From a distance, you could hear the heavy drums, sound of music from different corners; the traditional Ojude Oba (The king’s fore-court) festival springing plenty of surprises.
Nothing could deter patriotic ljebus, not even the morning light intermittent downpour from trooping out en masse for the annual festival.
The fiesta began fast and feisty with the usual pomp, glitz and glamour. It was indeed, a cultural extravaganza that attracted hundreds and thousands of people from within and outside the country.
The streets were adorned with canopies in every direction, with all roads leading to the main pavilion congested with human traffic. Many that could not gain access to the pavilion decided to party in the street.
This year’s event tagged: ‘Celebration of Rich Cultural Heritage’, got underway with the recitation of the national anthem. After that, several activities, including age grades, march pasts by the Bobagunwa group, horse-riding later took the centre-stage.
Sponsored by First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Limited, whose imprint on the festival is inestimable and indelible, the Ojude Oba (which in Ijebu dialect means, the king’s fore-court or frontage), is a major festival in Nigeria that began over 100 years ago.
Usually celebrated after the Eid-el-Kabir (Sallah), it brought together all sons and daughters of Ijebuland in Nigeria and in the Diaspora for the carnival-like celebration of the traditional, cultural, spiritual accomplishments and other values of the Ijebu nation.
During the festival, various age groups (popularly known as the Regberegbes), indigenes, their friends and associates from far and near – all in their colourful costumes and riding on horses – thronged the palace of the Awujale and paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, to pay homage to him amidst prayers and other fun-filled activities.
As with previous editions, it attracted Ijebus both home and abroad. International tourists do come to witness the colorful festival that entails booming of guns and horse riding by the Baloguns and Olorogu.
Music was served by Musiliu Ishola, the son of legendary apala singer, Haruna lshola. Fashion was not left out in the parade of colours, it was at its best during the festival, showcasing the traditional aso oke, the damask, etu, agbada, and dansiki, iro, buba, and other types of fabric worn by the people, largely speak of their fashion-sense.
The First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Limited had urged Nigerians to sustain the country’s cultural heritage in order to boost tourism and its associated benefits.
According to the bank, this will go a long way to educate and inspire generations about the history of Nigeria, the people and values, while also fast-tracking the ongoing efforts of the government to diversify the economy.
FCMB has over the years been a major sponsor of the festival and has continued to play a significant role in ensuring its success.
In his goodwill message to the Awujale on the occasion of this year’s festival, the Founder of FCMB Group who is also the Olori Omo-Oba AkileIjebu, Otunba Olasubomi Balogun, expressed gratitude to the Awujale for attending to the different requests and yearnings of the people of Ijebuland.
In a message delivered on his behalf by the Group Head, Corporate Affairs of the bank, Mr. Diran Olojo, Otunba Balogun, commended Oba Adetona for his, “distinguished and exemplary leadership over the years which has continued to endear you to all of us.”
He stated: “The Festival provides us all your children and subjects, the period when we gather to pay you homage and demonstrate our affection for a very unique monarch, an exceptional father figure and the Paramount Ruler who has continued to endear himself to his people.
“Apart from being the Olori Ebi (the head of the family, by the grace of Almighty God and interestingly not in contest by all who admire the grace of our God), as your Olori Omo-Oba (the head of princes and princesses), I will continue to lead the way in showing our appreciation by being very close to you and showing my total loyalty to you.”
In the same vein, the Group Chief Executive of FCMB Group Plc, Mr. Ladi Balogun, congratulated the monarch for upholding the values of Ijebuland and raising the status of the event over the years.
Balogun reiterated the commitment of the financial institution to the longevity of the Ojude Oba Festival.
He said: “For all true sons and daughters of Ijebuland, the Ojude Oba Festival is more than an event for us. It has become a long-standing yearly tradition we look forward to as a unifying platform and a tourist attraction.
“For over a century, the Festival has become an internationally acclaimed event that has gone a long way to promote our cultural heritage and further unify humanity. As a socially responsible corporate citizen, we recognise that respect for our heritage is important as a catalyst of cultural diversity and a guarantee of sustainable development.
“It is a pride to us, being a major platform through which we connect with the community and promote our nation’s diversity through purposeful partnership.
“The annual display of rich cultural heritage via the festival attracts tourists from across the globe and Ijebu indigenes in the Diaspora, boosting trade and the hospitality sector in the region
“It is time to begin to see the Ojude Oba Festival as a fulcrum to inspire individuals, awaken their entrepreneurial spirit and encourage the birthing of other endeavours that stimulate development in a sustainable manner.”
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