The Eyo is the masquerade that comes out only in Lagos Island. It is believed to represent the spirits of the ancestors. The Eyo festival may be held in honour of a chief or an elder of a ruling family or an Oba, who had died. It may also be held when a new head of an Iga (palace) or a new Oba is installed.
Back in the days, The Eyo festival is held to escort the soul of a departed Lagos King or Chief and to usher in a new king. But with the advent of westernization and modernization, a governor or a political leader may also request that the festival be organized to add colour to an occasion for a fee.
The first procession in Lagos was on the 20th of February, 1854, to commemorate the life of the Oba Akintoye.
Each Eyo comes out of an Iga (palace) of a ruling family in the morning and heads for the shrine (Agodo). It is robed from head to toe in white flowing cloth. The white flowing costume consists of an ‘agbada’ (the top robe), and the ‘aropale’ (the bottom wrap around). No part of the person carrying the Eyo is expected to be seen. The Eyo also wears an ‘Akete’ a hat that bears the colours and shield of the Iga from which he comes. An Eyo may tie ribbons in his Iga’s colours to the Opambata (palm branch) that he carries. An Iga’s Eyo may have up to 50 to 100 or more members. Each person carrying a robe as Eyo must pay a fee for the privilege. This fee is paid to the Iga – ruling house, whose colours and Akete the Eyo wears.
Among the Yorubas, the indigenous religions have largely lost the greater majority of their traditional followers to Christianity and Islam. Be that as it may, the old festivals are still almost universally observed as tourist attractions which generate a lot of revenue for government and small businesses around the Lagos Island venue of the Eyo festival. It is during these occasions that their traditional monarchs and nobles exercise the most of their residual power.