The month of July in Ogbomoso has always been memorable for the celebration of the Egungun festival. Here, worshippers conduct the Egungun rites in accordance with the traditional practices. They pour libation, conduct Ifa divination, offer sacrifices, make extensive incantatory renditions, among others.
However, this year’s celebration of the festival coincided with the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, traditional rulers and other worshippers were allowed to pay homage to their deities, while also observing necessary precautionary protocols.
The chairman of Egungun Parapo Association in Ogbomoso, Chief Ifatona Akinyemi, told Nigerian Tribune that his members observed the rules given by the government of the state on the pandemic.
During the festival, the owners/families of the masquerades expressed confidence that with the supports of their deities who are believed to be intermediaries between them and the Supreme Being, the pandemic would soon be eradicated. The adherents offered special prayers in a bid to conquer the virus or, perhaps, have herbal solutions to it. For instance, at the different shrines of Omotuntun, Bojuri, Obadimeji, Ajomogbodo, Danafojura masquerades, to mention a few, prayers were offered to save the world from the virus.
A visit by the Nigerian Tribune to Roga Compound, Ogbomoso, at the shrine of the Egungun Obadimeji, worshipped and managed by Areo Seyi Akintola, a former president of the Federation of Ogbomoso Students’ Union (FOGSU), he hinted that “we believe in the efficacy of sacrifices and rituals in combating the dreaded disease.”
The owner of Bojuri, Mr Adetomiwa Adelowo-Oginni, expressed worry that African medicine has been underdeveloped, blaming it on negligence of governments at all levels.
Olayode Ojeyinka, another adherent, posited that the neglect of traditional religions might cause some incurable diseases in any community. He stressed that despite people’s deliberate abandonment of the deities, the gods still have a remedy for the virus.
“By the power of God who created the deities, I make bold to say that Egungun will always prosper its worshippers. Egungun is a form of ritual and sacrifice offered to God for appeasement. From time immemorial, our people worshipped the deity as a prevention of epidemics, calamities, deaths, wars and disasters. That is what it represents in Ogbomoso in particular,” he said.
Ojeyinka added that there is bound to be grave consequences in any community where people have abandoned culture and tradition. Like others, he, dwelling on the strength of African herbs, said “On coronavirus, we will not stop until we see its end. God has blessed us with herbs to take care of ourselves, but some people have lost interest in it, forgetting that the drugs we take are products of our herbs.”
He hinted that he had done what other worshippers did in offering prayers through the deities of Egungun, Ogun, among others, to appease God on COVID-19.
“Yesterday, when I was worshipping Ogun, I specifically offered prayers against COVID-19. This morning, during our worship of Egungun, we did likewise. My style during our festival is: on Friday, I conduct Ogun ritual, Saturday, I worship Egungun and entertain people and on Sunday, I exhibit the masquerade. Also, our father who is the Araba Awo of Ogbomoso (the chief priest of Ogbomoso), Chief Oladejo Akanni, has consulted Ifa, divination deity, and offered sacrifice to the gods. There is a shrine in Ogbomoso that is believed to protect the community from attack and epidemic from the past and it is located at Oja’Gbo, Ogbomoso and it is called Ogun O Ja’lu.”
Ojeyinka told Nigerian Tribune that the fight against the disease is a collective responsibility of the government and citizens, especially by obeying the measures of preventing the spread of the virus.
He stated, “My masquerade wears a face mask as I speak. The use of face mask by masquerades symbolises that everybody must obey the rules put up by the government to combat the spread of the virus in our communities. If my masquerade should use a face mask, why should we, as human beings, not wear a face mask? I use this to encourage people of Ogbomoso and its environs to always wear a face mask and obey all the preventive measures devised by government.”
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