Tuesday, the eighth of May, marked the Oro Day Festival in Ikorodu. On this day, women are traditionally told to stay within the confines of their home in order to avoid the lethal wrath of the Orisha known as “Oro”. Responses to this age-old tradition likely differ based on ideological stance, but one thing cannot be denied: the subjugation and exclusion of women under several such Nigerian traditions.
The exclusion of women from participating in the Oro Festival parallels the nature of the Egungun festival, during which it is considered an abomination for women to look at masquerades in the eye. In a similar fashion, the presence of women at the shrine ground during the Igbo New Yam Festival is forbidden.
Of course, there is a need to maintain and uphold our traditions. But, contrary to popular belief, excluding Nigerian women from festivities is not in line with tradition at all. According to Yoruba oral tradition, women were the original custodians of the egungun practice but were tricked by men who took the powers from them. Likewise, the Yoruba god, Olodumare sets no rules of discrimination in the Yoruba cosmic perception concerning the male or the female. Therefore, any traditional justifications for the exclusion or victimisation of Nigerian women are both unfounded and intolerable.
The ayangburen of Ikorodu and the Commissioner of Police in Lagos issued a joint statement that any reports forbidding women from moving about freely on this Oro Day is the handwork of mischief makers. Indeed, patriarchal traditions also indirectly encourage and enable violent crimes against women including sexual assault and domestic abuse. We cannot continue to let tradition veil the actions of criminals and those who abuse their power in this country. According to Onibokum and Kumuyi, Nigerian women experience poverty culturally through ruthlessness.
And in addition to ending economic poverty, we must end this discriminatory cultural poverty as well. We Nigerians must put an end to the fallacious traditional justification of misogynistic behaviour and beliefs. May God Bless our beloved Country, Nigeria.
Funmilayo Adetokubo A-A, a Political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.