Sunday July 2, 2023
The Annual Agemo Festival commences on Tuesday, July 4, 2023 with their journey to Imosan-Ijebu from their respective abode through designated routes in some towns in Ijebu axis of Ogun State.
In line with the custom and tradition of Ijebu, women are forbidden from seeing any of these Agemo while embarking on the spiritual journeys from their respective routes to the final destination at Imosan-Ijebu.
Their traditional routes from the ages are:
Epe/Ijebu Ode route
Isiwo/Ijebu Ode route
Ijebu Imusin/Ijebu Ode route
Ago-Iwoye/Ijebu Ode route
Odogbolu/Ijebu Ode route..etc
Meanwhile, it’s important to restate the fact that women are advised and warned to restrict their movements from 12:00noon upward on these routes on the date stated above to avoid any calamity that arise from their native curses.
“Eke e, obiren mai woo,
Wo wo fere, Woku fere,
Iku aiye, ojiji firifiri,
Esee magba, Epe abi ure, Abi ajeiyo, abi kowa n’ogorupo, ko ma wo agolo taaba.
Eke e, wo b’Alagemo de fila po,
Si fila e noi noi…”
The above traditional chants normally announce the arrival of the Agemo chorusing: “The right of way, spirit of the dead, female person never sees it, a glimmering shadow or a surreptitious glance leads to an instant death..”
Meanwhile, there is no gainsaying the fact that tradition and custom of the people define their identity, heritage, belief, values and social behaviour. Infact, it is a doctrine believed among the people to have cultural significance and divine authority passed from generations to generations.
However, the emergence of Christianity and Islam has not totally submerged the traditional belief and cultural inheritance of the Ijebu people. But nevertheless, the modern religions have succeeded in abolishing most of the fetish sacrifices usually associated with the traditional festivals.
No doubt, the Ijebu traditionalists often sing:
“A o s’oro ilewa o,
Awa yio s’oro ilewa,
Imale koni ka ma s’oro, Igbagbo ko ni ka ma s’oro,
A wa yio s’oro Ilewa o..”
Agemo is a traditional festival in Ijebuland that dates back to several centuries and remains consistently held in the month of July to usher in the new yam season.
However, from available oral and written history, the Ijebu have an age long perception that Agemo is the harbinger of peace, unity and prosperity amongst the people despite the overwhelming belief in Islam and Christianity as introduced by the missionaries after the conquest of Ijebu Army by the British Army at Imagbon War in 1892.
Nevertheles, Agemo festival still enjoys a large followership among the Ijebu irrespective of their religious divide that will surely be sustained by generations yet unborn. Historically, the Ijebu are referred to have migrated from Wadai, Southern Sudan and Agemo was one of the deities that accompanied Obanta the forbearer of the Ijebu. Initially, there were 50 Agemo deities that later shrunk to17 but to date, they are only 16 of them that summarily made the people to be referred to as “Ijebu omo Alare, omo Obanta, omo Alagemo merindilogun”
Each Agemo has a priest referred to as Oloja presiding in historic places outside Ijebu-Ode. It is important to state that the 17th Agemo was Oloja Moki of Ijebu Igbo who in 1897 while on his way to the annual festival at Ijebu-Ode, the carrier of his traditional paraphernalia was almost carried away by Agarun River at a point between Oru and Iperin thus losing his Eru Alagemo in the process. The Bajelu of Imuku caused the Agbarun River to shrink in size to the mere stream that it is today. Agemo Moki was unable to perform this feat and he was subscequently banned from attending the annual festival to date.
AGEMO PRIESTS (OLOJA) AND THEIR TOWNS (ABODE)
- Tami Onire, Head Agemo: Odogbolu
- Magodo: Aiyepe
- Moko: Okun-Owa
- Alofe: Ijesa-Ijebu
- Olubamisan: Ago-Iwoye
- Idebi: Ago-Iwoye
11.Onugbo: Okenugbo, Ago-Iwoye
- Nopa: Odo Nopa, Ijebu Imushin
14.Petu Airamasa: Isiwo
15.Olumuku Bajelu: Imuku
Additionally, there are also two Abore (Special Priests), one Ifa Priest and one Orere who assist Tami Onire, the Head and Chief Priest while he performs the traditional rites for the Oriss Agemo during the festival:
- Abore Ewujagbori: Imosan
- Abore (Aduwe) Adie: Ago-Iwoye
- Ifa Priest: Ogi Alawo Oba Idogi, Porogun, Ijebu-Ode (Ifa Priest of Awujale)
- Orere, Agbadagbodo: Ijasi Quarters, Ijebu-Ode
Also, each Agemo Priest has his own individual priest (Alase) who performs such sacrifices as Agbubo (breaking of kolanuts) for him before and after the festival celebration while the Alase of Tami is called Olisa
The duration of Agemo festival is between 7 or 9 days depending on Ifa oracle. The Agemo have designated routes from their towns which include but not limited to: Epe/Oke Owa road, Isiwo road, Lagos/Benin Expressway, Ijebu Imushin/Ilese/Army Barrack road, Omu/Ala/Egbe/Ejinrin road, Erunwon/Oke Aje road. However, on the day of their arrival between 5:00pm and 9:00pm, the Agemo assemble at Italapo and move together on en-route to their Imosan grove for the beginning of the festival.
The Agemo spend 3 days at Imosan, on the first day, the Agemo and their entourages camp separately in the grove each playing its own type of music far into the night. The following day, the festival dance begins in the afternoon, each Agemo wearing raffia strips beaming with various colors reminiscent of chameleon which changes its color and comes out during the rainy season. On the third day, the Agemo priests depart for Ijebu-Ode for the second and final leg of the festival.
The Ijebu-Ode celebration takes 3 to 5 days depending on the duration proclaimed by the Ifa oracle. The next stage of the festival is at Itoro where spiritual sacrifice and prayers are held for the reigning Kabiyesi, Oba Alaiyeluwa by Tami Onire, the head of the Agemo. The pilgrimage continues at Agbala in Isasa for the traditional sacrifice and ceremonial dance amidst pomp, pageantry and wrestling competition by the youths outside the sanctuary.
Finally, the Awujale, the Paramount ruler of Ijebuland honors all the Agemo priests with a feast at Ipebi to mark the end of the festival while the Agemo pray for Kabiyesi, Alase, Ekeji Orisa with chants of “Aseyi samodun, ase”.
And new yam starts appearing in the market the next day.
In summary, the Ijebu believe that the Agemo possess supernatural power and their curse on people or anything has instantaneous effect just as their prayers and blessings are effective. A weak Oloja is instantaneously banned because of the potency of their power is the survival instinct that make people to consult them for traditional helps after the festival.
Moreover, it is important to re-emphasise the fact that women are not allowed to see the paraphernalia of an Agemo. Where a woman accidentally runs into the convoy of an Agemo, she is expected to kneel down, cover her face with cloth, apologise and thus be spared of any calamitous curse without remedies.
Traditionally, the Oloja have designated routes that they must follow and if by omission or accident they take different routes and run into women, their curses shall have no effect.
The Ijebu Nation In Its True Perspective
Engr Kayode Sote,FAEng