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Opabata – A Week-long Agògòrò Èyò Festival

The Eyo festival, also known as Adamu Orisa, is a communal event, a week long Opabata show enacted so that the Orisa Adamu may welcome the recently departed into the spirit world. 

The appointed head of the festival is the Adamu Orisa, usually a high-ranking or respected figure, who opens the festival with a white pigeon in his hand and journeys around Lagos throughout the celebrations. Festivities take place throughout the city with citizens from all strata of a society celebrating in a spirit of camaraderie. Food and drink are dispensed to all and old disputes are settled. 

An important feature of the festival is the homage to the king, the Oba of Lagos. However, the festival’s most visible attribute is the Eyo masquerade dancers, disguised in flowing white gowns and veils surmounted with large straw hats. The dancers perform to a retinue of drummers while wielding large ceremonial sticks called opabata

The eyo masquerades outfit is not complete without the special staff (opabata) which is held across the chest by both hands through the dance processions.

The festival was first staged in 1854 in honour of the late Oba Akitoye of Lagos and since then, it has remained a prominent festival, which seeks to celebrate the life and times of prominent, but, dead Lagosians. A complete paraphernalia of Eyo consists of a white flowing gown that covers the head and feet which symbolises the spirit.


The Eyo wears a headgear called Aga, with each group having separate colours for its Eyo. Eyo usually carries a long palm stick called Opabata as his staff officer. The stick is, usually, with artistic inscriptions to express its uniqueness and beauty. Opabata is normally used by Eyo to greet each other and elders. They also use them in beating offenders or harassing their friends.

The different natures, colours, and costumes of the Aga distinguish the chiefs, their groups, and Eyo. The groups include Adimu, Oniko, Okolaba, Ologede, and Agere. While there are royal Eyo like Olorogun, Aromire, Oloto, Bajulaye, Akitoye, Eletu-Odibo, Onilegbale, Onitana, Ogunmode, Onisemo, Ashogun, Oluwa, Jakande, Eti and Ashodi among others. Each Eyo is easily identified by the nature of his Aga.


Preparations for the grand procession of the Eyo festival are rooted in long-standing tradition and no one dares alter the sequence or denigrate it. From the chosen date to the inscriptions and demarcations on the staff, from which each family erects the Para, to who has the exclusive rights to dismantle it, from costume to public conduct when in uniform, every single detail is closely observed and strictly adhered to.


There is a week-long Opabata show, with the Agbodo dance and rituals to be performed by Chief Eletu-Odibo, this marks the beginning of the festival. The major music of the show is Korogun, consisting of Iya- Ilu, two Omele drums, Konkolo, and gong. Drumming and other musical equipment accompany the Eyo as they move around the streets of Lagos during the festival which involves thorough merry-making.

Opabata Eyo festival

Regulations & Significance However, there are basic regulations to be adhered to by the public during the Adamu Orisa festival on sighting an Eyo. First, everybody must remove their shoes, head-ties, and caps, women must not plait their hair (Suku style), umbrellas must be folded, riders must dismount from bicycles and all cigarettes and pipes should be put away.

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