By Olayinka Tunde Olufemi
This year Ojude Oba festival might have come and gone but the memories, the frills and thrills, the music, the deft horse riding, the colourful attires as adorned by the thousands who came from far and near to attend the annual event including the different age-grade groups (regberegbes) and many more makes the event one global tourists attraction that must be watched out for annually.
As early as 7am, the guests in their resplendent attires have started trooping into the 50,000 capacity beautifully decorated Ojude Oba pavilion opposite the palatial palace of the Awujale and Paramount ruler of Ijebu land, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona. The festival is celebrated every third day after the Muslims’ Eid-del Kabir which is fondly called “Ileya” by the Yorubas.
The yearly event which usually attract dignitaries and eminent personalities across the country provides opportunity for the Ijebus and their friends at home and in diaspora to come around and pay homage to the Awujale for his love and qualitative leadership roles in the last one year.
The dignitaries are usually led by the governor of Ogun State and for this year it was Gov Dapo Abiodun ably assisted by former governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba, Alhaji Sulaiman Adegunwa, CEO Bigi Drinks and Rite Foods.
Featuring prominently in this colourful occasion is the parade by the different age-grade groups called “Regberegbes” who usually step out in different stylish and very stunning attires during when they go pay homage to the Paramount ruler and Awujale of Ijebu land, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona.
One other eye-catching feature of this annual festival is the colourful display of the horse riders. This is usually the exclusive preserve of the Baloguns, that is, the lineage of family warriors in Ijebu land.
Aside serving as a big platform to market and showcase the rich cultural heritage of Ijebu land, the festival is also said to have assisted in promoting peace and unity across Ijebu land while also serving as rallying point to undertake several developmental projects to make life more bearable for the people.
The massive economic activities that revolve around this yearly festival is also huge given the thousands of people and tourists that come from different parts of the country and even outside the country to attend the event, what of the the resources that go into the beautiful attires that people specially made for the occasion, how about the different foods on parade, the entertainment, the lodging of guests and so much more. It is unarguably one festival that is impacting our economy for good.
Speaking during this year celebration, Director-General, National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) Otunba Segun Runsewe described the annual Ojude Oba festival as a significant celebration providing big boost to the development of tourism sector in the country.
Otunba Segun Runsewe said he was so happy to discover when he was at the airport on a a day before the festival that over 3500 came into the country to attend this year Ojude Oba festival, saying that the annual celebration of the rich cultural heritage of the Ijebus has continued to get bigger and more colourful helping to grow the tourism sector in the country.
Runsewe lauded the Awujale for establishing the first of its kind museum within the palace saying that the federal government recognised this huge contributions to preserve the cherished traditions of the Ijebus famous for being industrious and business merchants.
The DG while rejoicing with Oba Adetona on the occasion of this year celebration presented three awards to the monarch. The Platinum gold award was for the royal father for setting up the first ever palace museum, the second was the hosting of Ojude Oba festival and the third was for the resourcefulness of the Awujale said to be longest reigning king in the world.
Runsewe said that the federal government would always do all that are within its ability to develop the tourism sector due to its potentials to help in creating wealth and income for the country.
The Chairman of the occasion, Dr Olu Oke-Owo while welcoming the participants to the ceremony hailed the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the Awujale for putting up such colourful global festival every year praying that the almighty God will continue to strengthen him and preserve him for many more years to come.
In his short remarks at the event, the Awujale, Oba Sikiru Adetona congratulated the sons and daughters of Ijebu land on the celebration of this year festival.
Oba Awujale urged them all to continue working towards the development of the Ijebu land, Ogun State and Nigeria as a whole.
Meanwhile, the governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun has mulled the establishment of a cultural festival aimed at promoting the tradition and culture of the people.
Speaking at this year’s Ojude Oba festival with the theme, “A Lesson for Religious Harmony”, Gov Abiodun said that the festival would take the shape of the Ojude Oba celebration.
According to the governor, the Ojude Oba Festival has the pride of not only the Ijebus, but the entire Ogun East, adding his administration is looking at how it would make a statewide cultural festival like the Ojude Oba, that would bring people from all parts of Ogun State to showcase their arts and culture as a means of promoting unity.
“This festival no doubt is a unifying factor for the entire people of Ijebuland, defining our greatest culture in the most eloquent manner.
” This year’s festival presents a unique opportunity to display our hospitality and enviable tradition to a national audience and the global community.
” As a government, we are taking a lead from this festival, we are going to ensure we now begin to look at having a state wide festival like these.
” Let me emphatically state that the scope of the Ojude Oba festival which is a socially rooted in culture and communal creation has now become something that has now improved the social economic development of our state,” he said.
He described the annual festival as a cultural and spiritual event, which has become a pride to the ijebuland and serves as a rallying point for the indigenes of the area, assuring that the state would witness more developmental projects during his second term in office.
As we eagerly await the return of this colourful festival next year, it is quite evident that Ojude Oba celebration will continue to grow and really be a big boost to the developing the tourism sector.
OLAYINKA TUNDE OLUFEMI is a Principal Information Officer with the Ogun State Government.