Ikenne Development Association (IDA), the brains behind the annual Ereke Day Celebration in Ikenne Remo, the homestead of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, is 40 years old today. FOLA OKE AND WOLE EFUNNUGA had interactions with some distinguished sons and daughters of the town, particularly those who were part of the maiden edition in 1976, to sound them out on the journey so far. Here are their responses:
You are a distinguished daughter of Ikenne Remo, Ogun State, how would you describe Ereke Day in the last 40 years?
It has improved in so many respects. The concept came to being to pave the way for socioeconomic development of Ikenne town. It was meant for Ikenne indigenes to come home and participate in the development of the town. And generally, to get to know one another. In those days, I think it was a weekend of events. The high point then was Saturday, when we would have the ‘Woro Dance’ early in the morning and the various societies would dance around the town. And in the afternoon, we would congregate. First, we used to congregate at the Town Hall but later, the venue changed to the Obafemi Awolowo Square where clubs brought their own foods and drinks with a bit of cultural entertainment. I think they still do that now. What I think is probably missing now, which is a pity, is that in those days, it was a competition to see which club had done the most for the town. There used to be prizes. Maybe they still have that, I’m not too sure. The club that I belong to donated an outpatient block, fully furnished, to the local hospital at the time. Mama donated the children’s ward, also fully furnished. Papa donated a well-equipped science laboratory to one of the secondary schools.
Other people donated school libraries and so on. They were big projects at that time. Of course, one can understand that perhaps due to the economic downturn, the opportunities appear not to be there as much as they used to be in those days. People probably no longer have the capacity to donate as much but a few still make the effort. The celebration itself is now a whole week long. There is the Miss Ereke competition, the marathon, essay competition, etc. for which prizes are given out. It’s more of a social affair now.
You mentioned ‘Woro Dance’ vis a vis Uren River, what exactly is the significance of that Uren River to Ikenne indigenes?
Uren has a spiritual dimension to those who believe in it, but it is the river that provided life to the town from day one. To that extent, it was very important. Life would have been very difficult if there is no source of water. Of course, in those days, the water was cleaner than it is now.
To what extent would you say that the IDA has achieved its set goals since inception?
Well, the set goals included socioeconomic development and infrastructural development of the town. People have donated key projects to the town so to a large extent, the goals are being met. However, there is always room to do more.
Most importantly, I think one achievement of IDA which was not part of its original concept is that it has become a rallying point for Ikenne indigenes. It unifies the town despite conflicts here and there on different issues. The IDA remains a forum that everybody recognises, accepts and acknowledges.
First Saturday of every November is the fixed day for the celebration, why the choice of that particular day? In whose memory was it fixed?
I don’t know why the date was chosen. I don’t think there was any particular significance to it. And I don’t think it was fixed in memory of anybody. I think it has to do with the time that the idea came up and it was just the most convenient time to host the first one, and it just stuck. I am not an expert on the history of Ikenne.
Ikenne people are fond of singing their praises, claiming to have a tree that produces money, where is that tree situated?
That is not for people who are not Ikenne indigenes to know, that is our own secret.
No matter how good a project is, there is always room for improvement, what do you think can be done to improve Ereke Day celebration in subsequent years?
Interestingly, the chairman of the awards ceremony, held on Saturday, 22 October, 2016 brought up a very useful suggestion that we should open the celebration more. In other words, we should bring in major sponsors so that they can, sort of, take the celebration into the national cultural agenda. The Ojude Oba celebrations in Ijebu Ode is a prime example. We should open it up more and generate more interest beyond the confines of Ikenne. One major advantage of that is that there will be opportunities for more, and better, initiatives in terms of human and infrastructural development from within and outside the town.
There is a car carefully placed at a vantage position in the Town Hall with the inscription “Winner’’. It is believed to be a star gift for the 2016 Miss Ereke. Who and who are eligible to contest for this?
I don’t know but I suspect that they would be Ikenne indigenes within a certain age bracket.