Last Tuesday, being the third day after the Muslim festival of Ileya, the Ijebu people, as it has been their tradition for more than 100 years, put up a cultural showpiece for the world to see. The Ojude Oba festival, Africa’s most colourful traditional festival, made a colourful splash.
The glitz, glamour, excitement and wild celebration is best witnessed than described. It is a predictable festival that still manages to create certain uniqueness in every edition. It is a tourism spectacle that is yet to be fully appreciated. It is a festival in which the different segments, ranging from the equestrian families of Ijebu, the Balogun and the different age groups gather at the king’s court to pay homage. They do this in style.
The Ijebu people are renowned for shrewdness when it comes to spending money, but they make exception in spending when it comes to Ojude Oba festival. In Ojude Oba, no cost is spared to put up a spectacle.
For them, simple day-to-day attire would not be enough to celebrate their king who is the symbol of unity for the people. They spend millions to dress themselves and more millions to celebrate and fete friends, relations and loved ones.
It is not just about celebration, the festival has become a major economic activity in Ijebu-Ode and its environs as huge business transactions happen during this period. Many are used to the massive influx of people to Ijebu-Ode to make huge business.
This year’s event was better managed. Unnecessary rowdiness was cut off.The huge presence of corporate organisations at the event was not surprising as Ijebu-Ode is blessed with many rich entrepreneurs.
The traditional ruler of Ijebu-Ode, Oba Sikiru Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebuland, harped so much on unity, urging Ijebu people not to allow any anybody to sow a seed of disunity among them as they are one. He called for great unity among the Yoruba.
Otunba Adesanya Yusuf, Giwa Egbe Bobagunte Akile, the head of one of the age groups, spoke in the same vein.
He said: “This year’s event has been a very tremendous one. You can see that it has surpassed what we had last year and the festival yearly. It has become an international festival. This year’s festival has been very well packaged. It is not rowdy, not chaotic.
“The Ojude Oba festival is a unifying factor in Ijebuland where you find everyone coming together, including Christians, Muslims and traditional religion worshippers. That is why there has never been any religious conflict in Ijebuland. This festival is one of the main reasons why we have this unity in Ijebuland. The Ijebu kingdom is one.
“I am very happy that the governor is one of us. It has added more glamour to it, but we’ve always been the stars of Ojude Oba in the past 21 years. Bobagunte has always been the benchmark, and the governor, being part of us, has added a plus to that”.
Aare Abiodun Odusanwo is the President, Institute of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria (ITP). He is also a member of one of the age groups, Egbe Bobadimo Akile Ijebu. It is for those born between 1953 and 1955. He spoke on the festival also.
He said: “It is actually getting better and better because we look at it in terms of cultural relevance. It is more and more relevant. Look at the array of dresses of both men and women. It reflects the real Yoruba culture. If not for Ojude Oba, some of those traditional wear would have been forgotten because they are not things you wear to the office everyday. But when you come to Ojude Oba, you see pure Yoruba traditional attire.
“You have so many people coming from far and near. We have people from England, America and so on. It is actually for Ijebu, regardless of what or who you are. It brings huge revenue to the state, looking into the value chain.”
Ojude Oba has grown as a cultural showpiece at the level of organization, but it has not been promoted enough as a tourism product that could be marketed to attract greater number of visitors.
Among those present at the year’s event were the Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun and the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi. Chief Kessington Adebutu was the special guest of honour
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