By MUSA JIBRIL
Kayokayo––onomatopoeic for “[Eat] your fill”––is the name of the signature festival of Epe, Lagos’ foremost fishing town. But the festival has little relationship with the town’s principal produce. The annual celebration is a commemoration of founder’s history and a religious marker rather than a tribute to the town’s gastronomy.
The festival has historical, religious and cultural facets. Historically, it is a commemoration of the arrival of the exiled King Kosoko in Epe in 1851 after British forces forced him out of Lagos. Every year, the Olu of Epe and his chiefs visit the palaces of the founding fathers and stage a procession to the Marina waterfront where a display of King Kosoko boat is held and his historic arrival relived.
Olu Epe of Epe Kingdom, Oba Shefiu Olatunji Adewale affirmed: “King Kosoko in 1851 laid the foundation of Eko-Epe with his coming with 1500 people. We have always commemorated that, at the marina, at the point of the first disembarkment.”
During the festival, the community mimics how Kosoko came to Epe in the night. They would light the Etufu, dry palm fronds, as a source of illumination “just as it happened in the night some 166 years ago.”
The religious aspect of the festival is as weighty as its history. Kayokayo is celebrated in the Muslim month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic Hijra Calendar. Therefore, it is the New Year celebration of the predominantly Muslim populace of Epe. This accounts for the weeklong festivity beginning with Juma’at prayers––which happened on Friday, October 13, 2017––and the incorporation of Quranic readings, Islamic lectures and prayers as key festival activities.
The solemnity of religion and history notwithstanding, in its social manifestation, it is absolutely Kayokayo unchained. In recent years, the socio-cultural ramification of the festival has been expanded to showcase Epe cuisine and fashion. Health awareness and screening, youth parade and durbar have also been incorporated.
The last day is usually a day of fun devoted to wine, dine and dance. On this day, community members cook and invite others to feast with them. To eat their fill. Imagine a town where everybody prepares a banquet and invites everybody else to his feast. One resident joking described it as a day of “Chop belleful”. Eat your fill. [Jeun]kayo.
The big magnet that draws Epe’s sons and daughters is the Kayokayo Carnival, where rave-of-the moment fuji musicians are invited to entertain the teeming revellers that besiege the town. The likes of K1, Obesere, Saheed Osupa and Adewale Ayuba had thrilled the town in the past on the closing day of the festival. In 2016, the town was bursting at the seam as people travelled all the way from Lagos, and from as far as Ibadan, to watch Pasuma performed. This year, it is the turn of Shefiu Alao. Today, October 21, the closing day of 2017 Kayokayo festival, Epe town will rock late into the night.
According to Alhaji Alade Saliu-Okulu, the chairman, of Kayokayo planning committee, plans are underway to turn it into a global festival, and in this quest, they are emboldened by the infrastructural transformation of the town in the past 24 months. In the last 12 months, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode commissioned 72 government chalets and new road network bisects the town, giving Epe a brand-new visage.
Saliu-Okulu, who is the Baameto of Epe Kingdom, proudly spoke of ongoing efforts to rebrand and launch the Kayokayo logo, and of a well-laid plan to create a Guinness Record. “By the time we are given approval by the government, it will be a festival that can rival the Rio Carnival,” he affirmed.