Okota festival opens up Arigidi-Akoko to tourists
The 2017 edition of the annual Okota festival which was held in Arigidi-Akoko recently was a mix of tradition, culture and tourism. Lovers of culture and tourism stormed the town expressing hope in the revival of Yoruba cultural values. TUNDE BUSARI reports.
Arigidi-Akoko, the hometown of the National Coordinator of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams, last Friday played host to culture enthusiasts from different destinations.
The guests converged on the ancient town to witness the Okota festival, an annual event that is steadily opening up Akoko town to tourists.
For two nights, hotels in the town and the neighbouring Ikare recorded improved patronage in the same way the commercial motorcycle operators also had a fair share in the business fortune.
The festival’s eve witnessed what was branded the Miss Okota Beauty Pageant held at Ayase Hall of the town. The impressive contest was packaged by the Olokun Festival Foundation (OFF), producing Miss Efosa Victoria as the winner. The 19-year old Victoria is a 100 level Mass Communication undergraduate of the University of Benin and indigene of Esan in Edo State.
Early morning prayers at the palace of the Zaki of Arigidi, Oba Yisa Olanipekun kick started the event during which the monarch prayed for his subjects and the development of his town and the Yoruba nation as a whole.
Adams also prayed for the monarch requesting the ancestors of the town to protect Oba Olanipekun against those Adams called “enemies of Kabiyesi.”
Procession to the Okota grove less than a kilometer away from the palace followed. The procession was led by the Arugba in an enactment of the popular Osun-Osogbo festival. By that time, travelers had joined the indigenes and increased the traffic to the shrine. Some tourists went to the stream and fetched water inside different sizes of containers that accompanied them.
The water, according to the chairman of Arigidi Leaders of Thought, Pa Lawson, is curative to health challenges, especially barrenness. The carnival took centre-stage soon after the return from the grove, when the palace square of the town was turned to an event centre hosting a large number of the indigenes and their guests.
Also seated under the sheds provided by the organizing committee were different sociocultural groups from the town, all dressed in unique Ankara fabrics.
A compere popularly known in Lagos as MC Kirikiri flagged off the event with his usual rib-cracking humour, followed by prayer and welcome address by Adams who put no one in doubt about his passion for another successful festival.
Before he mounted the podium, Adams was seen directing and organising committee members to ensure a hitch-free occasion, a wish which was granted by the turnout of invited guests including traditional rulers and the chief press secretary to the Ondo State governor, Segun Ajiboye.
Adams, who doubles as the chief promoter of the OFF, in his address to the large crowd, restated the position of Okota among other deities in Yoruba land, especially with her uncommon kindness and love for the people of Arigidi-Akoko.
He also said that Okota played a unique role in the lives of childless couples, a role that endeared her to her people.
“By various testimonies, she was a good woman. She did a lot of charity works and earned for herself a place in the community of Yoruba deities through rare feats of civility and decency. Her footprint in the sand of time radiates as a shining example for people of all generations to follow,” he said.
Adams went further in his welcome speech by quoting a scholar, Professor Robert Farris Thompson in his book entitled Flash Of The Spirit in which he painted the image of the Yoruba in glossy colour.
The professor, according to Adams, described “the Yoruba as the black African race with the largest population who created and developed one of the best and leading cultures of the world.”
While reiterating the commitment of the OFF in promoting Yoruba festivals, he admonished the Yoruba to appreciate their culture and showcase same to the non-Yoruba at home and in the diaspora. Adams warned against paying lip service to the revival and promotion of Yoruba cultural values, adding that restricting them to theoretical expression would be counter-productive.
“It is our expectation that if this idea should be widely acknowledged and accepted by all, its result and effect will have positive impact on the nation’s socio-economic development and political advancement,” he stated.
The guest lecturer, Professor Temitope Olumuyiwa of the Department of Linguistics and Languages at the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, spiced up his lecture with consistent translation in Yoruba Language for the understanding of the wide audience. Titled ‘Cultural Re-birth As Panacea To Societal Evil: The Need For A new Path’, he expressed his gratitude to Adams for his unrelenting effort in promoting Yoruba culture.
The lecturer said each society within Yoruba ethnic group is known with peculiar traditions as Okota, according to him, is peculiar to Arigidi-Akoko, adding that elements of Yoruba culture include language, music, dance, drama, politics, technology, architecture among others.
“The Okota festival through this lecture is a good avenue to educate the people most especially the youth on the need to preserve and be proud of their cultural values as the gains herein are abundant. A preserved culture leads to a preserved generation,” he said.
The chief press secretary to the state governor delivered a brief extempore, admonishing the Yoruba on the need to identify with their custom and tradition. Ajiboye said it was high time Yoruba people made a distinction between their faith and cultural heritage, stressing the need to promote their culture.
Cultural performances by different groups including the Oodua troupe entertained the crowd. The Sango performance in particular thrilled those watching a man swallowing flame of fire among other incredible acts on the stage.
The arrival of the Elegushi of Ikate land, Oba Saheed Elegushi from Lagos electrified the event. However, the 2017 edition of Okota Festival, which started in 2008, recorded another success in terms of attendance and organization.
Oba Olanipekun thanked the royal fathers who honoured him as well as dignitaries from far and near. “I cannot just thank you enough for being my guests again as you always do. God will continue to be with you,” the monarch prayed.