If you compared the Ojude Oba festival to Kano Durbar, you would not be far from the truth, for in pomp and circumstance , it matches the latter. OMOLOLA ITAYEMI reports
The 2017 Ojude Oba Festival which took place on September 3, was in way unprecedented. It was an interesting gathering of illustrious sons and daughters of Ogun State coming home to celebrate festival. One had to arrive the festival venue as early as 7a.m to have a vantage position. With gadgets in pouch, strapped close to the body, one could now be sure to settle down. But as one did so, intermittent water droplets warned one that the heavens could open up and spoil the occasion. But as the ceremony got underway, the fear quickly dissipated.
The different age-grades called regberegbe (male and female) turned out in their colourful attire to show off to the Awujale. Members of the regberegbe danced in praise of the Awujale, wishing him long life and continued protection during his reign. The regberegbe tried to outdo one another, turning out in different ways so as to be declared the best. The winners always went away with cash prizes.
Gaily dressed horses mounted by equally resplendently out riders led the different riding families. The riders were the Baloguns of the different families. The Baloguns are descendants of Ijebu war heroes. Their entry into the venue was announced by intermittent gunshots which send people into a tumult.
Ojude Oba is a Yoruba festival held in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. It is held annually the third day after Eid al-Kabir. The festival began over 100 years ago. Today, the festival is usually attended by over 250,000 people across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. The festival is often sponsored by the incumbent Awujale, the people of Ijebu-Ode, individuals and corporate organisations. This year, the festival was sponsored by Globacom and First City Monument Bank.
The festival is a platform for Ijebu sons and daughters to meet and interact with one another, explore the cultural heritage of the land and open their eyes to newer dimensions of cultural excitement.
Giving her assessment of the event, the Iyalode of Egbe Obafuwa, Chief Bolanle Ogunneye, said that this year’s was more interesting than last year’s and attributed the increase in attendance to the Islamic public holiday. She revealed that the large turnout was in solidarity with the reign of and appreciation for the health and life of the ruling monarch.
For Hon. Kolapo Osun, the chairman of the Ojude Oba committee, the most spectacular aspect of this year’s edition was the increase in the number of regberegbe as newer factions have sprung up.
Otunba Subomi Balogun, the Tunwase of Ijebuland and the Olori Omo Oba of Ijebu land, explained the significance of the festival to the Ijebu people and his contributions towards ensuring that each edition was a massive success. “I am an illustrious indigene of Ijebu land. I am from an ancestry that holds the history of this traditional event. The story was that the Ijebus were very strong and would not allow anyone come in through Ijebuland. Oba Adesinwase in 1952 accepted the British traders. He gave them permission to preach Christianity from the confines of his home and even allowed his children to attend church services. Odunuga and Kuku were brothers born an Ijebu legend and they were the first to ride horses in thanksgiving to the Oba. That was the beginning of Ojude Oba. I am the Olori Omo Oba of Ijebu land and as such I would be involved, fully immersed in the festival. Every year, he said.
Can Ojude Oba be sustained? “Many people know that I have been supportive of the Awujale. In the last 25 years, I have been prominent in the celebration of the festival. I am committed to promoting the festival and when the good Lord will think it fit to call me home, I will leave some words for my descendants to carry on this tradition. Younger members of my family are already taking words from me. I have been supportive in sponsoring my family to appear at the Ojude Oba festival. By birth, tradition and heritage, I owe the duty to take the baton and pass it down,” Banjo replied.
Definitely, Balogun’s closeness to the Awujale can lead to a lot of positive influence, including getting youths off the streets.
“The Ojude Oba festival is not restricted to Muslims. It is for the Ijebu people in general and Ijebu people are a mix of religions. Ojude Oba is a national carnival. It has become universal. As the head of Christians, I have Muslim relatives. A few of us who rode on the horses are Christians. We are lucky in Ijebu land because we do not know the difference.”
Will there be a repository for the Ojude Oba like some form of museum? He said:“I started the museum with the intention to expand it to a place of study of the history of Ijebu land.
I have devoted a sizable part of my resources for the museum study centres. There are a lot of CDs of past Ojude Obas at the museum. Researchers for PhD studies have access to data available at the study centre. I am always proud to promote royalty because I am a blue-blooded son of Ijebu land. I am proud to say that I am a senior citizen of the land.