Newly born babies are forbidden here!
"Newly born babies are forbidden here! While the arrival of a new baby is a joy to many, contrary is the case here where..."
While the arrival of a new baby is a joy to many, contrary is the case here where a newly born baby is a taboo. Taiwo Abiodun writes on the strange ancient town in Ogun State.
The mere mention of Isolosi, a royal quarter in Sango- Ota, in Ogun state can make one shiver and develop goose pimples. Reason: it is a place where newly born babies must not be seen!. One can only see toddlers , young and elderly people but not babies. In fact, hardly can one see or hear the cries of a baby there not to talk of witnessing naming ceremonies.
Isolosi is located in Sango –Ota, very close to Lagos . The location is dotted with ancient buildings and one can count the number of modern edifices built there. There is no sign of rapid development in the area. At the entrance to the Isolosi Quarter is a big statute of one of their monarchs.
Isolosi is a cultural place where the natives do not joke with their tradition. A stranger or a new comer to Isolosi must put ears to the ground to know when the Ogbodogi festival will be held.
The festival used to be celebrated for three months but has now been reduced to 17 days due to protests and in keeping with modernisation .
Babies who are less than three months must not be in the vicinity during the festival otherwise they will not live to see the following day.
An elder in the community, Pa Prince [Alhaji] Waheed Akanbi Adegbite, 70, confirmed this.
The septuagenarian said the custom is applicable to natives and non-natives. He stated: “Infants must not hear the noise generated during the festival .But if as a native, the baby was given birth in the presence of his father , he or she could be allowed to stay but must not hear the shrill cries of the strange object that would come out at night .''
He said further that the tradition is not new and that people are not forced to obey. In his words, “If you like, obey, if you like, do not obey,” He then burst into uproarious laughter.
Rasaq Akintoye whose wife just delivered a set of twins outside Isolosi affirmed this tradition. “I am from this area and I know it is forbidden to deliver babies here , so I need not flout the custom , I don't want to face any calamity. Even if an indigene delivers elsewhere and the father of the baby is informed , he must not go there to see the infant but will only send materials and the name of the baby who will be christened in his absence. It took me over three months before I could set my eyes on my babies.''
Taiwo Olorunnisola , the Ogbonpolaba Otun I of Ota Otun, said the town is generally known to have customs that must be obeyed. He said: “In Otun quarters, immediately a woman delivers , the family members must go to Ojubo Esu (Esu shrine) with gift items such as kolanuts, bitter kola, a bottle of hot drink and biscuits to thank Esu . This must be done and it is done always, it is not a new thing so that of Isolosi too is a tradition which must be religiously obeyed ''
Asked if this is not fetish, Olounnisola said it is not. “I was born into a Moslem family , and my mother is from a Masquerade family and holds a chieftaincy position among the Egungun [Masquerade] and when she dies I will have to perform what the Masquerades demanded for . It is tradition.''
Has anybody ever tried to defy the custom? Pa Adegbite was asked and he responded ''Yes there were such cases before, not now. Those who called themselves Jesus Army [Christians] and believe a lot of prayers and fasting could stop it in August 2006 advised their followers not to obey the rules of our customs but……''he paused and continued, '' those who defied our custom and believed nothing could happen just woke up one morning to see the bodies of their dead children. It did not only affect the Christians but also a Moslem sect called Shriudeen in Abebi area in 1990.The head of the sect said he and his followers would disobey our custom and he advised the members not to leave their vicinity and they defied the rules. Unfortunately, the newly born babies died and there were wailing and weeping.
Ogbonpolaba Ota Otun I corroborated Pa Adegbite's statement and also recalled a similar incident. ''I remember many years ago too of a woman that defied the custom had her only child died and she did not conceive till the present moment. The woman is now very old. Many who defied it died in accidents and in mysterious ways. I used to advise others not to despise any native custom and tradition.” He added that a lot of people had to leave the area especially strangers as they could not cope with the custom''
The Asiwaju Ogbodogi, Alhaji Abdurazaq who is one of the devotees of the Isolosi said they never forced anybody to vacate the environment. “We were innocently doing our festival and following the rules that go with our tradition. But funny enough, we were once accused of driving people away from our land whereas it is not so as we only told them what it takes and of course it would have been announced over the radio and television before the festival starts.''
The community leaders were once reported by some non-natives and clerics to the Police. They were accused of being unfriendly while staging their festival.
A market woman simply called Mama Abebi said she had to relocate to another place when she found out what was happening to the people living there. “I decided to leave this vicinity when I saw what was happening .A friend of mine too had to relocate to Ajegunle an area in Sango. It is a strange thing to hear such stories but we cannot stop them from observing their customs.
When the Imam of Ota Otun, Imam Nurudeen Abdulganiyu Atipiji was contacted ,he said: '' Everything is for God. There was tradition before religion, we cannot because of our religion throw away our tradition .Nigeria is a secular state and we should allow everybody to practise whatever he or she believes in. That is all I can say. There is no religion that is bad.”A pastor said he does not subscribe to the festival as “it is unchristian