Finally, the chickens have come home to roost. The Lagbaja behind Opilogue has unmasked himself like Gbandu, the legendary Ife masquerade. To the uninitiated, Gbandu is a fiery, no nonsense egungun (masquerade) of the Alapansanpa pedigree. (Alapansanpa is a famous Ibadan masquerade). They are both daring. In a fit of anger or spiritual delirium Gbandu may suddenly remove his mask for all to see. There is no taboo in his egungun dictionary.
Unlike most masquerades he does not indulge in any guttural sophistry or in the luxury of whipping people with (koboko) horsewhip or (ore) the traditional whip. Instead he uses his bare hands to lash at your buttocks. Then, woe betides whomsoever he beats! Hence the song, "Bi Gbandu na e o, bo o de 'le o fogun sari e, bo o de 'le e e". (If Gbandu beats you with his bare hands make sure you perform some rituals when you reach home.) When he removes his mask his lieutenants rush to cover up the taboo but Gbandu does not care. He revels in doing the unusual, the unexpected, the funny, the bizarre.
This habit of removing his facial mask is often the climax of his outing during the egungun festival. But who dares to look Gbandu in the face? It's like daring to look at the face of Gorgon Medusa, the woman in Greek mythology whose hairs are snakes and who turns any man that looks in her face to stone.
Fortunately the Opilogue man who unmasked himself on the internet, May 22, 2009, is anything but Gorgon Medusa. He is as common as the guy next door. But why has he chosen to go the way of Gbandu? Why didn't he remain pictorially anonymous like Lagbaja, omo baba mukomuko, the Africano music exponent? It is necessary to clear some cobwebs of confusion over his identity. Some do not even know that the opiloguist is a man. Not a few think he is a lady. But, for Pete's sake, how did they come about that weird assumption?! Yet some think he is a boy!! For the sake of those who want to know the face behind the mask and those who think it is infra dig to open a blog and not show one's face (Is that not meant for those on Facebook or My Space?) Mr Opilogue has literally gone naked to the marketplace. As you can see he is not Omoye, the proverbial little kid who went to the market without her clothes on, but rather Baba Omoye (Omoye’s father) himself. No amount of lexical wrappers can cover up his nakedness again. He has come this far.
His journey through life is a study in hardship and hard work ('Original Sufferhead', as Fela would put it). It is a journey that has been long and tortuous. You can see from his blood-shot eyes, yet this is a man who has never smoked a stick of cigarette in his life. They are red as a result of nature inflicted pressure. The soles of his feet are worn out like the soles of Obama's shoes while on the campaign trail during the last American elections ( see the TIME picture of his weather-beaten shoes). He has traversed the nooks and crannies of this world like a Jehova Witness preaching the gospel of love and social justice. Born in Agege (Lagos State) when eyes were literally located on the knees, bred in Ife (Osun State) and buttered (educated) in Ondo (Ondo State) and Ibadan (Oyo State), he has worked in Kazaure (Jigawa State), Okene (Kogi State), Ogbomoso (Oyo State), Ibadan (Oyo State) and currently in Lagos (Lagos State). His working experience began with a stint in the civil service of old Western State as an inspector of farm produce meant for export; another short period in the teaching service during which he taught at Oro Grammar School, Oro, (Kwara State), Government Secondary School, Kazaure, Community High School, Ogaminana, Okenne, Baptist High School, Ogbomoso and Lagelu Grammar School, Ibadan.
He has also been to many corners of the world including USA, Britain, Sweden, Tunisia, Ethiopa, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Congo, Angola, Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic. But has he ever visited his hometown?
Mr Opilogue comes from a town variously referred to as 'Jerusalem', 'Little London', 'Honolulu' or simply 'The Beauty in the Valley'. But on the map of Nigeria it is represented by a tiny dot inside an equally tiny state called Osun. And now, if Osun State is called the state of the Living Spring, Otan Ayegbaju, his hometown, is a magnificent linear settlement which crawls round the feet of its ancient hills that jealously cast a perpetual shadow of protection over its inhabitants. Though predominantly Ijesha, they are a shouting distance from Ekiti State. It takes a 30-minute drive from Otan Ayegbaju through Ila Orangun to Oke Imesi in Ekiti West.
Now you know the man behind the metaphorical lagbaja mask. He is, perhaps, not as cute and urbane as you might have thought. Indeed, it will be stretching imagination too far to describe him as a macho man. That will be sending the models on a laughing spree on the catwalk. One thing is sure, however, he is not a spring chicken as somebody once suggested in a text message. Neither is he a “winter turkey” nor a polar bear! His feet, like his blood-shot eyes, have seen better days. By now they are already used to roving the dark streets and blind alleys in search of a true meaning to life in Nigeria other than the cash-and-carry mentality of the average Nigerian.
You may call him 'ara oke', if that's cheeky enough, and he will not take offence. Rather he is akin to take it literal because he actually lives upland among hills way back home though not on top like the now famous Koma (comma?) people of Adamawa. If you care to know, his coindigenes are not comma but semi-colon(!) who live in 'koto' (valley) and 'geregere' (slopy terrain) where the infantry moves faster than the cavalry.
Now you know it. The Opilogue man has unmasked himself. The myth has been broken and the mystery is gone. The black arrows shall fly no more.