• It’s a crime against our ancestors – Community
  • Masquerade, adherents provoked us – Students

Defying local tradition, some students of Tai Solarin College of Education, Omu Ijebu, Ogun State, on Monday, assaulted a masquerade, pulling off his veil and stripping him naked before setting his raiment ablaze.

Uba Group

The incident, considered as a taboo in Yorubaland, reportedly took place at Odo Jobore, a community close to the college.

The Point gathered that the incident, which degenerated into a serious clash between the indigenes of the town and the students, was ignited when the masquerade, called Epo in the local parlance, along with his adherents, stopped over at one of the students’ hostels, called Ogunlana Success Hostel, and danced riotously within the premises.

“The students claimed they were being disturbed by the drumming, singing and shrieking noise of the masquerade’s team, as they were reading for their exams,” an eyewitness, who asked not to be named, said.

The angry students were said to have confronted the masquerade and his team during which the masquerade was whipped with his cane and also given deadly blows.

In the course of the crisis, the masquerade’s veil was removed to expose the man behind the mask, which is a taboo in Yorubaland.

Not done, the students tore the clothes of the man, who was unmasked and in the end, stripped him naked. While the attack lasted, the masquerade’s team members and
other native musicians in the team fled for dear life, eyewitnesses further recounted.

But the elders and other indigenes of Odo Jobore community are sore angry with the students, who they said, deliberately defied their tradition and also committed a criminal offence “by assaulting an innocent masquerade and his team.” The locals also alleged that series of impunities such as stealing of domestic animals like fowls, ducks and goats were
being carried out by the students with no one to check them.

One of the aggrieved natives of the town, Mr Kazeem Olawale, explained that “the students deliberately did what they did because most of them are always against us in this town, and I wonder why they will be planning to overshadow us, the land owners.”

Recalling what happened, Kazeem said, “On that day, the masquerade, which is known as Epo, was moving around to pray for all in the town and this is a normal rite that is performed on a yearly basis for peace to reign in the town.
But disappointedly, the students came out to obstruct us, claiming that we were
disturbing them. With the attitude displayed that day, some of us got angry, telling them that what they were doing was against the tradition. But instead of the students to
show remorse and apologies, they simply went wild.

“They first pelted the masquerade’s team with sachet water before coming out to physically assault, not just the team members, but also Epo himself. Before we knew what was happening, they had stripped Epo naked and set his garment ablaze.”

Another indigene, who simply identified himself as Azeez, said, “The masquerades were more than one, but only one was made to suffer while the others fled. The students were very wicked to the extent that they wanted to set the masquerade ablaze, but God
helped him that he was able to pull down the garment and escape. “We quickly alerted the traditional authority, which is headed by Baba Apena, who had initially planned to seal off the hostel with the ‘oro cult’, saying that the students had committed abomination.”

Meanwhile, all the students in the hostel fled on the night of the incident, having realised the implication of what they did. But The Point’s investigation at Ogunlana Success hostel, where the incident happened, revealed that the students were also injured by some of the adherents of the masquerade in the course of the scuffle.

Some of the students also alleged that, beyond the bloody fight between them and the locals, some of the natives had formed the habit of frequenting the hostel premises to make noise or cause some commotion, and that repeated warnings had not deterred the intruders.

One of the victims among the students, who identified himself as Solomon, said, “That night, some indigenes stormed this hostel with the night masquerade. When they arrived, we told them that they were not welcome because their noise was disturbing us. But the adherents of the masquerade turned the issue into a conflict, claiming that we were on their land. The short argument later degenerated into a crisis where some of us were injured.”

Solomon, who had an injury in his eye region, also confirmed that the masquerade was truly stripped naked while the latter’s garment was set ablaze by some students. “On a sincere note, some of us went beyond expectation with what we did to the masquerade, but the indigenes too didn’t take it easy with us because we were severely injured. And immediately the indigenes left to regroup, all of us at the hostel had to flee for our lives,” he said.

Another student, who identified herself as Lola, but refused to disclose her surname, said, “That night was not a good one for us in the hostel because even we, female students, that were not involved in the fracas, could not stay in the hostel as news reached us that the traditional priests were coming with the ‘Oro cult’, which a woman must not see. And when we saw that the case was getting out of hand, we had to contact the hostel owner, who moved to see the traditional authorities of the town.”

In a brief chat with our correspondent, Prince Taiwo Ogunbowale, youth leader in the town, said, “When the case was brought to me, I was surprised, and also felt sorry for the students because of the implications of what happened on their lives. It has never happened in our town that a masquerade, not to talk of a night masquerade like Epo, would be defiled to such level. It is an offence against the entire Yoruba land, because our masquerades are symbols of our tradition and culture.


“Meanwhile, this particular masquerade that was ‘devoured’ is the one that leads the rest on a yearly basis. So, its appearance is very crucial in our tradition. And for some people to now beat, strip naked and burn his cloth, is a big offence against us and our ancestors. And for this, the case, if not that it was handled with care, would have gone to the higher authority at the palace of the Awujale, Oba Sikiru Adetona. But the owner of the hostel, Ogunlana, is already pleading with the priests for forgiveness.”

Reacting, the monarch of Odo Jobore, the Kobowore, Oba Omotayo Ogunbowale, explained that, though the offence committed by the students of Tai Solarin College of Education was severe, he had ordered the traditional priests to forgive them, while the needed sacrifice should be performed in order to avert the calamity, which could befall them.

Oba Omotayo, however, called on parents of the students to caution them against recurrence.