Nigerians from all walks of life in their thousands defied the early morning downpour to converge at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos, to celebrate the state’s cultural heritage and welcome the ‘Adamu Orisa’, popularly called Eyo festival on Saturday.
It was a huge spectacle of colours, cultural parade, folklores, traditional songs and the endless chant of festival’s standard greetings, ‘Mo yo fun e, mo yo fun ra mi’, meaning ‘I rejoice for you, I rejoice for myself.’
The festival is part of the activities to celebrate Lagos @50 marking 50 years after the state was created from the old Western Region on May 27, 1967 by the then military head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon. He appointed Brig.-Gen. Mobolaji Johnson as the first military governor of Lagos.
According to age-long legend, the Eyo is used in celebrating the demise of a traditional ruler in the state. This time, the celebration is dedicated to the late Oba Yekini Adeniyi Elegushi Kusenla II (1940-2009).
The celebration was preceded by the visit of Aro Meta (Three White Cap Chiefs of Lagos) to town distributing gifts to Lagosians to mark the 50 years anniversary. Visitors to the state would remember the explicit monument welcoming them at Ojota with clenched fists.
The Aro Meta popularly called the “three wise men” is a white granite sculpture of three Lagos whitecap chiefs. They depict the three kinds of traditional greetings common among Eko chiefs in Lagos Island. Their clenched right fists symbolize a strong belief in the supremacy of the right over the left.
On Saturday, residents and traders at Isale Eko, the heart of Lagos Island, closed shops in honour of the festival. They described the rainfall as a sign that the gods of the land were pleased with the celebrations and with the present administration of Lagos State, led by Governor Akinwumi Ambode.
The colours of the Eyo that dazzled spectators at the TBS include Eyo Oniko, Eyo Ologede, Eyo Laba-Ekun, Eyo Agere, Eyo Elegushi, Eyo Bajulaiye, Eyo Onikoyi, and Eyo Oniru among others.
The celebration, however, was not without its glitches as the festival ended with a serious fight between the Eyo masquerades.
This came despite the stern warning by the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, and the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, to the island residents and masquerades against violence.
Two persons were feared dead and several others injured in the fracas that ensued at the ceremony. The festival had initially battled with the torrential rainfall but as the event drew to a close, violence erupted at the otherwise glamorous event.
Brandishing all sorts of dangerous weapons, the two opposing factions of the Eyo masquerade went berserk and unleashed mayhem at Oke-popo area of Lagos Island.
When peace was finally restored, two persons were feared dead and several others sustained various degrees of injuries.
According to eyewitnesses, the Iga-Etti Eyo camp had clashed with the Eyo Laba camp over some minor arguments.
The Iga-Etti camp had earlier gone to pay homage to the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu 1, when they were humiliated at Isale-Eko area by a member of the Laba masquerade camp.
The infuriated Etti masquerade members were said to have retired back to their area at Okepopo street and laid ambush for Laba masquerades, who must pass through the area on their way.
When the group of Laba masquerades got to Okepopo area, all Etti masquerades and some youths in the area attacked them, which made Laba and Ologede masquerades, another faction, regroup and launch a reprisal attack on Etti masquerades and other residents in the area.
Armed with dangerous weapons, it turned to a bloody clash, which resulted in the alleged death of two members of Etti group and the injury of several others.
The clash would have escalated but for the intervention of operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) and other security operatives that were drafted to the area.
When contacted, the Commander, RRS of the Lagos State Police Command, ACP Olatunji Disu, could not confirm any casualty, but admitted that there were clashes.
He said: “We had about three minor clashes settled by our response team and presence. But my men never reported any death. You should ask the Area Commander.”
When newsmen also contacted the acting police spokesperson, ASP Ifeanyi Iheanacho, he said, “I heard it and I am trying to confirm from the divisions that cover the areas the festival/procession passed through.”