By _ Babatunde Kaka
- “The Bird is in Your Hands” – Otunba TJ Abass.
When the great King Kosoko made the journey from Lagos Island to Epe almost two centuries ago, it was merely a move geared towards surviving the antagonistic political currents of the day. However, what was originally a quest for survival turned out to birth one of the most economically promising settlements of the then and now western region.
Sliver by sliver, Epe Kingdom, as it were, garnered momentum, initially as a social milieu consisting of sojourners who were looking to get respite from almost a year-long journey, to become a community replete with robust economic potentials and a cultural composition that had the makings of drawing international attention to a community that had been relatively unknown.
Almost two hundred years later, Epe Division has emerged as a vital component of Africa’s centre of excellence, with vast tourism potentials that have been touted to draw massive developmental strides in the foreseeable future. Of course, one of the vital ingredients of this rich cultural gallery has been its iconic festivals.
Like every other year, Epe Kayokayo 2021 kicked off on Saturday, September 11, 2021. It had been pegged to be a subdued celebration due to the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, but not even its subdued design could gag the profound statement made by this year’s edition of the event, which was, without gainsaying, of an epochal dimension.
What also made the celebration uncommonly special was the fact that the Lagos State Government, through its representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture as well as descendants of King Kosoko added glitz and glamour to the event. The Kosoko family, led by the Oloja of Lagos, Prince Abiola Kosoko and his adorable wife, Mrs Shola Kosoko served as historical vestiges of a legacy that has been bequeathed to several generations, as well as the imperativeness of bequeathing it further to generations to come, in commemoration of our ancestral roots.
Similarly, descendants of the famous Yoruba warrior, Chief Oshodi led by Chief Abolaji Oshodi and other notable families of Eko ancestry graced the event. The Management of Epe General Hospital deployed their medical staff to carry out free medical outreach at the Lagos Theatre which was beneficial to dignitaries.
Apart from daily lighting of the symbolic “Etufu” by various notable High Chiefs which preceded that of the Grand-Finale at the historic King Kosoko Embankment Center, Marina Waterfront. It was chaired by former Lagos House of Assembly Speaker, Rt Hon Sabit Adeyemi Ikuforiji, the highpoint of the 4- day event was the stage drama tagged “King Kosoko: A Divine Voyager,” presented by Cultural and Creative Arts department students of Michael Otedola College of Primary Education. The performance which elicited resounding applause from the audience not only brewed entertainment and insight but also came with a message of peace, unity, and cohesiveness.
The Coordinator, Otunba TJ Abass who also showered encomiums on MOCPED Provost, Associate Professor Nosiru Onibon and the performers whose theatrical savvy was reminiscent of the professional troupe led by Hubert Ogunde and his contemporaries.
Notable personalities like Alara of Ilara, HRM Oba Dr Olufolarin Olukayode Ogunsanwo, Otunba Alli Balogun of Kosoko Family of Lagos; Otun Balogun of Epe Kingdom, High Chief Wale Mogaji; Otun Bashorun of Epe Kingdom, High Chief Adebayo Balogun; Olu Omo of Epe and former Chairman, Epe Local Government, Hon. Segun Agbaje; Mogaji Abass of Epe Kingdom, Alh. (Chief) D. T . Abass; Aare of Epe Kingdom, Chief Ekemode M. D. Lagos State Arts and Culture, Mr Oladapo Komolafe, Tourism Expert Hon. Apata and a host of others all testified to the spectacular display by the performers on the day.
It is also pertinent to mention the show of love and solidarity from the Oloja of Epe, HRM Oba Kamorudeen Ishola Animashaun, who sent his Oloja-in-Council Chiefs to grace the event at Lagos Theater, Epe.
Epe’s political elite, from federal lawmakers to state parliamentarians including Hon Tasir Wale Raji (MHR), Member representing Epe Constituency I at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon Abiodun Tobun, Former Commissioner, Lagos State Local Government Service Commission, Hon Olabode Garbadeen, Former Lagos House of Assembly Speaker, Hon Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Epe LG Chairman, Princess Surah Animashaun, with their solidarity and support once again typified why developmental strides in the division is moving at a sprinter’s pace in recent memory.
The Coordinator, Otunba TJ Abass during his heartfelt speech summarised his message to all sides of the Epe divide with a cryptic analogy of the story of the old woman and the bird.
The festival, which grossed to the tune of N12m in contributions from sons and daughters of Epe, as noted by the chairman of the planning committee was a reflection of the story of the community, which is that of selflessness, altruism, and an undying commitment to serve the community.
It was an indication of the measure of gratification that could be achieved with unity, cohesion, and singleness of purpose.
Earlier at the Annual Kayokayo prayers held at the Royal Palace of Olu-Epe of Epe Kingdom, the Chief Imam of 1st Epe Central Mosque, Fadeelat Sheikh Sadallah Aliru Abiola led other iconic Islamic clerics to offer prayers for the community, Lagos State and Nigeria in general. Still in the spirit of prayers, a day earlier, the Olu-Epe of Epe Kingdom led all sons and daughters of the town to observe Jumaat prayers after which the townspeople accompanied the Royal Father back to his Royal Palace in a street carnival motorcade fashion. Oba Adewale had a day earlier joined Islamic Scholars at the First Epe Central Mosque together with notable sons and daughters in a vigil popularly called “tahjud.”
An integral part of the festival, the “epo” masquerade was not left out of the celebrations. Children, particularly the male gender, adorned themselves with dried banana stems. In their small groups, they surface from different neighbourhoods, singing, dancing and entertaining their immediate environment.
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According to Otunba TJ Abass, Epe Local Government Chairman, Princess Surah Animashaun, who has indicated interest in playing a bigger role in subsequent editions of the festival, will be deploying her rich vein of experience as a tourism expert alongside other seasoned professionals to deliver a bigger and better Kayokayo festival from next year’s edition of the event.
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