Aso-Oke: Expanding the business frontiers of a local fabric

The Oyo state government last week took the first step in reviving and empowering local industries within its borders to financially empower the people and increase its internally generated revenue by putting Aso Oke on the international business landscape. YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE reports.

In recent times, the need to look inwards and create other avenues of generating income by states and the nation as a whole in order to stop the total dependence on proceeds of crude oil which cannot sustain the economy again, has occupied the front burner in discussions at various forums.

And the importance of bringing back into relevance local produce hitherto relegated to the background and those that are almost extinct to boost revenue generation, create means of earning foreign exchange and generally uplift the masses by assisting them get financial independence, is the panacea recommended by many as a means of getting out of the seeming economic doldrums in which the country finds itself at present.

The Oyo state government in a bid to be proactive and put the state on a better pedestal economically has put in place a system of reviving previously extinct materials and placing those relegated to the background in the limelight to create an avenue of opening up the closed business paths by establishing an aso oke international market.

The first stage took place last week when the government celebrated the World Tourism Day in a way that will enhance the business opportunities surrounding a local produce; the Ofi or Aso Oke, by calling attention to it and creating a better chance for people involved in the business.

The programme tagged Aso Ofi Day held at the Old NYSC camp, Iseyin in a glamorous way that celebrated tradition, culture, tourism as well as economic opportunities and was witnessed by dignitaries from different walks of life was a maiden one that started with a hit and was a huge success.

Prominent sons and daughters of Oyo state especially Iseyin and Oyo town as well as culture ambassadors from various countries and traditional rulers led by the Eleruwa of Eruwa town, Oba Samuel Adegbola, converged to celebrate the ancient town’s main produce; Aso-Oke which derived its name literarily from the words, aso ilu oke.

The programme which was a two-day event was indeed a beautiful one with a parade of colours and styles which started with a walk on Monday. People who participated in the walk took off from the old NYSC camp through Peller road to the palace of the Aseyin of Iseyin land, Oba (Dr) AbdulGaniyu Ajinase I, where the monarch addressed a mammoth crowd of enthused Iseyin indigenes for the support and pledged the town’s support to Government’s aspirations to resuscitate Ofi, the pride of the town.

Back at the Old NYSC camp, a Weaving Competition commenced to showcase the prowess and dexterity of Iseyin weavers in their best and on Tuesday, September 27, which is the World Tourism Day, it was a herculean task for security operatives to control the large turnout of people who turned up in different colours and designs of Aso Oke while a lot of programmes were lined up; weaving competitions, exhibitions, parade and fashion just to spice up the ceremony and propagate the dexterity of ofi weavers in Iseyin community.

Governor Abiola Ajimobi in his speech at the event encouraged all tiers of government to embrace the diversification from oil and gas and develop local produce to rescue the country from the current economic recession.

Speaking through his wife, Mrs. Florence Ajimobi, the governor stated that identifying and developing local produce as well as tourism potentials would be one of the most effective means of growing the economy, adding that attracting tourists would eventually translate into investments.

“Tourism is one of the most effective means of growing the economy because attracting tourists will eventually translate into investments when the tourists discover the investment opportunities present in their tourist destinations. This becomes more important especially at a period like this when we are grappling with the effects of recession and looking for revenue generators other than crude oil which before now was the mainstay of our economy,” he said.

According to him, the effective and efficient use of ‘Aso-Ofi’ is a cultural-tourism potential which should be used to develop the economy of the state and develop Iseyin town as a whole and Oyo State in general, adding that the ofi has attained a status of both national and international importance and is widely accepted as the fabric of choice for traditional occasions and majority of social events.

“Oyo State, the Pacesetter State; the land of many firsts has a huge number of tourist attractions that can translate into tremendous wealth and the government will harness all to grow our economy and develop the state. Quite noteworthy amongst them is the traditional Aso-Ofi Industry located in Iseyin local government area. Aso Ofi is a versatile, multifarious woven fabric design that has attained a status of both national and international importance and is widely accepted as the fabric of choice for traditional occasions as well as a huge majority of social events”, he explained.

The State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Toye Arulogun also reiterated the importance of celebrating the Aso Oke, he noted that the ‘Aso-Ofi Day’ became imperative because the State Government found it needful to harness tourism potentials in every local government in the state, stressing that, this would not only promote the rich culture of the state but also promote the tourism potentials in the state.

He further declared the Senator Abiola Ajimobi led administration’s determination to promote Iseyin’s rich cultural heritage by establishing an International Aso-Ofi Market in Iseyin and create an internet platform to market Aso-Ofi to the international community will be of tremendous benefit to the state and its citizenry.

The Aseyin of Iseyin Land, Oba Adekunle Ologunebi I, appealed to the State Government not to relent in its efforts at resuscitating the dying Aso-Ofi industry, noting that, it is an age-long fabric which has long been neglected by past administrations and solicited that the government should equip the local government with more weaving centres and an international Aso-Ofi market for better patronage.

“I urge the state government to enact a law recommending periodic use of Aso-Ofi by public school students in the state, as uniforms. This will revive the cultural values of the Yorubas and promote our culture in the state,” Oba Adekunle added.

On his part, the Caretaker Chairman of Iseyin Local Government Chairman, Mr. Saheed Alaran declared the local government’s readiness to synergize and collaborate with the state government for a renewed local, national and global patronage of the locally fabricated textile from Iseyin but decried the deteriorating state of culture in the state which he noticed has given way to the foreign culture, adding that this has by extension affected the ‘Aso-Ofi’, the pride and glory of Iseyin land.

Dr. Paula Gomes, the Cultural Ambassador to the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi was full of praises for the people of Iseyin for the creativity displayed with Aso-Ofi during the event while the guest speaker, Prof Dele Olayiwola, enjoined government to help in creating a modernized weaver’s loom which could be automated rather than the manual technology which he described as laborious.

Prof. Olayiwola, the Director, Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, said, “Nigerians should research and produce our own dyes locally instead of depleting our hard-earned and meager foreign exchange on imported dyes which service other people’s economies and impoverishes us.”

Dignitaries at the event include the wife of the Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Mrs Janet Adeyemo; the Eleruwa of Eruwa, Oba Samuel Adegbola; the Onjo of Okeho, Oba Rafiu Osuolale Mustapha; Onitede of Tede, Oba Rauf Adebimpe Oladoyin; Olugbo of Igbojaye, Oba Oladimeji Olatunji and other Oke-Ogun traditional rulers.

Aside lawmakers and political appointees that turned out in their numbers, artistes and business moguls of Iseyin descent were also present; Nike Peller, Hafeez Owo, Alh Wasiu Dauda and Alhaji Taye Adebisi popularly known as Taye Currency among many others.

With sincerity on the part of government at all levels, the weavers and marketers of ofi, individuals and various stakeholders and with serious commitment on their part to the cause of renewing and promoting the Aso Oke, the fabric can indeed be a money-spinner for government and individuals who may market it outside and within the state and reduce the pang of poverty in the land.