Ijebu land agog for Ojude Oba Festival
For regulars, who participate in the colourful feast spiced with music, dance and spectacular horse rides, Ojude Oba has become a major item in the country’s event calendar.
However, for guests, who were in Ijebu Ode on Thursday for this year’s celebration, the fiesta has become a melting pot for culture and politics.
As usual, the entire Ijebuland, Ogun State, was in festive mood on Thursday, as the kingdom celebrated this year’s Ojude Oba Festival, which in Ijebu dialect means the king’s forecourt or frontage.
In fact, right from the Shagamu-Benin Expressway, you could tell that something spectacular was happening; billboards and banners dotted the entire corridor.
One by one, group by group, guests kept trooping into the town from different sections of the roads, with a combined team of police officers, men of the FRSC and Civil Defense on hand to ensure free flow of traffic.
Even at that, you still find charlatans display their poor driving skills in the name of celebration.
Though Ojude Oba has also had some elements of politics, this year’s edition was very obvious.
However, with the 2019 elections just around the corner, it is expected that politicians would sure take advantage to sell their candidates.
From massive billboards to banners and posters, political adverts dotted the entire stretch into Ijebu town.
In fact, under the Ijebu-Ode Flyover, excitement filled the air, as supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari, in their branded t-shirts, took over the area, chanting support for Mr. President and his Vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
Though both men where nowhere around Ijebu Ode on this day, APC supporters, in their branded cars, used the opportunity to campaign for their reelection.
Few poles into the town were supporters of the Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki, drumming and chanting political song in his support.
Brandishing banners with inscription, ‘Buki for President,’ the crowd waited patiently under the light showers to welcome the embattled Senate President, who was the Special Guest of Honour for 2018 Festival.
Notwithstanding, it was a peaceful atmosphere, as both camps were orderly; it was unwarlike.
Meanwhile, with the rate at which the festival is growing, you don’t necessarily need to be at the main arena to be part of the feast; entertainment was everywhere.
Aside from locals, who created mini arenas in their frontage, with DJs blasting popular Naija tunes, corporate organisations and blue-chip businesses staged mini concerts, with artistes performing on stage.
Beyond entertainment, it was a platform for the organisations to sell their brands and showcase their products and it worked.
In fact, most of the revelers never bothered to get into the main arena; with assorted gift items on display, it was natural for them to hang on.
Though many organisations showed their presence at the event, you can’t but notice that FCMB and Globacom made noticeable impact; their visibility was massive.
Unlike previous editions, when vehicles were allowed up to the Alhaja Salamatu Kuku Library, this year was different; vehicular movement ended at the first roundabout.
Even the ever-lawless okada riders, who made effort to thwart the plan met brick-walls; the traffic officers refused to be pushed.
“Oga, you either use the alternative route or you move back; nobody is going beyond this point, it’s an instruction,” one of the officers ordered.
At the main roundabout leading into the palace of HRM, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, the Awujale of the Ijebu Kingdom, the traditional arena for the yearly celebration, the atmosphere was frenzy, with different cultural troupes and groups making their way into the arena in colourful outfits with security officers on guard.
As soon as the convoy of the Senate President pulled over and made its way to the arena, the whole place became charged, as his supporters cheered him.
Within seconds, some broom wielding APC youths thronged the venue chanting ‘Sai Baba, Sai Buhari.’
Made of both men and women, the youth, who wore branded t-shirts of some APC candidates attempted gaining access into the main arena, but were stopped by the security men; there was no resistance though, as they retreated back, still chanting their song.
Except for few traders, particularly those from the southeastern part of the country, who opened for business, the town was literally shut down, with all hotels fully booked.
And for the people of Ijebu-Ode, who are known for their insatiable love of parties, is was an opportunity to celebrate their heritage and have a once in a year meeting with family and friends.
Even as residents had set up canopies in their various locations in readiness for the celebration, all roads led to the Oba’s Golden Jubilee Centre, where the celebration held.
At the main arena, different Age Grades were seated in groups, observing proceedings at the high table.
Dressed in flamboyant outfits that distinguished each group from another, they created a colourful ambience, with extreme pomp and pageantry.
Not even the rain could stop the Ijebus from showcasing their rich cultural heritage.
On arrival, Saraki, who was accompanied by Senators Ben Bruce, Dino Melaye and others, went round, acknowledging cheers from the crowd before making his way to the VIP Arena, where the likes of Otunba Subonmi Balogun, Olorogun Sonny Kuku and others were already seated.
Amidst heavy singing, dancing and drumming, each Age Grade (Regberegbe) took turns to pay homage to the paramount ruler of Ijebu-land, by presenting him with different foodstuffs and other items.
Both men and women belonging to different Regberegbe also displayed their dancing prowess.
Particularly, horse riding among the various families (Baloguns) and male/female dance groups were the highpoints of the festival. Amidst intermittent gunshots, the families, riding on beautifully dressed horses, exhibited their horsemanship to the admiration of spectators.
Though all the Baloguns had impressive displays, the arrival of Balogun Kuku sparked excitement in the audience; they were energetic in their display.
Led by Olorogun Sonny Kuku, they got the arena fully charged in their horsemanship, with den guns going off in staccato rhythm.
In the end, the best-dressed regberegbe and horse-riding family were rewarded with cash prizes.
Traditionally, the festival organisers hold several competitions as a way of integrating all the Ijebus in the festival.
This year, Egbe Tobalase Okunrin was adjudged as the best male age group and was presented with a trophy.
Egbe Bobamoyegun Okunrin Asiwaju came second, while Bobamoyegun Akile Okunrin placed third.
In the Female group, Bobamoyegun Obinrin Asiwaju won the first prize, Bobagunte Omooba came second, while Bobagunte Obinrin Gold emerged third.
In the Equestrian (Horse riders) category, the inimitable Kuku Family came first, Balogun Shoye came second and Balogun Odunuga Family finished third.
Meanwhile, a 200-level Accounting student of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ololade Aminat Adeiye, Friday night, emerged Miss Ojude Oba 2018.
In the keenly contested beauty pageant, sponsored by telecoms operator, Globacom, 19-year-old Adeiye defeated 12 others to pick the crown in the event that held at the Equity Hotel, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State.
An Environmental Education graduate of University of Benin, Kofoworola Osoteku, emerged second, while Halimah Olorode of the Economics Department of the Olabisi Onabanjo University came third.
The beauty queens were exemplars of Ijebuland and were tested on proficiency in Ijebu dialect, culture, poise, composure and general knowledge.
“I’m very happy to win. I never expected I would emerge the queen of our prized festival.
Honestly, it is great to be the Queen of Ojude Oba; it is something I have been looking forward to,” highly elated Adeiye said with broad smiles after the beauty pageant that drew curtains on 2018 Ojude Oba festival.
Similarly, 30-year-old Ayodele Dada, who teaches Mathematics in a private school, Quite Pretty School, Ijebu Ode, won a brand new Hyundai Accent car, the star prize of the Raffle Draw organised by Globacom at the festival sponsored by the telecommunications giant.
Indeed, drama followed the raffle draw that pulled out the winner’s name before the unprecedented crowd.
The rule of the draw was that the winner must be at the venue.
Unfortunately, the first three names pulled out by the Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Dr. Sikiru Kayode Adetona were not present at the event.
But luck fell on Dada, who screamed from the crowd when his number was called.
He caused a huge buzz as he wriggled his way through the massive crowd to mount the dais, looking ruffled and dazed.
The Festival officials calmed him down and asked him to button his shirt before the key of the car was presented to him by the Guest of Honour and Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, assisted by Globacom’s representative at the grand finale, Mr. Folu Aderibigbe.
Meanwhile, there were other lucky winners in the draw who went home with various consolation prizes.
They included 40-year-old Adeyiga Adeboye, 33-year-old Oshin Oluwadara and 34-year-old trader Dupe Saheed, who won refrigerators.
Aside from 40-year-old teacher, Fakeye Oluwafemi, who won a plasma television set, other winners were 25-year-old Facility Manager, Jimoh Toheeb, who won a generator and Ogundijo Adekunle, a civil servant who went home with a microwave oven.
However, the paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Sikiru Adetona has warned politicians and their supporters not to turn the Ojude Oba festival of his people into a campaign forum.
“Those who were waving the brooms are not of Ijebu extraction. I believe they must have been hired.
Ojude Oba is over 100 years, what you did today has never happened before.
Many groups are here, but what you have done today has never happened,” the monarch said.
“I believe most of you are not members of the APC. We have people from Peoples Democratic Party, APC, Social Democratic Party among others here. Ojude Oba is about culture and tradition. It is non-political.
It has been like that since our forefathers started it. It is an abomination for anyone to drag politics into it.
“I want to appeal in the name of God; such act should not repeat itself here.
Those people who hired you, if they are bold enough, they should show their faces”, he said.
In his remarks, Saraki, who was the Special Guest of Honour at the event, described the festival as a platform for Ijebu people to meet, interact and showcase their cultural heritage.
He said despite its origins in Islam, the festival does not exclude any religious groups, adding that the country should borrow a leaf of co-existence from it.
“I would like to say, with some emphasis, that our dear country, Nigeria, would do well to draw important lessons from an event such as this.
We are one. Religion should not constitute a wedge or barrier between us.
“This is what illustrious Ijebu people demonstrate to us yearly with this festival.
Muslims, Christians and others can be found among us here today, and I understand that this is how it has been since the very beginning.”
Saraki, who had in his entourage his wife and eight federal lawmakers, said, “Ojude Oba affirms that Nigeria’s cultures are veritable sources of revenue, if well packaged.”
In his remarks, Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, described the festival as a symbol of national unity, which has become a tourist attraction across and outside Nigeria. He noted that it has become a rallying point for the Ijebu people.
Represented by his deputy, Yetunde Onanuga, Mr Amosun congratulated the Awujale for the successful hosting of this year’s Ojude Oba festival.
“Ojude Oba is a celebration of a rich cultural heritage. It is an avenue for cultural re-awakening.
It is a symbol of identity for Ijebu people all over the world,” the governor noted.
Meanwhile, First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Limited has urged Nigerians to sustain the country’s cultural heritage in order to boost tourism and its associated benefits.
According to the Bank, this will go a long way to educate and inspire generations about the history of Nigeria, the people and values, while also fast-tracking the ongoing efforts of the government to diversify the economy.
The Bank has over the years been a major sponsor of the Festival and has continued to play a significant role in ensuring its success.
For this year’s Festival, FCMB has assured its stakeholders of an exciting and rewarding experience, including excellent products and services on offer, for the thousands of people within and outside the country that would grace the fiesta.
In a goodwill message to the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Adetona on the occasion of this year’s Festival, the Founder of FCMB Group who is also the Olori Omo-Oba Akile Ijebu, Otunba (Dr) Olasubomi Balogun, expressed his gratitude to the monarch emphasising the paramount ruler’s selflessness in attending to the different requests and yearnings of the people of Ijebuland.
“I sincerely appreciate the amazing grace of the same Almighty God we share together, much more for sparing our lives to celebrate yet another Ojude Oba Festival.
The Festival provides us- all your children and subjects, the period when we gather to pay you homage and demonstrate our affection for a very unique monarch, an exceptional father figure and the Paramount Ruler who has continued to endear himself to his people.
Apart from being the Olori Ebi (the head of the family, by the grace of Almighty God and interestingly not in contest by all who admire the grace of our God), as your Olori Omo-Oba (the head of princes and princesses), I will continue to lead the way in showing our appreciation by being very close to you and showing my total loyalty to you.”
While congratulating the entire indigenes of Ijebuland, the FCMB Founder also prayed that the monarch’s reign would, “continue to be filled with many more years of joy, good health and satisfaction in all that you endeavour to do for your people both at home and in the diaspora.”
Giving insight into the history of Ojude Oba, Otunba Balogun noted that every Ijebu person looks forward to the yearly festival that celebrates the rich culture of the Ijebus.
“I think it was about 1892, when my own ancestor Oba Adesumbo Tunwase, who actually signed the treaty of relationship with the British Queen, gave land to the Muslims to establish their Central Mosque.
At the same time, he agreed with the British missionaries to preach Christianity in Ijebu Land and even went further to allow some of his children to be baptized.
To cap it all, he gave the land on which the first church in Ijebu Land was built, St Saviours Italupe. When Ojude Oba started, it was the Muslims, who used it as an occasion to pay homage and give their appreciation to the reigning monarch for all these beneficent he’s giving them,” he said.
In the same vein, the Group Chief Executive of FCMB Group Plc, Mr. Ladi Balogun, congratulated the monarch for upholding the values of Ijebuland and raising the status of the event over the years.
He reiterated the commitment of the financial institution to the longevity of the Ojude Oba Festival.
“For all true sons and daughters of Ijebuland, the Ojude Oba Festival is more than an event for us.
It has become a long-standing yearly tradition we look forward to as a unifying platform and a tourist attraction.
For over a century, the Festival has become an internationally acclaimed event that has gone a long way to promote our cultural heritage and further unify humanity.
As a socially responsible corporate citizen, we recognise that respect for our heritage is important as a catalyst of cultural diversity and a guarantee of sustainable development,” he said.
Mr. Balogun added that, “the Ojude Oba Festival, for us at FCMB, is not just another event.
It is a pride to us; being a major platform through which we connect with the community and promote our nation’s diversity through purposeful partnership.
The annual display of rich cultural heritage via the Festival attracts tourists from across the globe and Ijebu indigenes in the diaspora, boosting trade and the hospitality sector in the region.
It is time to begin to see the Ojude Oba Festival as a fulcrum to inspire individuals, awaken their entrepreneurial spirit and encourage the birthing of other endeavours that stimulate development in a sustainable manner.”
Long before the Ojude Oba festival became an all-encompassing showpiece, it used to be a small gathering of adherents and followers of the Islamic religion.
Today, however, the festival has transcended religious lines and attracts people of all faiths, as well as tourists from within and outside the country.
Usually, two days before the Ojude-Oba festival is for Muslims to mark the Eid with their families, friends, and well-wishers.
Then, on the third day, Christians, dignitaries, tourists and visitors join them at the Awujale’s Palace to witness the glamour of the festival, which aims at celebrating the rich culture and heritage of the people of Ijebu-Ode.
They celebrated via resplendent traditional attires, deft hairstyles, cuisine (ifokore) and the reenactment of rare cultural dances and spectacular horsemanship that reminds one of Durbar Festival up north.
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