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Agemo festival: A cohesive factor for socio- cultural development

By Toromade Tope Adekanye

Among the Yoruba ethnic groups, festivals are meant to showcase their cultural heritage properties. It unites people irrespective of gender, age and status. Agemo festival in Araromi Obu in Odigbo Local Government area of Ondo State plays a very significant role in uniting the sons and daughters of Araromi Obu either at home or in Diaspora for Socio-cultural purposes. This festival is celebrated with pomp and pageantry annually for 24 days within the month of March.

Araromi -Obu is a Yoruba Kingdom in Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State, Nigeria. It is situated midway between Ondo and Ogun States. Araromi Obu is located between latitudes 6’ 30’ North of the equator and between 4’ 25’ and 4’ 38’ East of Greenwich median. The kingdom covers an area of about 1,000 square kilometer with the population of about 72,935 (2006 census figure). It has boundary with the Ikale in the East and South, in the West with Ogun state and Ondo West Local Government in the North.

Araromi-Obu is endowed with fertile and good terrain of land in the tropical region of Nigeria receiving an abundant rainfall of over 1500mm annually, with rain season starting from February to November each year. This season provides varieties of food, vegetable and cash crops including luxuriant and dense vegetations like Araromi/ Ayesan oil palm Plc, Rubber Estate of Nigeria Limited and Ondo State Afforestration project. Dry season is short from November to February, sometimes stretching to early March. This climatic condition prone the community to be an agrarian economy producing Rubber, Cocoa, Kolanut, Palm produces, Coffee and so on.

Araromi-Obu stemmed itself from Ile-Ife, like other recognized Yoruba kingdoms. This great kingdom came into emergence around 1516 AD. This emergence revolved round the movement of dynamic personality, Agboligi Adetosoye, the Founder of the Kingdom known to history as Obu-Alakika. The staff (Akika working stick) given to him by Olofin Oduduwa due to his old age was monitored by an invocating statement that “wherever you stick the Akika walking stick and it sprout leaves the following day, there you should settle…” This statement brought to lime light Obu Alakika, with him when he was coming from Ile-Ife were people and cultural materials which are now part and parcel of Araromi-Obu culture. Agboligi is the son of Lugbaogi who was the 8th Child of Olofin Oduduwa

These materials served as factors for peace and social harmony, among which are Ada Orisa (scepter) Obalufon Bronze, Beaded Crown and Akika tree, including traditional festivals which till date are still being celebrated in Araromi Obu kingdom such as Agbadumu Abote, Agbadumu Enuowa, Agemo, Orisa Aakaaba, Egan and Ogun.

Agemo festival is unique and stand out among all the festivals due to its place in history and relation to the Asuba  shine which was the security gate way to Obu Alakika, the ancestral home of Obu people. The name Ashuba was coined from “a se uba” meaning “ we perform rites” Ashuba had offered security protection to the people of Ode-Obu from external attack during the era of inter-tribal wars. A powerful spirit called “Shigidi” resided inside Ashuba marble stones, which was given a he goat whenever the need arises.

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The shigidi crowed like cock or bleated like goat to alert the people of the looming danger of war and a he-goat would be offered to him. He warded of enemies or provided poisoned edible fruits on their path which they ate and died. Hence Ashuba shrine a sacred site.

A total number of 18 Ajobus including the present Ajobu, HRM Oba Aderemi Adelola (LLB, ACIS) Otikirimisi – Adedugba 1,  reigned in both Ode-Obu (13 Ajobus) and Araromi Obu (5 Ajobus). The existingtraditional festivals in Aroromi- Obu inter alia are:                                                                                                     Agbadumu Abote, Agbadumi Enuowa, Agemo Festival, Odun-Oba, New Yam Festival including Ogun and Epo.

 

AGEMO FESTIVAL IN ARAROMI-OBU

Araromi-Obu formally, Known as Obulakika had recorded over the years, the annual celebration of Agemo festival. Oba Ajobu Agboligi Adetosoye, the progenitor of Araromi -obu, left Ile-ife with many Idols of which Agemo is the prominent one. The celebration of Agemo in Araromi-Obu does not give room for drumming throughout the 24 days period in the town except Agemo special doctrinal drum called “AGBA” Agemo is the principal Orisa of the Ijebu people of southeastern Yoruba land. HRM Oba Ajobu Adelola Aderemi claimed that Agboligi brought Agemo from Ile-ife. Many other kingdoms in Ijebu Land also celebrate and appease Agemo yearly at Ijebu Isinwo, ijebu Ode, Ijebu ife and so on. Agemo’s regalia in Araromi Obu is “AGHA” Eni (Mat) while Agemo’s regalia in other Ijebu land is ‘aran’ (local fabric). Although the celebration is almost the same.  201 songs are rendered during Agemo festival in Araromi Obu – (each of) which depict 201 deities (irunmole) in Ile-ife. It is also worth knowing that Araromi obu is the only kingdom in Ondo State that celebrates Agemo festival. In Araromi obu, Agemo festival starts from the first Tuesday to the Last Wednesday of the month of March annually.

 CELEBRATION PROPER

On the first Tuesday, opening prayer at Enu Owa in the evening and later the procession will move to Ashuba shrine  (the gate way to Old Ode Obu) 14KM away from Araromi Obu for traditional rites and prayers. At Ashuba shrine, Chief priest Jiro and Ajobu will pray and offer sacrifice at the centre of the shrine beneath “Aro” tree where Shigidi (human figure) stands in the olden days. The sacrificial materials includes he-goat, 6 snails, 6 Alligator pepper, 6 kolanuts one bottle of seaman schnapps,

“Emu Uju” (palm wine tapped while palm tree has fallen), to appease the gods to ward off evil spirit in the town and for the peace, progress and prosperity to reign in the kingdom during and after the festival.

Thereafter, all the kolanut and Alligator pepper will be shared among the people at Ashuba to eat. The cutting of the six snails from the bottom will be done by Chief Priest Jiro and the water shall be used to touch and pray for kabiyesi Ajobu High Chiefs and interested individuals at the shrine. Emu Uju and seaman schnapps are poured for libation and drank at the shrine. The he-goat will be slaughtered, roasted and eaten including the six snails by the people at the shrine. The skull of the he-goat and snail shells are returned to the shrine (the foot of the “Aro” tree) . Merriment, singing and dancing become the order of the day, after this every individual vacates the shrines at once to Ajobu’s palace where full flesh entertainment is taken place. Gifts of different kinds are presented to the king.

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The following Thursday and Saturday, Agbadumu Abote and Agbadumu Enuowa are celebrated respectively.

On the following Monday, Agemo masquerade (Ebora Obu) dances with Agba and other drums at Enu-Owa with pump and pageantry three times for the king and the people of Araromi Obu.

Early in the morning on the 9th day, Ajobu visits some sports, junctions and shrines within the town for traditional homages and later waits for Ebora Obu at Enuowa quarters. Ebora Obu while coming from Agemo groove (Igbo Agemo) will also visits those sports, junctions and shrines earlier visited by Ajobu.  These are Alagbede shrine, Orisha Akaaba Shrine and Ufara shrine. And later dance to meet Ajobu on his seat. As tradition demands Ajobu will present Agemo with a gift of he-goat which shall be taken to Igbo Agemo for further sacrifice. On the Agemo and procession way back to his groove, any untied  and unkept he-goat on their way will be caught and taken along to the groove.

According to the tradition, Ajobu and his Chiefs shall visit Agemo groove to pay homage and other traditional rites. Sacrificial materials include; kolanut, emu oju, seaman schnapps, Alligator pepper and he-goats. After the rites, Alaworo will share the kolanuts among themselves and slaughter, roast and eat the he-goats.

 

On the last Wednesday around 5.00pm, Ajobu and his chiefs including the entire Araromi obu indigenes, home and abroad present for Agemo festival, gather at the Enuowa square. At Enuowa, Ebora Obu dances for the people in different styles till around 9.00pm before returning to his groove finally for the year. On this last day, edible things like salt, boiled corn, Plantain, banana, oranges etc are presented to Ufara shrine with prayers for peace, progress and development of the town. During the celebrations, fighting and arguments are strictly for forbidded. Defaulters have to pay fines of various forms- dogs, he-goat and cash.

 

SOCIO – CULTURAL SIGINIFICANCE

Like other existing festivals in Araromi Obu, Agemo festival has a significant impact on the socio-cultural development of the town. The festival serves as a vehicle for showcasing peoples’ cultural and economic improvement. The sons and daughters of Araromi-Obu that have been away for the whole of a year do come home to rejoice with their people.  It is a crowd puller and a rally point through which the indigenes of Araromi-Obu are actively mobilized materially, mentally and financially for the development of their town. It also brings people together as a unifying factory to execute projects like construction and maintenance of road  and drainage, rehabilitation and construction of markets, construction and renovation of palace, sinking of boreholes and surface well  and many others.

In addition, it is a means of settling dispute among the people. Long standing rifts within and among families are settled. A lot of interactions, union and re-union occur during the periods of Agemo festival. People are also brought together for the common political cum socio-cultural problems to be permanently solved, and people’s lots are improved and they co-exist peacefully. On many occasion, Agemo festival is an avenue where people of marriageable age choose their suitors.

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Agemo festival promotes religions and cultural unity among the youths and serves as a means of education, initiation and indoctrination of the young ones into the traditions, customs, taboos and belief system of the people, which geared towards cultural continuity in the community.

Agemo celebration ensures bumper harvest during the planting season and more so, sacrifices used to be offered to gods of the land so as to ward-off evil spirits and calamities.

Moreover, all spheres of the economic, in the kingdom are richly benefited. People and tourist troop in to grace the occasion of Agemo festival. During the festive period, Market women, hotels, restaurants, transportation businesses including those that sell valuable cultural beads, Aso Oke, Adire, Kampala, and even batik record huge profit during the celebration.

In actual fact Agemo festival in Araromi-obu is indeed a means through which human, political, social and cultural needs of peoples are elaborately tackled.

A Yoruba either mighty or low is deeply involved in a religious experience. This religion is caught up in a world of revolution. As a result of this, festivals and practices have been influenced to a certain degree by outside forces. Agemo festival in Araromi obu has experienced changes and modification in its tenets and mode of celebration. Many factors are responsible for this, which include:

Christianity and Islam religion, urbanization, industrialization including Modernization and democratization.

Despite these changes and challenges in the celebration of Agemo festival in Araromi obu, there is still some degree of certainty that Agemo festival retains its cultural and aesthetic values. For the fact that it expresses some significant socio-cultural practices and acceptance of the people towards their cultural belief and values, For instance, good numbers of Araromi obu descendants at home and in disposals do visit and embrace Agemo festival during the celebration. Its prospect is very bright and even assists in promoting national unity, encourages tourism and investment, which in turn shall enhance job opportunity and Youth empowerment.

Cultural festivals have gone a long way in the actualization of socio-cultural development of many communities. The zeal and enthusiasm embedded in the mind of all the indigenes both at home and abroad to partake has made it possible for Agemo festival to be a cohesive factor for the socio-cultural and even political development of Araromi obu kingdom.

The recent innovation and cultural policy, planning by the federal and state government including efforts of international bodies like UNESCO (United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization), to promote cultural festival the prospects of cultural festivals indeed is very bright, more also NCMM has rekindled her deepest interest in this aspect of culture and advices government and agencies on value of cultural festivals.

       TOROMADE TOPE ADEKANYE is the ASSISTANT CHIEF ETHNOGRAPHER         NATIONAL MUSEUM AKURE

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