The 2016 edition of the Ojude Oba sponsored by Globacom held last week amidst pomp and pageantry in Ijebu Ode, Ogun state. And like in previous years, the festival was attended by many while hundreds of groups appeared in colourful clothes in various designs, making the event not only beautiful but a parade of colours. YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE reports.
Annually, the Ojude Oba held in Ijebu Ode, in Ogun state two days after the Eid-el Kabir celebration is an event that cannot be missed or ignored by illustrious sons of Ogun state and dignitaries from all walks of life, from all over the country especially the six South-West states.
The festival which has in attendance millions of people yearly is said to have started 100 years ago and has become a tradition that cannot be eradicated. For many, both indigenes and outsiders, the Ojude Oba is the festival to be and is a highlight that concludes the Eid-el-Kabir celebrations.
This is not surprising with the array of musicians that are usually on parade and the indigenous groups that appear in their colourful apparels to make the event festive. The Ojude Oba is a viable meeting point for people that had not met in years and an annual reunion site for family and friends.
The 2016 edition, themed Ojude Oba: Our Culture, Our Pride, is not different as it took place with panache that defies the prevalent economic situation in the country. Indeed, many forgot their sorrows in the festivities of the Ojude Oba and had a spectacular time showing as groups turned out in various uniforms to thank God for witnessing another edition of the festival and also affirm that though many of the sons of the land had left home, they have not forgotten their roots.
Political gladiators, industrialists and state governors also showed up as a proof of their solidarity and goodwill. Present at the festivities to support the host, Governor Ibikunle Amosun is the governor of Kaduna state, Nasir el-Rufai and the Bayelsa state governor, Seriake Dickson.
The governors at the event rated the Ojude Oba as a world-class cultural and historical festival that should be listed on the global tourism calendar as it has become a rallying point for not only the sons and daughters of Ijebuland but the country as a whole.
They urged the citizenry to see the country’s diversity as a source of strength for its greatness and not for disunity and advised that the diversity should be utilised in harmony for the good and progress of Nigeria.
Speaking at the event, governor Amosun commended the paramount ruler and Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, for sustaining the festival, describing it as a marriage of culture and tradition. He reiterated his administration’s commitment to ensuring that the festival is listed on the global tourism platform.
According to the Governor, Ojude Oba could help the nation’s economy by generating billions of naira in tourism, if eventually listed on the global tourism map. He appealed to politicians to always put the people first in everything they do. “It does not matter whether it is party A or party B that is in government, what should matter should be the welfare of the masses,” he said.
Amosun hailed Oba Adetona for his ability to use culture, tradition and religion to weave an enviable and enduring unity among his people, adding that the nation’s leaders should emulate his leadership style and forge a greater unity among Nigerians.
He also commended the Ijebu people for making Ogun State unique with the Ojude Oba festival and for using same to launch the state into global consciousness. “One sees the love, tenacity and determination of the Ijebu people to showcase their rich cultural heritage and tradition. In Ogun State, we create the template for others to follow. In Nigeria, we should serve diligently. It is not where one comes from or religion should count, but one’s diligent service. We should emulate kabiyesi ability to forge unity among his people despite different religions. We should live in togetherness, love and harmony, not only in Ogun State but also in Nigeria,” Amosun said.
Governor Dickson, who was the special guest of honour, on his part, described Ojude Oba as a comprehensive cultural and historical festival that could be exported to the world. “Ojude Oba is not only for Ijebuland or the people of Ogun State; we need to showcase it to the rest of the world,” Dickson said.
The governor, who linked his maternal grandmother to the family of Adebukunola Fidipote, a princess from one of the ruling houses of Awujale stool in Ijebu-Ode, concluded that the festival has shown that there is unity and strength in diversity, reiterating that Nigeria should leverage on its rainbow of diversity to work towards greatness and not division.
Also speaking, Governor El-Rufai, who claimed to be attending the festival as the ‘son’ of the Awujale, described the monarch as a man of great wisdom, unparalleled courage and integrity, adding that the festival as colourful and highly entertaining.
According to him, the Awujale should be praised for his courage and leadership competence in leading his people towards organizing the annual Ojude Oba which he described as an “incredible event”.
“I came here not as governor, not as guest of Governor Amosun or as a member of All Progressives Congress (APC), but I’m here because Awujale is my father, a man of great wisdom, courage and integrity. Throughout my public service and exile, he was a true father to me. He advised and even supported me financially. I know the dream of Ijebu state is close to your heart and I pray for your long life to see Ijebu state come to pass,” El-Rufai said.
The event witnessed parades by the different age grades popularly referred to as regberegbe and the horse riders (Baloguns), who turned out in colourful attires to pay homage to the Awujale one after the other.
The festival depicted an array of people suffused with glamour and excitement as thousands of Ijebu sons, daughters, friends and well-wishers participated in the event, where over 35 age grades – Regberegbes – paid homage to the Awujale, Oba Sikiru Adetona, who is often referred to as the Orisa Ijebu (the god of the Ijebu people).
Speaking at the occasion, the sponsor and Chairman of Globacom, Dr. Mike Adenuga, emphasised the need for parents to pass cultural values of the Nigerian ethnic nations to their wards in order to preserve the tradition of unity and social cohesion taught by cultural events like the Ojude Oba festival.
Adenuga argued that unless parents took it upon themselves to propagate the values behind the cultural event, the next generation might consider the festival fetish and abandoned it, adding that the theme of this year’s celebration captured the societal relevance of the festival as a source of pride and honour for the Ijebu people.
Adenuga, who was represented at the event by the Commercial Coordinator, Business Enterprise, Mr. Folu Aderibigbe, said, “Over the years, Ojude Oba has remained not only a point of crystallization and social re-engineering; it is as well an avenue for the constellation of ideas and initiatives that are geared towards prompting the growth of the society and the wellness of its people.”
He further explained that unless the next generation understood the essence of the festival, it would soon become moribund especially in the event of the growing penchant for Western cultures by the Nigerian youth. According to him, Ojude Oba is also an exhibition platform to display the cultural wealth of the people and the values that unite them.
Oba Adetona, in his speech gave kudos to Globacom for its commitment to the promotion of culture and tradition in Nigeria through its Heritage Series, having sponsored the event for 10 years.
Oba Adetona who said the festival kept gaining more local and global attention by the year, hailed governor Amosun and corporate bodies for their continuous support for the festival.
Globacom on its part ensured that the festival did not depreciate in value this year as it was celebrated in grand style with a parade of musicians and entertainment. The First City Monument Bank (FCMB) also dazzled at the event while indigenes and guests defied the heavy rains to be a part of the entertainment which included horse rides, gun shots and royal blessings.
The Ogun State Deputy Governor, Princess Yetunde Onanuga, former Old Rivers State Military Governor and traditional ruler Alfred Diette-Spiff, Omoba Subomi Balogun; Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly Suraj Adekunbi; the Moyegoso of Itele-Ijebu Oba Adesanya Kasali, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Chief Bimbo Ashiru; Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Basorun Muyiwa Oladipo and the Police Commissioner, Ahmed Iliyasu were among dignitaries at the event.
It was indeed a time for the people to thank God for his blessings and protection over the last year in a wonderful burst of colour.