Kunle Adelabu & Oyinlola Pelumi Adewale
It was indeed another spectacular show of Asa Arokolo (man on delicate stilt sticks) on Thursday, December 16, 2021, when the masquerades filed out in Ikorodu in their different colourful regalia to give guests and residents displays that will linger in their memories for a very long time.
At the festival which was held at the open group of the lkorodu Town Hall, the Scout Master/ Convener of the IREP – Ikorodu Division Rebirth Foundation (the organsers of the annual cultural festival), Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, also re-emphasised the commitment of his group towards the continuous preservation of cultural heritages.
Asa masquerades from Aga, Ijomu, Isele, Igbogbo, Imota, Mowo – Nla, Okeletu and Agura communities in lkoropdu Division, in their colourful attires, took turns from the Conclave prepared for them, to storm the centre stage to give spectacular displays to the admiration of royal fathers, state officials, guests and residents who were watching with rapt attention.
Each of the Asa group was accompanied by a traditional musical group made up of men and women who sang various Asa songs which the Asa masquerades danced to skilfully.
There was also horse displays which equally added colours and glamour to the festival.
The festival, which drew a large crowd, was first staged in 2017 when organisers also secured the recognition of the state government as Asa festival was listed as one of the annual cultural events in the state.
The First Permanent Vice Chairman, Lagos State Council of Obas & Chiefs and Ayangbure of Ikorodu, His Royal Majesty (Oba) Engr. Kabir Adewale Shotobi, led about 20 First Class traditional rulers across the state which to the festival. Amongst these were HRM Oba (Barr.) Semiudeen Orimadegun Kasali, the Adeboruwa of Igbogbo and the Secretary, Ijebu Obas in Lagos State, HRM Oba Ajibade Bakare Agoro, FCA, the Ranodu of Imota, HRM Oba Bashir Sotonwa, the Sekumade of Ipakodo, HRM Oba David Raji Balogun, the Eweye of Isiwu, HRM Oba Babatunde Olaogun Ogunlaja (JP), the Aladeshonyin of Odo Noforija Kingdom, Oba Olagoke Ogunsanya, Aladegunsebi of Odoragunsin, HRM Oba Fatai Aremu Aromire, Ojora of Ojora and Iganmu Kingdom, HRM Oba Kazeem Kashimawo Olaonipekun Gbadamosi, the Ologijo of Ogijo, HRM Oba Akolawole Aliru, the Aladeuraka of Poka Land, and HRM Oba Tajudeen Afolabi Elemoro, Okeodo Elemoro of Iwerekun Land in Ibeju Lekki.
Also in attendance were Prince Abiodun Ogunleye, former Deputy Governor, Asiwaju Olorunfunmi Basorun, GAC Chieftain, Lagos State, Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yussu, Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr. Wale Ahmed, Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs, High Chief Adewunmi Ogunsanya, the Odofin of Ikorodu and Chairman, MultiChoice Nigeria, and High Chief Tajudeen Alade Duduyemi Onasanya, the Odofin of Igbogbo amongst many other high class traditional chiefs.
In addition are Majority Leaders and state lawmakers from Southwest States like Hon Gboyega Aribisigan, Majority Leader, Ekiti State House of Assembly, Hon. Nurudeen Solaja, Member, Lagos House of Assembly and Hon. Muyiwa Jimoh, former Deputy Majority Leader, Lagos Assembly were also in attendance,
Hon. Agunbiade, speaking with our reporter, said that the festival is a resuscitation of Asa cultural display which is one of the major cultural heritages that unite Ikorodu Division.
“Asa festival that we are holding today is a resuscitation of the Asa culture in Ikorodu division. Over time, this festival was holding but at a time, they stopped performing Asa and slowly it was going into extinction until we came up in 2017 to start celebrating and promoting it”, the IREP Convener said.
“We are promoting it so that it can come back to life. Just as it was handed over to the present generation, this generation can further hand it over to the younger generation because the culture of the people talks about the people and a people without a culture is a people without identity.
“When your culture dies, you die as a person; you can no longer be recognised and would not have any relevance again. Edmund Burke said, “the highest level of Human degradation is for a man to be told his history”. So, if we don’t pass the history down to the present generation, the present generation will not be able to pass it on to the incoming generation and it will die naturally”, he said while explaining why he is pioneering the revival and sustenance of Asa cultural display.
“We are actually doing this to make sure that our culture goes on. The culture is for the people and it talks about the people and so, that’s why we are doing this”, he emphasized.
He also said that through the festival, IREP – lkorodu Division Rebirth Foundation, the organisers of the festival, has been able to encouraged youths from Asa families to embrace the cultural display.
“You see the youths here today; you can see some of our young ones climbing the tree. They are embracing and celebrating the festival. They will be able to pass it onto other generations”, Hon.Agunbiade said.
The Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Pharm. Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf could not hide her excitement as the number one cultural person in the state described the Asa festival as a beauty and added that the state government is glad to associate with it through its support.
“I am excited to be part of this celebration, where we display so much beauty that comes with our culture. Our culture is rich but because we have left it in the past unattended to, people have now forgotten their source but with this kind of program that has been put together by the good people of Ikorodu, it’s really exciting to be part of it and that would spur Lagos State Government to do more of this, especially in collaboration with the royal fathers in the state”, she said.
“I am proud to be part of this event. We will continue to sustain all festivals that come up with rich heritage and culture. That’s what the administration led by Governor Babatunde Sanwo-Olu stands for and we will continue to support the events that bring about the best of our culture.
“I want to appreciate the initiator of this event, the Majority Leader, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon Agunbiade. He is doing a fantastic thing by showing that he is a cultural man who appreciates culture and heritage and I want to appeal to him to not be tired in doing more in that regard”.
Hon. (Chief ) Mrs Adebimpe Akinsola, former acting Commissioner for Tourism and Special Adviser on Arts and Culture, in an interview at the event, said that Asa is one of the important cultural heritages in Ikorodu Division which like many others, was adversely affected by the incursion of foreign religion.
“Asa festival is a festival in Ikorodu division. It is part of our tradition and cultural heritages. We grew up to know Asa tradition in all the towns and villages in Ikorodu division but because of influx of foreign religions and some other things, it went away but Hon Sanai Agunbiade fought that our tradition and culture should be showcased and we should not depend so much on foreign culture. That happened when I was the Commissioner for Tourism in Lagos State. That was the time Asa was registered as a recognized festival in the state.
“This is a singular effort by Hon. Sanai Agunbiade and since the first edition in 2017, Asa festival has been a yearly event. My advice for people in the Ikorodu division is that they should come together and look at all other cultural heritages that we have and showcase them to the world. I am so happy and proud of this Asa festival and I can only say thank you to Hon. S.O.B Agunbiade”, she said.
A Christian Missioner from South Korea who teaches at the Caleb University, Imota, Mr Christian Hoo, said that he attended the festival because he loves culture.
“I like to appreciate culture as it enables me to know more about the tradition of the people. This Asa display is for unity and this is very important”, he said.
Alhaji Sule Alao Malaika, was on ground to provide cultural songs with fuji vibes which greatly entertained guests and residents.
DJ Kay was also on ground to keep the crowd entertained while the duo of Chief Gbenga Dosunmu (Eweso) and Prince Kehinde Ibrahim Oladega, both broadcasters with Radio Lagos, were on top of their game in anchoring the event.
The wife of the Majority Leader of Lagos State, Alhaja Adeola Tairat Agunbiade, treated officials and members of the Lagos State Legislators’ wife Association (LASLEWA) to a five star entertainment at the event.
Other eminent guests in attendance were Sen. Adeseye Ogunlewe, former Minister for Works and Chairman Ikorodu Division Resource Development Group, Asipa Kaoli Olusanya, Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Hon. Sunmi Olanrewaju Odesanya, State Secretary, APC, Sir (Otunba) Ayodele Elesho, the Agbaakin of Ikorodu, Otunba Ganiyu Olusegun Abiru, Executive Secretary, IDPILG, Mr Rotimi Erogbogbo, Chairman, Ikorodu – Oga Development Association (IKODASS) and his wife, Mrs Tosan Erogbogbo and Hon. Sulaimon Kazeem Olanrewaju, Chairman, Ikorodu West LCDA among others.