How Adetona primed Ojude Oba as culture tourism product
With Eid-el-Fitri over, the attention of Ijebu indigenes will now switch to Ojude Oba, a cultural festival held on the third day after Eid-el-Kabir. The famous festival started out in 1892, when the then Oba Adesumbo Tunwase offered landed properties to Muslims for a mosque to be built. He also offered British missionaries opportunity to preach Christianity in Ijebu land as well as the land where St Saviours, Italupe, the first church in Ijebu was built.
The festival started as a religious event, when a small number of adherents and followers of the Islamic religion chose to pay homage and show appreciation to the reigning monarch for his kind gesture and benevolence to them. However, the festival has transcended religious lines today and it attracts people of all faith as well as tourists from within and outside Nigeria.
On the event’s day, the town is literally shut down, hotels in Ijebu-Ode are fully booked and there is so much to eat and drink. The day offers them opportunity to celebrate their heritage and have a once in a year meeting with family and friends.
The two days before Ojude Oba Festival is for Muslims to savour and enjoy the Eid with their families, friends, and well-wishers. On the third day, Muslims, Christians, dignitaries, tourists and even visitors, troop to the Oba Sikiru Adetona Golden Jubilee Centre to witness and experience the glamour of the festival.
Horse-riding among the various families and male/female dance groups are two important features of the festival. The different horse riding families dress their horses and exhibit their skill to the admiration of spectators. Meanwhile, for the dance competition, men and women belonging to different age-groups called regberegbe display their dancing prowess. The best-dressed regberegbe and horse-riding family will be rewarded with cash prizes.
One individual that has taking this festival to a great height is the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona. He was installed as the king in 1960, making him one of the longest reigning monarchs in the country. His father was Prince Rufai Adeto and mother, Alhaja Ajibabi Adetona (née Onashile).
Over the years, he has primed this local feast to a culture tourism product. Cultural tourism is international travel directed towards experiencing local arts, heritage, landscapes, traditions and lifestyles. It is a broad market with many sub or niche markets — architectural and archaeological treasures, culinary activities, festivals or events, historic or heritage sites, monuments and landmarks, museums and exhibitions, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries and religious venues, temples and mosques.
Adetona has keyed in to the vision that for Project Destination Nigeria to succeed at all levels, different tiers of managers, policy makers and investors in Nigerian culture sector have to embark on cultural transformation and become disciples and drivers of the vision. He believes that Nigeria has cultural products to sell: No matter where you look, there is art and culture in Nigeria that could be marketed.
The UNWTO estimates that cultural tourism accounts for about 40 per cent of global tourism. Oba Adetona has encouraged modification of culture and traditions by removing those aspects that are barbaric and inimical to modern civilisation. For this, Ijebus are grateful to him. For example, Ijebu Obas on their demise are now buried according to their religious beliefs eliminating old unwholesome practices.
As an enlightened monarch, he believes that culture is dynamic and, therefore encouraged those changes that enable his people to meet with modern times.In his quest to energise his people and promote socio-economic development of Ijebuland and Nigeria as a nation, he invested his personal funds in industrial enterprises, thereby providing employment opportunities for his people.
Oba Adetona, in addition to encouraging the citizens’ participation in ijebu industrial development programmes, revived the age-grade system, the regberegbe, for meaningful and more effective development of his domain. This strategy is yielding results as the regberegbe have been an essential part of traditional Ijebu democratic form of government.
On the national scene, Oba Sikiru Adetona has added enormous dignity to the status of the office of the Awujale through his comportment, integrity, courage, sincerity, creditability and reasoned contributions to national debates and issues. Oba Adetona assists and rewards merits; he encourages honesty, ingenuity and creativity. He liberally promotes every useful design towards socioeconomic emancipation and improvement of Ijebuland, Yorubaland and Nigeria in general. Consequently, His reign as the Awujale has been blessed with a lot of development.
At no time in the history of the Ijebus has an Oba been such a great rallying point of people. His desire for good governance in Nigeria led to the endowment of a N250 million professorial chair at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State.The Awujale explained that he wanted to see Nigeria takes a giant stride in the area of good governance stemming from quality education, research, mentorship and community engagement.
On his interest in western education as custodian of culture, Oba Adetona said that was a move with the times.“Time was when governance, as it is known today, resided with royal fathers and traditional institutions,” the monarch said. “With the times we are in, people still expect us as royal fathers to exert some form of influence on the political class, whereas there is no provision in the constitution empowering us to exercise direct control over them. So I reckon that the best way to make this influence effective is through constructive institutional engagement, mentorship and research. These are areas I am convinced this endowment can be very impactful.”
Oba Adetona said he was optimistic that Nigeria would benefit from the initiative and enjoined other well-meaning people to lend their support to such good causes.While commending the Ijebu monarch, the foremost historian, Emeritus Professor Anthony Asiwaju, described Oba Adetona as the oracle of Ijebuland, voice of the voiceless, epitome of moral authority, defender of peoples’ rights and exemplar of responsible governance.
In the same vein, Chairman of Globacom Limited, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr., while donating the sum of N20 million to the Chair on Good Governance for the expansion of the frontiers of knowledge and generation of ideas for Nigeria’s development, said Oba Adetona is a fearless and incorruptible patriot who speaks truth to power and works tirelessly for the enthronement of good governance in the country.
“Anybody who knows our royal father very well would not be surprised that he endowed a professorial chair for Good Governance. Since infancy, our royal father has been deeply involved in the promotion of good governance in the country. In the over five decades that the Awujale has been on the throne of his forefathers, Ijebuland has witnessed phenomenal giant strides in all sectors of the economy,” Adenuga enthused.
Oba Adetona is also not happy with the non-involvement of traditional rulers in policy making in the country as it were in the colonial era. He stated that the traditional rulers were more close to the people hence the need for them to be included in making policies in the country.
He, however, lamented that as soon as the politicians took over governance, the politicians neglected them in policy formulation. Adetona said, “when the colonial masters came, they recognised the role of the Obas in the society and there was peace and stability. It is sad to note that our present political leaders do not recognise the role of traditional rulers in the society.
“They are supposed to consult with the Obas because they are closer to the people and they know the problems and yearnings of the people.Today, Obas are speechless and sidelined; they cannot contribute to government policies; this is why we are experiencing killings, armed robbery, thuggery and violence in the country.“Obas are not worshipers of idols, they are in charge of the people. Government should contact the Obas before they roll out policies because they know the yearnings and the needs of their people.”
Adetona also urged the Federal Government to invest more on the security of lives and property and not infrastructure alone. According to him, if lives are not secured, who will utilise the infrastructure?
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