Ijeja, an Egba Community in Abeokuta South Local Government Area of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital has celebrated its annual Engungun Festival amid a rancour-free environment.
The Atokun–Oje of the community, Chief Ayinde Olaewe, in an interview expressed delight at the attitudes of masqueraders and followers and thanked them for a peaceful conduct.
Prominent among the ‘’Egungun’’ that celebrated this year was ‘’Iyo’’, a masquerader that Chief Olaewe said had been gracing the annual festival since the past two decades.
Other masqueraders, which the traditionalist described as ancient in Ijeja are ‘’Pajepo’’, ‘’Obemoliku’’, ‘’Awoso’’ and ’’Ajowo’’.
His words: ‘’With those ‘’Egungun’’ mentioned above, there can not be such a festival in Ijeja because they all have specific roles to play and particular day to come out during the festival.
‘’In Ijeja, Egungun Festival, which usually holds in March of every year holds for 17 days during which different masqueraders go round the community offering prayers and supplications.’’
While listing compounds that celebrate the annual festival within Ijeja to include Bajiki, Lukotun Asawo, Baala and several others, Olaewe added that there are different masqueraders that are supposed to come out on a particular day during the festival.
‘’One significant aspect of the festival is that on the last day of the annual celebration, no masquerader except Pajepo must come out’’
Asked why it is so, Chief Olaewe swiftly said:‘’It is beyond us. It is what we inherited from our forebears and so shall it be for every. It is ‘’Pajepo’’ that will announce the festival and it is the one that will also bear the end of the year rituals. No other masquerader in Ijeja can do this’’ he disclosed.
Speaking on efforts at checking hooliganism and thuggery during such festival, Olaewe said: ‘’for us in Ijeja security and safety is paramount to us during our annual festival. We abhor hooliganism and thuggery; hence we usually warn our masqueraders as well as followers to desist from anything that could breach law and order’’.
‘’We have discovered that those who foment troubles during such a festival are non ‘’Egungun’’ initiates. No one would invest heavily on a festival; including buying cows and other things during Egungun festival or any other and later cause crisis that will lead to arrest of either the masquerader or followers. I will address those causing troubles during Egungun festivals as bastards as we no longer celebrate the festival in poverty,but in affluence and in wealth.’
‘’We are peace lovers in Ijeja, hence we usually stress to our people to always give peace a chance, not only during the Egungun festival, but always. It is forbidden for anyone to cause mayhem during our festival and we always abide by this
On harmonious relations among religion sects in the community, Chief Olaewe said: ‘’Irrespective of ways of worship of different religions, we in Ijeja are one because we believe we serve the same God, but the mode of worships is the only thing that is different’’, he concluded.