar ones are, we don’t carry a harvested plantain from the farm, with its stem to the town in this land. Our belief is that if that is done, there would be problem of delivery with our pregnant women. Also, the palm kernel cannot be brought home from the farm whole; it must be separated from its shell. But some of these taboos are gradually being eroded; an example is the one that prevents women from exposing their hair when coming to the palace.”
A prominent festival being celebrated with pomp in Emure land is the Ijesu (New Yam) festival. This is a ceremony that fulfills two major purposes in the land; that of thanking the gods for blessing the people with another bounteous harvest of a new year, and second, of celebrating a new year, heralded by bumper harvests and all other fortunes, by all the traditional ruler, chiefs in council, all artisans’ groups as well as all indigenes. The festival is celebrated in every September. Daily Sun witnessed this year’s edition.
The Igbira man’s joy and dexterity in merry-making during the festival, is representative of the general attitude of the people of Emure towards the Ijesu festival and other festivals. “The Ijesu festival is all about the celebration of the eating of the new yam by the Oba on the first day. He does this on behalf of all the people of Emure. The next and final day, all the indigenes come together to pray for greater fortunes in the new year. We are today gathering together in Emure to pray for the new year, “ Oba Adebayo said.
He added: “The chiefs would dance from their houses to greet the Owa (Oba). Once the chiefs have danced to greet the Oba, others would follow, the women, wives in the palace, wives of the chiefs, market women, hunters, youths, maidens, and children among others would dance and pay homage to the Oba. Then, the Oba too, will dance and pray for the land.
“The significance of the yam being eaten by the Oba is that the Oba eats the yam only when it has ripened. The Oba eats the new, well matured yam. I enjoin all indigenes of Emure to come home whenever we are doing this festival so that we would be able to rob minds together on ways to bring further development to our land. It is a time we also gather to pray for one another. The Oba prays for the people and the people pray for the Oba.”
The Aremo of Emure, Chief Clement Osinyemi Akinola, described the Ijesu festival as a fortune-bringing one, saying: “The ijesu festival is a special festival that our ancestors brought from Ile-Ife. We descended from Iremo in Ile-Ife, Osun State.
“Just as when the Ooni of Ife celebrates the Olojo (Ogun) festival, he then eats the new yam. The same way, we first celebrate the Ogun festival (although we don’t name it Olojo festival) before we celebrate eating the new yam. The significance of the festival is that as the Christians celebrate December 31st every year as the eve of the new year, the same way the eve of this festival, which is this year’s September 9, is the eve of our new year. So, today, September 10 is the beginning of a new year in Emure town. And we celebrate this new year’s beginning with new yams.
“The Kabiyesi, while dancing prays towards the four corners of the earth. That prayer is very important for us in the town. And there is no year that we celebrate the Ijesu festival that we don’t record new success. Since the new Oba has been enthroned, we have been experiencing, progress, peace and stability.
“My advice for our people across the world is that you can’t stay far away and know the sweetness in a soup. A lot of our people don’t bring their children home. But when they are to do an academic project, they usually need to use our festivals as case studies. Then, they come begging for just the pictures of the festivals. If their parents have been bringing them, they would have understood this and even their friends who come with them would also understand it. That way they could bring development to the town. This is a festival in which everyone participates.”
Priestess of Emure land, pretty Mrs. Oni Olotu, who is also the Iya Osa Emure (representative of the gods), spoke of her role in Ijesu festival: “As the priestess or Iya Osa and Iya Osun of the community, my role during this kind of festival is to assemble all my women who are Osun devotees. We fetch water of life from our river, bless the water so it could be of use for any ailments in the land.
“The place we fetch the water is called Aremo River or Omi Aremo or Omi Osa (gods’ water) in Emure. The water could be used to solve several human problems if the user has faith in it. It could make the barren productive, heal the sick, open ways for the poor and do other miracles for the faithful user. When there isn’t rain, we use the water to bring heavy downpour.”
Mrs. Kikelomo Iyalofin of Emure, testified: “I am always excited whenever we are celebrating this festival because it is the time fortunes embrace me in a million ways. Last year, I completed my house, during this year’s celebration, I have bought a car, so it is a fortune-bringing festival and I enjoin our indigenes across the world not to miss next year’s edition.”
Chief Kayode Odunayo, Elegiri of Emure, who is the head of the masquerades’ council in Emure said: “The Ijesu festival guarantees peace, progress and unity for the Emure kingdom. Our role as masquerades is to represent the ancestors of the town and we dance and do merry-making with the king and other entire indigenes on this day.”