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Ogidi’s rich cultural heritage on show at New Yam Festival

By John Akubo, Lokoja
15 July 2018   |   3:26 am
Recently, Ogidi community in Kogi State was agog in festivities, as the village hosted this year’s New Yam Festival. Held amidst drama, spectacle and fanfare, it was an event that many wouldn’t forget in a hurry. Eminent personalities including, the Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly, Matthew Kolawole; the National Publicity Secretary of the…

Ogidi people celebrate at the festival

Recently, Ogidi community in Kogi State was agog in festivities, as the village hosted this year’s New Yam Festival. Held amidst drama, spectacle and fanfare, it was an event that many wouldn’t forget in a hurry.

Eminent personalities including, the Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly, Matthew Kolawole; the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kola Ologbondiyan, who was the special guest, the immediate past Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olusola Enikanolaye, all came for the festival that has held consistently for seven years.

As early as 7.00am of June 15, 2018, sound from gunshots boomed intermittently, to invite everybody for the cultural festival.

At the palace of the Ologidi of Ogidi, Alhaji Rabiu Oladimeji Sule, local drummers and dancers were seen singing and dancing. A feeling that equally resonated at the residence of Yeye Oba of Ogidi and curator of Nike Art Gallery, Chief (Mrs.) Nike Okundaye.

The weeklong event is celebrated yearly with cultural performances, presentation of new yam, chieftaincy investitures and awards.

Other activities include, free medical outreach, novelty match, Jumat Service, expedition to the Oroke Oda Mountain and a bonfire.

The arrival of Ologidi to the arena signalled commencement of festivities, with the monarch embarking on what is known as ‘royal dance’, as he went round to greet everybody present.

This was followed by performance from cultural troupes across the country present.

It was indeed a display of the country’s rich cultural heritage, as groups from Tivland, Giri Troupe from Kabba/Bunu, Ondo and Bini troupes and Egungun Monure gave good account of themselves.

In his speech, President General, Ogidi Development Union (ODU), Chief Eniolorunda Ralph, appealed to government to include the cultural festival in its yearly tourism calendar.

Ralph also solicited the support of government towards ensuring that the festival is re-packaged to attract foreign participation.

According to him: “It is the only cultural festival celebrated in June throughout the country.

It is our own new yam festival, which is likened to human regeneration. It’s a celebration of life.”

He noted that the advancement of any society would remain a mirage if development programmes were not infused into the agenda of the society’s socio-cultural system.

He further revealed that the N250 million-endowment fund was aimed at completing ongoing projects in the community and commencement of new ones.

“We will not wait for government before taking the initiative to help our community. Very soon, our hospital will come on spring with a robust partnership with St John Catholic Hospital for the use of our town and other neighbouring communities,” he said.

He continued, “ODU, which is the organiser of the festival, added another traditional Yoruba feature called, ‘Oriki’ to this edition to “spice up the viewing experience” of guests.

Chairman of the occasion, Chief Tunde Thani, in his speech, described the event as a cultural festival that had witnessed tremendous transformation and called on individual and corporate organisations to support the fund raising.

The father of the day, Chief Abiodun Ehindero, said the day is built round new yam, which he noted had existed for long. He,

therefore, called on youths to embrace agriculture in order to have a source of sustenance.

The main event and grand finale held at Ogidi Community Hall ground, where there were lots of spectacle, dramatic displays and dance.

The arrival of Ologidi and his entourage to the venue started the day’s proceedings. A moment of prayer was observed, and thereafter, the sound of the ‘Ogidigbo’ (a local wooden instrument) went on in earnest.

Speaking on the significance of Ogidi Day, the Director General of this year’s event, Mr. Tunde Ipinmisho, who was president of ODU from 2006-2015, said the community had just emerged from a bitter dispute over succession to the Ologidi stool following the late Oba Adeyemi Are Jegede’s demise.

He said the dispute created wrong impression about the community, adding that the cultural fiesta is being organised to draw attention to positive attributes of the town, its vast arable land, rich culture, accommodating nature of the people and the achievements of its sons and daughters in all fields of human endeavour.

According to him, Ogidi has a lot of successful sons and daughters that any town could be proud of, among them are, the late Olympic gold medalist, Sunday Bada; world renowned batik artist, Nike Okundaye; Commissioner of Police for Yobe State, Mr. Sumonu Adeyemi; the nation’s Deputy Commissioner of Insurance, Mr. Olorundare Thomas; retired Executive Director, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Chief Gabriel Mesaiyete; Mr. Gabriel Obando, a General Manager with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Director, Technical Services, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Mr. Femi Oloruntoba and others.

Ipinmisho said the story of Ogidi Day was that of ‘a humble beginning’, which has now become an international event known world over.

Explaining the essence of Ogidi Day, Ipinmisho said, “the festival is about two things: our new yam and our Oba.

The festival is celebrated on New Yam Day. June 15 of every year is our New Yam Festival.

So, we now decided if June 15 falls on a Saturday, we hold the Day on that date, but if not, it would be the following Saturday.

“The essence of the New Yam Festival is to offer thanksgiving to the Almighty who gives increase. It is the Almighty who gives the yield.

In those days, what our people were doing was to bring their farming implements, their hoes and cutlasses and put in a corner of a room, and then they cook food and keep it there.

“They were of the belief that the hoes and cutlasses too should eat. That practice is archaic now, because we know that there is only one God and it is the Almighty that brings the increase.

“Also, number two; it is about our Oba. The Oba is the symbol of our oneness as a community; so, we use the occasion to renew our allegiance to him.

“Not many people come here except they have something doing. So, we felt we could use the festival to bring attention to Ogidi.”

Members of the various cultural troupes and groups, who were colourfully attired, sang and danced in a procession to the point where the Ologidi was seated on the podium, and prostrated before him as a sign of allegiance and honour.

The cultural troupes from Edo and Ondo, the Eyo Masquerades from Lagos State and Nike Okundaye group from Lagos also took turns to pay homage to the Ologidi.

After they were done, female and male groups in the community, the Tiv community in Ogidi, the Kiri Cultural Troupe from Kabba, the Sango Troupe, Egungun Monure and Omolere group equally paid their homage to the Oba.

In the same vein, all the traditional chiefs, titled women of Ogidi, farmers, hunters and the Orotas, amongst others, paid homage.

While on their procession to pay homage to the Oba, the hunters who were all armed with Dane guns and other hunting weapons, demonstrated their hunting expertise and shot intermittently into the air as a mark of honour for the Oba.

The high point was presentation of new yam to Ologidi by Yeye Oba Ologidi, Chief (Mrs.) Nike Okundaye. The Ologidi, afterward, prayed for blessing, peace, progress and development of Ogidi. He also called on illustrious sons and daughters of the land and friends to continue to make their contributions for the overall development of the land.

With the good packaging and the attempts to reach out to government for proper programming, organisers of Ogidi Day Cultural/Yam Festival may have begun exploring possibilities of securing its designation as an ‘Intangible cultural heritage practice’ in line with the selection criteria set out in the United Nations Educational and Scientific Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) conventions.

They believe that the event will meet the criteria and by so doing, they will be able to access the organisation’s World Heritage Fund.