Ojude Oba : A Time Of Robust Sight And Sound Of Ijebu Cultural Heritage - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Sunday, July 18, 2021

Ojude Oba : A Time Of Robust Sight And Sound Of Ijebu Cultural Heritage

                 • Women age grade

By Aaron Odih

Ojude Oba, the over a century old cultural festival of the Ijebu nation in Ogun State, Southwest of Nigeria, is a time for the sons and daughters of this ethnic group - home and abroad, to pay homage to their revered paramount ruler and Awujale of Ijebuland in his Ijebu - Ode royal home town.

The reigning Awujale is Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, the Ogbagba 11.

Aside paying homage to their king, Ojude Oba is also a period to celebrate the success stories that often demonstrate the enterprising  and entrepreneural spirit of the Ijebu people.

The cultural carnival comes two days after the muslim Ileya festival.

An estimated 50, 000 of people, including friends, tourists and well-wishers, participate in the festival annually with glamour, opulence, paegentry and trappings reminiscience of either the Rio Dejenero Carnival of Brazil or the Nottinghamhill Gate Carnival in London.

It usually commence around 9:am each year in the morning at the mini stadium - like  arcade taking massive influx of participants of various age grades - the regberegbes, until it peaks  by noon with more participants and spectators spilling into the appian Awujale archway, Folagbade street and the adjoining ones as well as the Itoro Headquarters of Ijebu - Ode Local Government Council.

Wherever one turns, it is always the sight and sound of drum beats by Ijebus in festive mood one beholds and perceives. It is also a time for freelance local drummers and entertainers in their various groups  to entertain guests at no fixed price. 

To any first time visitor or participant, one is usually bombarded with a kaleidescope of colours from seated various regberegbes (age-grades) -: all competing for one's attention with power dressing that show off the success, cultural heritage and wealth of the Ijebu people.

By 10: 30am, the regberegbes  will begin to take turn to pay homage to the Awujale, Oba Adetona, who will also pour his highly sought royal blessings upon them without measure. The first group expected to perform this rite with rythmic Ijebu dance steps are the Egbe Mafowokun age grade, where Senator Biyi Durojaiye is a member and Oba Shafi Agbolade Sule of Odosenlu kingdom was once the group's head(Giwa).

This age grade also happened to be the Awujale's group and is well known for always adorning thick fabric of Ox blood colour with bold stripes but in 2015, they varied the colour of their uniform to deep grey colour material

No fewer than 25 various age grades pay the paramount ruler respect each year and were often followed by corporate organisations. Here Globacom, the yearly official sponsor of Ojude Oba for for over a decade running, usually takes the lead.

A major signpost of Ojude -Oba is the milling and filing of the Regbereges of male and female age grades, who in a healthy competition  will dance round the Palace arena. 
Scene from past Ojuba Oba

There are over three dozens of Regberegbes in Ijebuland but no fewer than 25 of them, including Egbe Arobayo(female), Egbe Gbobaniyi (Obinrin Olori), Egbe Jagunmolu (Obinrin), Egbe Obafuwaji (Male), Egbe Obaleke, Egbe Jagunmolu Akile, Egbe Bobaniyi(male) where former Chairman of Ijebu - Ode Local Government Area, Mufutau Oseni, is the Giwa, have continued to make appearances yearly to pay homage to their spiritual head, Oba Adetona.

But the glamour and carnival  in  Ojude - Oba normally takes an exciting and equestrian dimension by noon time with the gallant parade of the Baloguns and Eleshins of Ijebuland. These are the descendants of Ijebu war heroes, who executed wars and gained major victories for them during the war - torn era of the yoruba history. 

However, with the ceasation of intra and intertribal wars in yoruba land, deserving Ijebu - Ode sons began to earn the title of Balogun in recognition of the contributions to the unity, peace, progress and development of the town and her people.

From this courageous 'clan of warlords and deserving families' are Balogun Bello Oduneyungbo Kuku; where Olorogun and Physician Sunny Kuku leads the family, Balogun Odunnuga, Balogun Agboola Alausa, Balogun Alatishe, Balogun Otubu, Balogun Adesoye,  Balogun Odejayi, Balogun Adesoye Onasanya, Balogun Towobola, Balogun Aregbesola and Balogun Ajibike Odedina.
         •Scene from past Ojuba Oba

Others are Balogun Sarunmi,  Balogun Areagba while the horse riders families are Eleshin Keregbetu family, Eleshin Oyewole family, Eleshin Josi family among others - they all take turn to ride triumphantly into the Palace on horse back in the fashion of soldiers returning from a successful military campaign.

Each year, the colourful parade comes with a staccato and intermittent booming of dane guns as each family of the Baloguns and Eleshins take turn  to pay homage to Oba Adetona, who in turn bless them in Ijebu dialect.

Interestingly, the Ojude - Oba which was previously a muslim religious affairs in Yorubaland, has taken a  firm root in Ijebu with the settlement of the first convert to Islam in Ijebu Ode during the reign of Awujale Adesimbo Tunwase around 1889.
 And during this period and up to the time of Oba Adeona Fusigboye (1906), horse ridding was not part of it.
But Horse-riding seeped into it during the reign of the duo of Oba Adenuga Folagbade and Oba Adesanya and quickly took a glamorous dimension when Oba Sikiru Adetona came to the throne  about six decades now. Today,  the festival has garnered both national and international recognition.

In the past, many of the horse riders, particularly those from Keregbetu family of Baloguns did display their expertise to the excitement of spectators, compelling them to yearn for more.  It is now being suggested by many notable Ijebu sons that in future, enough time should be given to the Horseriders to display their prowess.

The Ojude Oba attracts tourists from within and outside the shore of Nigeria annually and hospitality  business do witness a boom in Ijebuland during the celebration as an estimated N85million business opportunities do present themselves each year for grab.

Small and medium business operators such as caterers, printers, rentals, artists, transporters, tailors, hawkers of souvenirs among others make brisk money at such period while company like Globacom also use the avenue to bring its products and services closer to its teeming subscribers and prospective ones.

Prominent Nigerians that have attended the festival in recent  decade are former Presidents  of the Nigerian  Senate, David Bonaventure Mark and Dr. Bukola Saraki, Senators - Dino Melaye(Kogi State), Ben Bruce(Bayelsa State), Abiodun Olujimi(Ekiti State), Duro Faseyi (Ekiti  State)  Shaba Lafiaji(Kwara State) Sam Anyanwu(Imo State).

Others are former governor of Lagos State and National leader of the All Progressives Congress(APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu,  governor (Mallam) Nasir El - Rufai, the then governor Dickson Seriake of Baylesa State, industrialist Razak Okaya, former Speaker Dimeji Bankole, past governors of Ogun State, incumbent governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State among others.

It is worthy of note that beyond the display of rich cultural carnival and bond of unity which Ojude Oba engenders among the people of Ijebu nation, the festival had also served as a veritable platform for many of its special guests of honour in the past, including David Mark, to leverage on the existing harmony in Ijebuland despite her diversity of faith to call on the rest of Nigerians to embrace  religious tolerance and love for one another as obtainable among the Ijebus.
         •Scene from past Ojude Oba 

Unfortunately, the Awujale of Ijebuland  Oba Sikiru Adetona has not organized this yearly cultural festival since 2020. No thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic which had hit the world generally with its requirements of safe physical and social distancing,  restriction of large gatherings and wearing of nose and mouth guard in public places as safety precautions against the spread of the dreadful virus.

Expectedly, the Awujale has cancelled this year edition of the popular Ojude Oba festival as was the case in 2020, citing COVID -19 as reason for the cancellation and given the fact that the world, including Nigeria, has just entered the third wave of the pandemic.

Speaking through Chief Fassy Yusuf,
Coordinator of Ojude-Oba festival and Baagbimo of Ijebu, Oba Adetona said he had elected to cancel 2021 Ojude Oba festival in oder not to expose people to health hazards.

“Rather than expose peoples who will converge in Ijebu Ode from all over the world to participate in the ancient and unique socio-cultural and religious festival of the Ijebu nation, with its parade of traditional-age groups and the spectacular durbar with unsurpassable equestrian display, to avoidable and preventable health hazards, the monarch directed that the 2021 edition be cancelled.

"This is the second time in its known history of more than one Century that the festival that unites Muslims, Christians, and adherents of other faiths will be cancelled. The Ojude Oba Festival is normally held two days after the Eid-el Kabir (Ileya).

"Oba Adetona has also advised his subjects as well as visitors to Ijebuland “to ensure they wear their nose masks, wash their hands regularly with soap, keep social and physical distances at public places, get vaccinated against the pandemic, and adhere to other medical protocols as directed by the federal, state, and local government authorities,” Chief Fassy Yusuf said.

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