Akungba new yam festival: Stakeholders harp on unity, peace

The last Saturday of every July is a special day in the cultural calendar of every son and daughter of Akungba town in Akoko South West Local Government Area of Ondo State. Each year, sons and daughters of the community from all walks of life come together to celebrate the annual New Yam Festival.

This age-long festival and tradition which is regarded as old as the town itself, is to officially present the newly harvested yams to the ancestors of the land and to appreciate God for sustaining the lives of the farmers, and the indigenes of the land; it is a month of thanksgiving for the people of the ancient town.

This year was not an exception as the ancient town of Akungba came alive last weekend as indigenes of the town gathered to celebrate the New Yam Festival, which is tagged ‘Akun -Day’.

Many indigenes of the town usually look forward to Akun Day, which is usually celebrated on the last Saturday of every July; the celebration reunites and reminds them of their ancestral heritage, culture and special customs of the town.

At the celebration of this year’s Akun Day festival, indigenes of the town converged on the Holy Trinity playground. The event was also spiced with the celebration of the cultural new yam festival, which featured colourful traditional presentations from various age grades across the community.

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The celebration saw the traditional ruler of the town and his wife, the Alale of Akungba land, Oba Sunday Adeyeye, and the high chiefs from the seven quarters (Igbelu, Ibaka, Akunmi, Okele, Akua, Okusa and Ikale) of the town dressed in traditional attires, as well as other traditional rulers, who came to celebrate with the town. There was a colourful procession from the Alale’s palace to the heart of the town.

The high point of this year’s celebration which was tagged ‘Akungba Re-union for Peace, Unity and Development’, was the presentation of bursary awards to 14 indigent students of the community,  selected from the seven quarters of the community and studying in various institutions across the country.

Speaking on the essence and importance of Akun Day, Oba Adeyeye stated that the festival was designed to celebrate togetherness, unity, love and integration, and to promote the prosperity of the ancient town of Akungba, as well as to foster peace, progress and equitable development in the town.

According to Oba Adeyeye, “development exists in a peaceful atmosphere”. He called on all sons and daughters of the town to embrace peace, for the town to witness unprecedented development. He said the festival was a reminder of the legacy bequeathed to them by their forefathers, when they rolled out drums, sang and danced in appreciation of soil fertility, bountiful harvest, unity and security in the community.

His words: “It is a veritable forum to commemorate and celebrate our common cord of oneness and enduring philosophy of fraternity. As I stand before you here today, I am overwhelmed with joy and proud of the ability and capacity of Akungba people to disagree and agree, yet work in concert to chart a new developmental path for the kingdom. No community is immune from conflicts; how we resolve ours makes all the difference.

“Drawing from the subject matter, it is compelling to notice the place of unity in community development. Unity, equity and tranquility all play vital roles in human relations, and their absence often leads to conflict, crisis and if unmitigated, war. Meanwhile, the trio of conflict, crisis and war always drive away the positives of peace, unity, progress and development.

“Hence, I am overwhelmed with joy seeing my people coming together to rub minds and design a new developmental architecture for Akungba Kingdom.”

He, however, appealed to the state government to come to the town’s assistance on the state of infrastructural development, stressing that being a university town, Akungba is buzzing with activities.

He continued: “The menace of urbanisation and plural society stares Akungba in the face. Notwithstanding, efforts are constantly in place for university and host community relationships. We also have cordial relationships with the police, other security agencies as well as socio-political and religious stakeholders. No wonder there is relative peace available to Akungba indigenes and settlers.

“May I therefore at this juncture, thank the governor of our Sunshine state, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who has been ensuring that peace reigns supreme in Ondo State and Akungba in particular. Like Oliver Twist, we humbly ask for more amenities for Akungba as a fast growing city. We want better electricity, potable drinking water, paved street roads, modern public health centre, employment for our women, and capacity building for our business class and more seedlings for our teeming farmers.”

The traditional ruler, however, advocated the listing of the Akun Day Festival in the country’s annual cultural calendar, for the festival to fall within the A-list of national festivals, such as Ojude Oba, Ofala, Argungu Fishing Festival in Kebbi, and Osun Osogbo festival.

The Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Chief Segun Runsewe, noted that with the revival and rebranding of the Akun Day, the people of the community have been able to introduce a viable cultural platform for the preservation and marketing of Nigeria’s cultural heritage, as well as a forum for unifying the people of the community, state and the nation in general.

According to him, the different activities of the Akun Day Festival will have far-reaching socio-economic impact on the people of the community and the state, both during and after the festival, just as he noted that the festival remains one of the fastest growing forms of tourists attraction and, if well packaged and organised, has the tendency of injecting extra revenue into the economy of the host community through such dynamics as local transportation, hotel accommodation, food vending and more importantly, empowering artistes through increased direct sales.

“We at the National Council for Arts and Culture are proud and delighted to be part of this worthy event. It is my sincere belief that this historic effort by the good people of Akungba Akoko, under the supervision of His Royal Highness, the Alale of Akungba land, will provide a credible platform that would open up windows of opportunities for the marketing of Akungba Akoko’s cultural heritage and tourism assets.

“I therefore wish to call on interest groups and the organised private sector to assist by investing in this festival in order for it to achieve its laudable goals of stimulating grass-roots development, especially with our youths and women. I also appeal to our youths to seize the opportunities inherent in this festival to improve their creative works, and for economic empowerment and networking,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, in his address, charged the people of Akungba on unity of purpose and dedication, to fast-track more development of the community and the need to always embrace peace.

The governor, who was represented by the Commissioner for Agriculture, Gboyega Adefarati, who also hails from the town, said the reign of Oba Adeyeye has brought visible and enlightened progress to the community. He charged all Akungba indigenes on collective efforts to drive the needed development in the land.

Akungba town was founded around  1650 AD. It is situated at the centre of Akokoland, midway between the land area comprising the present Akoko North West, Akoko North East, Akoko South East and Akoko South West. The host community of the state-owned university has given birth to very many famous scholars and political heavy weights, as well as dignitaries in various sectors.