There is a the blast of billboards all around Osun State announcing the upcoming Ileya Omo Oduduwa festival which His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, the Ooni of Ile-Ife will be hosting this December in Ile-Ife. The coordinator of the festival, the Osun State-born Ghanaian Prince, Mr. Adewale Williams speaks to Omolola ItayemiI on the significance of the festival and why he believes it will be a massive success
So you are a Ghanaian Prince? How did that come about?
My dad took a sojourn in Ghana in the 50’s and 60’s in the Busia days and long before the Nigeria must go issue. He met my mum, Princess Abena Opokua from Wenchi Akim in the Oda province. They got married and had me and siblings. We all returned in 1970 and lived in Lagos. My mum returned to be Queen in 1981 and she was until her death in 1992. Just three years ago, I was also summoned with my other brothers to come and contest for the throne. So, yes, I am a proud Oodua bred with Ghanaian blue blood.
What is the significance of Ileya Omo Oodua festival?
Ileya Omo Oodua is the platform for the project to awaken and rekindle all Yoruba descendants at home and abroad, use Oduduwa to bring peace to the world (considering that the name Oduduwa actually means prayer), create a homecoming platform for all Yorubas, blacks, Hispanics and even white to recognize the fact that we are one indivisible people from God, bring all descendants of Oodua together to celebrate our progenitor and open the vistas of investment opportunities to boost tourism. The festival is a week-long event aimed at exposing all these including our rich cultural heritage to the world, and to generate revenue for businesses through these many cultures. So you see, this project goes beyond just festival.
But with the economic crisis in the country right now, do you think this is the auspicious time for this festival?
Oh yes. There is no time like now. Oba Ogunwusi has been taking his time since his coronation to tell the importance of why there should be peace in the world and that Africa being the centre of the world must be united. Today, tourism potentials in the Middle East have plunged. Ours in Africa is largely untapped. Only Kenya and South Africa can boast of about a billion dollar annually in tourism. In Nigeria, let us take Osun State as an example, the state has more than 5 different waterfalls. There is one that has 3 steps or more. We have the Oke Erinmo, with over 1000 stairs, the Oranmiyan epitaph and much more. Look at the entire Yorubaland, do you know the gangan is the only talking drum that can mimic a voice? Do you know in Oyo, there is a crown that has eyes that blinks and sees the suspended lake and a host of others. In Lagos, the eyo masquerade is the only white garment masquerade that I know in the world. We are friendly, industrious, educated and enlightened.
So what is the problem, why can’t we make revenue from tourism?
The problem is we don’t believe in what we have and who we are. Take a look at the Olojo festival that just ended, if you ask a typical Yoruba man what the festival is about, they will say oh it is fetish, yet many of them have never experienced it. I met a Cuban that attended the festival who said he almost didn’t come for the festival because of what his Nigerian friend told him but he was happy he came. When Kabiyesi came out wearing the Aare crown, everyone started praying fervently on siting the crown. You know why? Oduduwa is the God of prayers, and once you site the crown, it embodies us in Oduduwa (prayer). The crown that is over a thousand years old is heavy yet the Ooni wore it with ease. All the Ooni did was pray, pray for all Yoruba, for peace in Nigeria and the world, for mankind and for cohesion. There are so many of these great events scattered in all the states but we spend time maligning our images and culture but hail foreign ideas. But all that will change now.
How do you think Ile’ya Omo Oodua will help change this?
Firstly, our purview is the whole of Yorubaland. What makes us who we are? In the past, vague differences divided us; well our royal fathers have started debunking that. We are first descendants of Oodua before we can be known as indigenes of Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo, Lagos, Ogun and so on. Secondly, since January, we have reached out to almost all our royal fathers to sensitize them about the project. We have thirteen different events for the one week festival. While sensitization continues exactly one week from the festival, a motor float depicting the seven seeds of Oduduwa will take off from Lagos, through Sango to Abeokuta, to Ibadan, to Oyo, Ogbomosho, Ilorin, Offa to Akure, and land at Ile-Ife on Sunday the 4th of December. It will go round the city welcoming guests allowing them to settle down. The morning of 5th is the opening where you have Adura Oodua. Here, the royal fathers, religious leaders, about 3000 mothers and international dignitaries will all pray for all descendants of Oduduwa home and abroad and for peace in Yorubaland. This event will be chaired by Chief Oyekunle Alex Duduyemi, the Asiwaju and Aro of Ile-Ife who is well respected. Afterwards, you will have events everyday with the Star awards as the finale. Don’t forget too that the festival is coming up during the coronation anniversary of Kabiyesi.
What programme do you have for visitors outside the festival?
We have the travels and tours project and its all-encompassing. Almost all the events are free for all while some you can only enter with special invites. And the package also takes care of your accommodation, transportation and visits to tourist sites across the state and Yoruba land. We want to make sure that visitors have the pleasure of visiting the tourist sites and gaining lots of experience. The Palace of the Ooni is also a tourist site.
You seem to have everything all figured out considering your experience in hosting festivals?
Every festival is a new experience and you must always be prepared. We are happy that even from this maiden edition, we already have foreign interest because the members of congress of Pennsylvania in the USA are planning to attend the festival. We are prepared for them and for all others.
What is your dream for this festival?
To bring together the proudest race in the world and host the biggest festival ever while generating foreign revenue.