The suspension of the annual traditional festivals, popularly known as Oro and Liwe festivals, in Ikorodu this year due to the outbreak of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic in the country has indeed come to many, particularly the traditionalists, as a surprise and an unusual break from the norm.
For many years, key traditional festivals, particularly Liwe and Magbo, have become very important annual outings in Ikorodu such that it has become almost impossible or a taboo not to celebrate them.
In recent time, there have been deluge of agitations by a section of the community that the festivals should either be outrightly abolished or restricted to a nocturnal affairs on the ground that there celebrations impede on the fundamental human rights of females whose movements are restricted for a whole day and prevented from going about their daily activities while the festival lasted.
In 2018 when the two festivals, which usually hold in May and June of every year, were about to be celebrated, Oba Kabiru Shotobi, the Ayangbure of Ikorodu who is the head of the traditional institution, issued a public statement to announce the date for the festivals and also warned that female residents should stay indoor during the festival.
The then Commissioner of Police in Lagos State swiftly issued a counter order to warn that no resident should be restricted from coming out during the festivals but despite the order by the police boss, the female residents were not allowed to come out during the festival that year and the status quo has remained since then.
But this year, the myth woven around the Oro festivals by the traditionalists over the years was put to a test as Liwe and Magbo, the two key annual traditional festivals which have vast followership in the traditional circle both in Ikorodu and beyond and which celebrations involved the restriction of the movement of female residents for 24 hours and a huge social gathering, could not hold due to the social distance order and the ban on public gathering issued by the government to curtail the spread of the coronavirus disease and surprisingly, there has been no opposition or complaints from the traditionalists who have always put up strong resistance against those calling for the cancellation of the annual festivals.
Rather than the usual restriction of movements and elaborate public gathering at Ejina in Ikorodu, there had only been a low key traditional rites by the traditionalists in the mid night to mark the festivals while the female residents and others went about their normal activities during the day unhindered, a situation which conformed with the popular demand that the festivals should be restricted to night affairs since the major rites involved in there celebration take place in the midnight, instead of restricting movement and paralyzing commercial activities for a whole day.
Even when information was making the round that the Oro festivals would take place this year despite the existence of COVID – 19, Oriwu Sun contacted Chief Memudu Oshin, Olumale Ilenla, Magbo, a key traditionalist in the town, to confirm the information and he said the festivals would not hold.
He equally confirmed that light traditional rites would be held round the town instead to ward off diseases and afflictions but that women would be allowed to move around.
Without doubt, the suspension of the Magbo and Liwe festivals in Ikorodu this year, the same way other religious activities have been suspended, has proved that COVID–19 is indeed a more dreaded and powerful phenomenon despite the myth attributed to these festivals by there custodians and other traditionalists.
Other festivals which there celebrations were affected by COVID-19 in Ikorodu are Odun Osu, Easter and Eid-el-fitri.