Ota Egungun Festival Better Than Osun Osogbo Or Any Other Festival In Nigeria- Oloponda, Chief Aina Dada
By: Ogunremi Esther
As 2019 Ota Egungun festival gets underway, sons, daughters, tourists as well as rest of the world are well ready to experience yet another thrilling and exciting exhibition of Egungun’s ancestral and cultural display which will last till another 120 days or more.
VOA Entertainment brings to you all you need to know about the festival in a detailed and educative interview with the head of Egungun occultic society, simply identified as ‘Oloponda’. Take a sip at your coffee or a bite at your snacks while you enjoy this tete-a-tete with Chief Aina Dada and Alhaji Moruf Oloponda.
For the records, can we meet you?
I am Chief Aina Dada. I was born into an Egungun family (Oje). Though,l I have worked at different places before I was called to manage the position of Oloponda of Ota. I was a mechanic, and am also a businessman.
Are you related to those families entitled to become Egungun head in Ota?
Yes, I am. As a matter of fact, only Itimoko family has the sole right to assume the title, ‘Oloponda’, and I happen to belong to the family.
Our investigation revealed that you were a devoted Muslim until your selection as the new Oloponda designate, what is your reaction to your emergence?
Yes, I was a Muslim, as you have rightly investigated. But the title, ‘Oloponda’ is such that it becomes a privilege for anyone who is being called upon to bear the title-ship of our forebears. I am very happy and feel glad because this is my lineage’s title and there are so many people that could have been chosen but they insisted on honoring me. In other words, I feel honored.
How many Oloponda have been crowned before your selection as the new Oloponda designate?
There were 9 Olopondas before me, meaning that I am the 10th. The first Oloponda was Odikaye, followed by Amosu, then Amusan, later, Fatunsi, all of these were early Oloponda, but due to lack of documentation the dates for their installation could not be traced. Meanwhile, after the aforementioned, Dada Ekun was installed in 1901 and died in 1925, then Sangodeyi was installed in 1926 and died in 1967. Olaotan reigned between 1970-1972, Oseni reigned between 1974-1989, Alimi Fatusi reigned between 1992-1998, Chief Surajudeen reigned between 2000-2014, then myself.
Let’s mirror how Egungun came into bear, What can you briefly tell us about the historical emergence of Egungun in Ota?
Egungun has its origin from Oyo. One can not start the history of Egungun without mentioning the Sango deity. It was Sango that brought about the arrival of Egungun. Itimoko family has their source from Oyo and we know exactly where our compound is located in Oyo.
Since the emergence of Egungun in Ota, do you have the record as the number of Egunguns that is presently in Ota?
Egungun in Ota are too numerous to be enumerated. They are many, we cannot give a particular figure for it. What we are sure of is that our Egungun in Ota are grouped into different categories; Alabalas, Ologuns, and so on are some of the classes of Egungun that we have in Ota.
What heralds the start of Egungun festival in Ota?
Egungun festival in Ota is usually celebrated every 3 years. This year’s egungun festival was supposed to have taken place since 2015, but the demise of the then Oloponda delayed it till this year. Egungun Festival cannot be done without first giving the late Oloponda a burial rite and then selecting a new one. This year’s festival will come up on 31st of August, but it is still subjected to announcement by some Egunguns that announces the commencement of the festival. Egungun Amuludun and Apaje will come out with all the Alabalas. That is when they will go from place to place to announce the commencement of the festival in seventeen days to come. That would of course happen on 16th of August. Before then, some ritual rites would first be performed. So, when this announcement is made, no Egungun is allowed to come out again within that seventeen days until the real festival commences.
What does Agan and Idaja mean in Egungun parlance?
Agan is a spirit that cannot be seen. It manifests only at midnight preceding the commencement of the festival. A lot of people travels from far and wide, some even return home from abroad with their friends and tourists to listen to the voice of this spirit whenever it prays. While ‘Idaja’ is a midnight notification which indicates or announces that a particular Egungun is preparing to appear the following day. This is not a centralize thing. Each Egungun that will appear in the following day, follows this process of announcement, and this process is called, Idaja
In a bid to make this year’s festival a worthwhile experience, what are the plans you have?
I want to make sure every Egungun that will perform on the d-day are registered. Any Egungun that refuses to get itself registered will not be allowed to perform. We also have the intention of involving corporate sponsors so that the festival will be more fascinating than the past ones.
Is it possible to reconcile religion, culture and tradition, most especially, that of Egungun?
Egungun is culture, that is, a way of life. Religion is the act of worshiping or serving a particular God or gods. Therefore, because we are Egungun children, does not mean that we cannot still operate in our religion. Egungun festival is just an act of showing that we don’t want to depart from our culture.
Is there any plan for security and convenience for the people during this year’s festival?
Of course, there is. Our plans have been in accordance with laid down rules which we intend to follow.
What is your goodwill message to the people of Ota and Nigerians out there as you celebrate this year’s festival?
I want to advise that people should obey the laid down rules and regulations for this year’s festival. Also we’ll like to let everyone be aware that respecting our culture is necessary. We shouldn’t because of the white man’s culture ignore and disregard our long time culture and tradition. We implore everyone to embrace their culture, meanwhile, we invite all and sundry to the upcoming Ota Egungun festival without discrimination.
We are using this opportunity to call on well meaning Ota sons daughters, investors, corporate sponsors, and all well wishers to key into this wonderful event. Ota has been regarded as the ‘headquarters of Egungun’ all over the world. So, investing your money or sponsoring this festival will accord your business the opportunity of getting a wider reach as people often travels from far and wide to partake in this festival. I can make bold to tell you that this festival is better than that of Osun Osogbo or any other festival in south west Nigeria. We are also calling on our state Governor to look into the area of diversifying the state’s IGR through investing in products of culture and tourism like this.