Mike Adenuga, Ojude Oba Festival and the soft power benefits
It is like a carnival, but one more sublime — with a deep cultural and spiritual tenor. The king sits on high in majestic splendour as the regberegbe (age grades) attired in distinct but beautifully coruscating regalia and costumes saunters through paying homage; there is a freewheeling display of cultural sophistication – art, music, poetry, mock war, ornamented horses and other thrills. This is the Ojude Oba Festival. A cultural festival that has flourished in national influence, significance and appeal over the years.
The Ojude Oba Festival is an aesthetic fete of the Ijebu people of Ogun state. It is held annually – on the third day of Eid el Kabir. The festival is believed to have been held for over 100 years. It has become one of Nigeria’s cultural exports like the Osun-Osogbo festival which attracts a global audience and annual participants of over 100,000 people. In Brazil, a country with a rich cultural heritage like Nigeria, festivals are one of the viable revenue earners and a means of influencing or exerting cultural identity on the global consciousness – a soft power. According to Statista, Brazil’s Lollapalooza Festival was the third highest-grossing festival globally in 2019.
Ojude Oba Festival is well on its way to becoming a global cultural staple with the support of sons of the land like Chief Michael Adenuga. But the festival is just one of many such creative efforts that Chief Adenuga, the Otunba Apesin of Ijebu land, sponsors.
Chief Adenuga is a Nigerian billionaire businessman. Through his company, Globacom, which is one of Nigeria’s largest telecom operators, he has immensely supported and promoted art, artistes, sports, music and the whole artistry chain in Nigeria and Africa. He is, perhaps, the biggest votary of Nigeria’s Nollywood and music festivals.
Chief Adenuga, unassuming and modest, continues to support the arts in Nigeria without seeking personal recognition or credit. He is in the background giving a fillip to the creative industry in Nigeria without calling a marching band.
The Ojude Oba Festival for 2022 was held on Monday — the festival was not held for two years owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a cynosure of cultural, spiritual and social intercourse as sons and daughters of Ijebu land from across the country and the world converged to celebrate their heritage. Globacom was a prime sponsor of the festival. The company has supported the festival for over 15 years and continues in this virtuous pursuit.
Oba Sikiru Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebu land, hailed Globacom for the feat. The Oba was said to have described Globacom ‘’as an unrelenting supporter which takes pride in the Nigerian culture and prayed for its continued success and prosperity’’.
Chief Adenuga, Globacom chairman, in his goodwill message to the festival, said “the brand’s continued collaboration with the Ojude Oba Festival Committee is rooted in its passionate commitment to celebrate the best of Nigeria’s cultures and traditions with a view to conserving them for posterity.”
“We believe in supporting platforms for our diverse peoples across the country to fully express their cultures and traditions. This has become all the more expedient with the advent of globalisation. Our cultures are a major part of our history which should be preserved,” he said.
Truly, our cultures are a major part of our history and should be preserved. They are a means through which our imprints in time remain unfading. Festivals like Ojude Oba keep the social and cultural umbilicus alive and can be harnessed as soft power to promote indigenous values and interests as well as national ethos and interests. Other eminent Nigerians should learn from Chief Adenuga and become votaries and patrons of our culture.
For his contributions to father land, Chief Adenuga was made Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger by the government of Nigeria in 2012. In 2018, he was adorned with the insignia of a Commander of the Legion of Honour by President Emmanuel Macron of France. In 2019, he was listed as one of the Top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine.
Chief Adenuga persists in doing good without fanfare or showmanship. He retains his seat in the background while patroning Nigeria’s creative industry. He is not seen, but his impact continues to effectuate cosmic ripples across sectors.
By Fredrick Nwabufo; Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.