The three main religions i.e. Christianity, Islam and Traditional worship co-exist and freely practiced by their various believers. The people are known to be zero religions tolerate. This is evident in their liberal disposition to inter-religions and inter-ethnic marriage. It is a common feature to find the three religions co-existing in a family or compound. Although, the advent of modern religion seems to have mellowed down, the practice of the traditional religion in the council area.
Other cultural features of the area are found in similar names of compound, festivals and the design of the old buildings. For instance, the people of the council area live in family compounds. The buildings are built in rectangular form. Each section of the building having at least 4-6 rooms in a roll, allocated to each branch of the extended family. The sections are referred to as ‘Kaa’. Moreover, all the principal towns share common name for their compounds, such as: Ile Ootoo, Ile Onilu, Ile agoro, Ile Balode, Agelu etc. as well as their festivals and traditional gods, such as: Ore, Sango, Egungun, Oro which are commonly observed annually and lasted for seven days.
It is typical to find ‘Odan’ tree planted in front of building in the council area. The trees provide shade as well serve as windbreakers to protect their buildings from storms. Equally, the Odan, tree serve as relaxation center for the people after a hard day work. Traditional seats made of stem of bamboo trees are commonly built under the Odan trees. It is called Gigii. Gigii has a length of Bamboo stem cut into sizes of 7ft-8ft. about 6 pieces of the cut ones are arranged vertically on cross bars placed on arms of four stands of which heights are not more than two and half feet. The lower edge of each of the four stands (one foot) would have been buried inside the holes dug to make it firm before the placement. Gigii can conveniently accommodate 8-10 people sitting at opposite direction. Anyone could sit and relax there unchallenged.
The people daily converge under the shade of the tree to explore its coolness to play Ayo Game. The richness of the language of the people could be discovered during the game whereby proverbs and rib-breaking jokes are freely used to encourage or dampen the spirits of the players just to make the game interesting and exciting.
The language of the people is very unique. It is referred to as “Onko” a variant of Yoruba language. The people value frequent exchange of greetings, to express friendship, respect, concern and sympathy. The spirit of oneness is so strong in the culture of the people of the Council area. This is significantly noticeable when there are celebrations such as naming ceremony and funeral/burial ceremony. In such occasions, the people move in groves to felicitate or express sympathy, as the case may be. Whenever there is call for any celebration of ceremony regardless of distance or family ties, the celebrant ensures that food are served to adjoining compounds and far relations. Such foods are gladly accepted and taken. Such is the spirit of love and good neighborliness that has been established in the culture of the people over the years. Similarly, the family contributes money (Owo Ebi) and prepares food (Ounje Omolebi) to assist the celebrant. The celebrant in turn must ensure that food i.e. Ounje Omolebi is sent to their relations. The youngest wife in the family usually delivers such food and more often such wife receives a token gift from the receiver. The Omolebi meets regularly and jointly sharing their joys and sorrow together. Indeed, authentic oral history claimed that whenever a member of the family misbehaved of betray one another. The spirit of “Alajobi” could be evoked i.e. “S’epe alajobi”-the consequence of such has always been unpalatable. People from the council area are conscious of this fact and constantly warn or remind themselves of the same blood that is believe they shared. That brings about the saying “Ranti omu kan naa taa jo mu” or “Ola omu kan naa taa jo mu”. However, over the years, the phrase has been misconstrued by people who are ignorant of the cultural value of the people, to imply that women from the area possess one breast. Their derogatory phrase is “Otu Olomu kan”. This is not so. ‘Omu kan naa taa jo mu’ should be understood as the common breast that the people believed to have been jointly fed. It is a reflection of a people who believe in their joint origination from the same root and therefore shared the same blood. There is deep sense of communal relationship and the spirit of oneness is so strong in their cultural life. The people imbibe the virtues of moral uprightness, honesty, hard work and respect for constituted authority. They take no advantage of anyone, they are fully satisfied and contented only with the fruits of their labour.
The Festival and The Deities
Most of the cultural festivals and deities are associated to certain families and traditions, such as hunting, blacksmith and traditional drumming. The families could easily be identified by the names of their forebears such as:- Ayansiji, Ogundepo, Odetunde, Sangokunle, Ojewale, Orowale etc. for example: Ayan – connected with family that takes traditional drumming as vocation; Ogin – is connected to hunting and blacksmithing; while Sango and Oro are connected to thunder and Oro worshipers respectively. One of the cultural festivals observed in the council area is called ‘Ere Ode’. It is a kind of Carnival whereby hunters are dressed in their hunting regalia’s and dance to ‘Agere drum’ the special drum of the hunters. The carnival is usually staged to honour a departed great hunter.
The traditional drummers also have similar carnival in honour of their dead ones called ‘Ere Omo-onilu’. On such occasion, all the drummer descendants, both old and young be noted dress and act in a manner to amuse people. It should be noted that the above mentioned festivals come up once in a while. Nevertheless, they are big festivals that used to be very lively and exciting.
Other festivals of significant cultural importance are Egungun and Oro. These festivals are held annually and usually lasted for seven days. During the Egungun festival masquerade of different sizes are featured. They entertain people for the period of seven days. On the seventh day, all masquerades converge at the market square for grand finale. A ritual of goat killing by a stroke of a sharp cutlass is undertaken by a special masquerade. It must also be understood that the masquerade comes out once in a while, either to honour a departed adherent Egungun worshipper or just for the sacrificing of the goat to bring the seventh day festival to an end. As, the masquerade come in groves into the Market square, they pay homage to the Chief Priest called ‘Are Oje’ seated along with other elderly Egungun worshippers. The special masquerade saddled with the responsibility of beheading the sacrificial animal by a stroke of cutlass comes in last. The masquerade is usually and seemingly overwhelmed by the task which probably account for why he hardly dance to the deafening noise of combination of Bata and Dundun drumming that ushers him to the market square. The masquerade only response to the drumming, come in form of intermittent jingling of a small traditional hand bell. It must be understood that the ritual of beheading a he-goat with a stroke of cutlass is significant in Egungun festival because it holds spiritual implication if the masquerade fails in its bid at first attempt. Hence, besides ensuring that the sacrificial animal is well stretched by two able body men, it is believed that the masquerade is usually fortified with special power and immune against any spiritual attack for failure.
However, Oro festival is quite different from Egungun because it has restricted audience. Women and even children in some occasions are barred from sighting Oro. More often than not, Oro comes out at night when a special sacrifice is to be performed. However, during the festival it may be out a little bit earlier in the evening. It is understood that Oro possess certain special power and has the capacity to drive away perceived evil forces within the community. As a result of this and because of restriction placed on certain people, long notice is usually given whenever the festival is to be held. This is to allow the people specially women and non natives to adjust their programmes and as well make provisions for the period the restriction would last. On each day of the seven day festival, a volley of gunshots is fired to alert women of the commencement of Oro. At that moment, women regardless of their age, must abandon whatever they are engaged in, and hurriedly rushed to their respective home to observe the restriction order. Despite the incursion of western civilization and religion, the community guards jealously against deliberate violation of this order, in-view of the likely dare consequences for the well-being of the people. Besides the cultural festival, other deities found in other part of the Yoruba land are equally worshiped in the council area. This includes; Sango, Ogun, Ifa, Ore, Orisa-Oko, Olofin etc. It, however, should be noted that the emergence of the modern religion seems deities. Nevertheless, the people still have great faith in them, hence they found it spiritually fulfilling to worship them secretly.