How Oro tradition fuels violence, deaths, flourish amid authorities’ silence

How Oro tradition fuels violence, deaths, flourish amid authorities’ silence

ALFRED OLUFEMI reports how ‘Oro’ – an age-long festival celebrated by traditionalists in the South-West, AT NIGHT and IN DAYTIME, has continued to impede human rights, instigate violence, disrupt lives and businesses.
To unravel the mystery of the tradition, our correspondent got embedded among Oro devotees during its annual festival in Sagamu, Ogun State

It is Oro festival and the weird, vibrating voice of the deity as it moved around the community in deep darkness, pierced the stillness of the night, sending shivers down the spine of women confined to their homes.

Shuffling feet, said to be that of its adherents in tow, created its own unique, terrifying sensation in curious souls still awake.

This phenomenon is familiar to several Yoruba communities across states in the South-West.

Oddly, in the 21st century, presently choking under the grip of the tradition in a state like Lagos, considered to be metropolitan, are communities such as Ikorodu, Isolo, Ajah, Ibeju Lekki, Okobaba, Ojo, Ejigbo and Isheri, among others.

Oro is an age-long tradition that seemed to have defied civilisation and attempts to have what many referred to as its ‘anti-human’ activities curtailed.

The annual festival meant to celebrate the deity is usually held anytime from July and may last for seven days or weeks, depending on the practice adopted in communities where it is celebrated.

Its major highlight is a procession, where the Oro, accompanied by its devotees, move around the community, mostly at midnight, performing rituals.

However, with time and despite disapproval and wide outcries, Oro devotees shifted the midnight rites to daytime, thus impacting lives and economic activities negatively.

Festival of death and restriction

The Oro festival, which is gender-specific and patriarchal in nature, is one steeped in mysteries. It mostly has male descendants that are paternal natives, participating in secretive rites.

Widely known is the fact that a curfew is declared when Oro is meant to parade a community and females are confined indoors. It is taboo for females to set eyes on the deity. The restriction also extends to males that are non-initiates and non-natives.

Based on oral history, death, which is a fatal consequence, awaits any woman who sees the instrument that produces the voice of the Oro or observes the priest performing the rituals.

Though the life of a man could be spared if caught outside, he has to appear to hide as the deity and its worshippers pass through.

Horrid tales abound of the vicious, ‘blood-thirsty’ judgment of the Oro, alleged to be in the form of human sacrifice, visited on those that violated the curfew.

These widespread scary narratives have instilled fear in people, scared of the fate that befell victims.

According to a Non-profit Organisation, Ondo Connect New Era, in an article titled, ‘Understanding the Antiquated Yoruba Oro Festival,’ the word Oro means fierceness, tempest, or provocation, and the deity appears to have personified executive power.

“Oro is supposed to haunt the forest in the neighbourhood of towns, and he makes his approach known by a strange, whirring, roaring noise. As soon as this is heard, all women must shut themselves up in their houses, and refrain from looking out on pain of death,” it stated.

A practice at variance with the law

With Nigeria being a liberal society and one in which its 1999 constitution, specifically Section 38, guarantees freedom of movement, worship and association, the restriction of movement during the festival bothered those of other faiths and beliefs.


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments