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OJUDE OBA FESTIVAL – ASSAULT OF THE CULTURE IGNORAMUS. By Dr. Bisi Olawunmi.

OJUDE OBA FESTIVAL – ASSAULT OF THE CULTURE IGNORAMUS

Abeni Aso-Oke
Abeni Aso-Oke

Ojude Oba 2024 video

The annual socio-cultural Ojude Oba festival had the splendour and grandeur of Ijebus on display on Tuesday, 18th June, 2024 at Ijebu-Ode, the capital city of Ijebuland. It was a nexus of cultural and sartorial elegance, social grace and evocative dance steps that has attracted indigenes as well as local and foreign tourists over the years. It was a signature tune event. Ojude Oba is a tripartite celebration of the enduring Regberegbe ( Age Grades ) system, cultural identity and Ijebu unity. From its origin in the 1880s as an Islamic faithfuls’ Sallah homage to the Awujale of Ijebuland, the Ojude Oba festival has transformed into an all-faiths, all indigenes celebration. I salute the Awujale of Ijebuland, His Royal Majesty, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, Ogbagba 11, for this transformative feat of socio-cultural engineering that has hallmarked his remarkable 64-year reign, since ascending the throne of his forefathers in 1960. It is a case of an iconic traditional ruler creating an iconic legacy.
The 2024 edition of Ojude Oba festival was estimated to have attracted about one million people and several more millions of a global audience. Social media was agog in transmitting the grandeur of the occasion . As is usual, Ijebu-Ode experienced vehicular and human traffic gridlock , especially in the city centre where the palace of the Awujale and the stadium ( a palace annex ) hosting the event are located. It is a measure of the economic derivative of the celebration that all hotels in Ijebu-Ode and environs were fully booked from Saturday 15th June 2024, through Ileya Day on 16th June , Ojude Oba Day on the 18th to Wednesday 19th June, the day after. A friend who came for the Ojude Oba celebration had to return to Lagos same day because he could not secure hotel accommodation anywhere. Food and drinks vendors also made boom sales catering to the teeming patrons of the celebration.
At the stadium venue of the celebration , opposite the palace, the Awujale , Oba Adetona, was resplendent in the majesty of his royal regalia , supported by other traditional rulers in Ijebuland , with the Ogun state governor, Dapo Abiodun, also an Ijebu, adorned in a designer native dress of sunshine colours that stood him out as a sartorial connoisseur.
But then, in all good things , there are a few contrary people sold on negativism . The 2024 Ojude Oba festival attracted such people who I describe as culture ignoramus. Charity, they say, begins at home, so I will start with a writer , Pabiekun ( pen name ) an Ijebu-Ode indigene with an address at Aiyegbami street, in Ijebu-Ode. He admitted not being home for the celebration . The absentee indigene , in a social media post titled : Ojude Oba – The Day After , had declared : “ for me , the annual Ojude Oba remains what it is, a fashion jamboree of no consequence to the welfare of the host and the environment”. He wondered why the Regberegbes would not offer scholarships, build health centres, roads and boreholes.
Upping the angst of the home boy, came a tempestuous character called Kemi Olunloyo , an Ibadan native, who dismissed the Regberegbes’ outing at Ojude Oba festival as a wasteful fashion extravaganza !
Both , apparently, wrote from lack of knowledge. Olunloyo , with a penchant for hugging controversies and having pugilism as her brand, had thundered in her social media post : “ What the hell is Ojude festival ? Empty hype.” In her blind rage, she could not even get the name of the festival , Ojude Oba, right but wrote Ojude- meaning ‘ita ( outside) So, it is therefore not surprising that she wrote like an ‘omo ita’ ! ( street person ) Kemi Olunloyo had continued : “ Dapo Abiodun wants to make it ( Ojude Oba festival ) global. A big joke. All I see is a bunch of stingy people “Ijebus” sitting down in a stadium wearing all sorts of Aso Ebi.” It is obvious this character had worked herself into a frenzy and consequently lost the ability at rational thinking and logical discourse. Gov. Abiodun is on point in his desire to promote Ojude Oba festival as a global tourism event and the joke is on Kemi Olunloyo. She apparently suffers from myopia in not seeing the global tourism potential of Ojude Oba festival and had pontificated “ No one is interested in your excessive fashion parade.” She needs to be educated that tourism is about creating a niche and cultural glitterati, which is usually in abundant display at Ojude Oba festivals., can be promoted as a niche. I understand that this self-promoting, self designated ‘activist’, ‘investigative journalist’ and consultant pharmacist was shipped to America at the tender age of 14 and must have lost touch with native culture, hence describing Ojude Oba festival’s elegance as hype. She probably belongs in the ranks of Culture Abolitionists some of who, on the cultural lunatic fringe, even call for the scrapping of the Obaship institution !!!
She peddled the false refrain of Ijebus as stingy people but also accused them of being extravagant spendthrifts. It is a contradiction in terms for a stingy person to also be a spendthrift and such convoluted thinking can only be the product of a warped mind. I always insist that Ijebus are not stingy but strict money managers and prudent spenders, who when they choose to spend, they spend with gusto – with no apologies !!! And such was on display at Ojude Oba 2024.
Kemi Olunloyo offered advice to the Regberegbes to “ Feed the people, educate the youth “ , as against being engaged in ‘’excessive fashion parade’’, an advice which Chief ( Dr.) Fassy Yusuf considered gratuitous and borne out of ignorance , pointing out that Regberegbes have not only been feeding the people and educating the youth, as it were, but have also been providing infrastructural facilities. Chief Yusuf, (PhD), Coordinator of the Ojude Oba festival, describes Regberegbes as interventionist development agents, citing such instances of their interventions to include the N20 million naira renovation of the male surgical ward at State Hospital, Ijebu-Ode, renovation of the Nigeria Police Area Command, Igbeba, Ijebu-Ode and building of Police Posts. The 108-page Ojude Oba Festival 2024 brochure listed some of the other activities engaged in by the various Regberegbes : resuscitation of the moribund School of Nursing and Midwifery , Ijebu-Ode; scholarships to indigent students ; construction of four Blocks of classroom at Omu Ajose Comprehensive High School, three classroom blocks at Imososi Primary School, Ago Iwoye. Other activities are the rehabilitation of roads, provision of boreholes and solar street lights, support to orphanages/homes for people with special needs and free medicals to indigenes. A particular instance was the health retreat held in Ijebu-Ode on Friday, 14th June, 2024 ,during Ileya season, where over a thousand people benefited from free consultations/diagnoses and medications/drugs.
Chief Yusuf, the Baagbimo of Ijebu and Secretary of the Awujale Council of Chiefs, stressed that it has become imperative to enlighten skeptics about the extensive ramifications of Regberegbes as a unique, populist socio-cultural cum economic platform where services are provided for the community and also for members. He pointed out that Regberegbes have become unifying and uplifting platforms with the enhancement of the wellbeing of members – financial and healthwise – considered collective responsibilities of the Age Grades, where investment loans, payment of hospital bills of sick members and donations to families of deceased members are made.
According to Chief Yusuf , a member of the Bobagbimo Regberegbe Age Grade, the Regberegbes have given so much glamour to the Ojude Oba festival that has qualified it as an A-List cultural event in the country and therefore deserves to be projected to the global level, as against the negativism of the anti-culture.
Writing in similar vein to Chief Yusuf, Sunday Tribune columnist, Festus Adedayo, ( PhD) provided an intellectual riposte to the angst of those inclined to cultural putdowns when in his column of June 23, 2024 captioned ‘ Ojude Oba, Durbar and Musawa’s African Grammy’ , he posited : “ the glitz and colours associated with the festival ( Ojude Oba ) place it outside the ranks of any cultural festival in Nigeria”. As pointed out by Dr. Adedayo , “ what Nigeria advertises to the world in Ojude Oba is cultural elegance and communal cohesion”. It is this cultural elegance that is being proposed as a tourism niche for Ojude Oba festival, just as major global tourism destinations have their niches. For instance, Morocco, Africa’s top tourism destination with 13.2 million tourists in 2023, has its vibrant culture as its selling point; Egypt, second placed with 11.5 million tourists, has its ancient wonders of the Pyramid and the Valley of Kings as its attraction, while for eight placed Kenya – 2.6 million tourists – the premium is its wildlife safaris. Nigeria, ranked 68th in the world tourism index, attracted only 518,000 tourists in 2021, the latest figure available from Worlddata.info . This demands that Nigeria needs to create and promote a tourism niche and a properly packaged Ojude Oba festival, as a niche, is a potential tourism money spinner, to tap into the goldmine of the 1.3 billion global tourists in 2023 that generated revenues of USD1.4 trillion, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation ( UNWTO).
I was privileged to have been to some of the world’s leading tourism destinations which have their specific niches, including Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida ; Hollywood in California, both in the United States ; Cancun in Mexico ; the Safari in Kenya ; Mauritius ( Paradise Found ) the aquatic jewel in the Indian ocean ; the historic Coliseum in Rome, Italy and London.
We need to appreciate and celebrate our culture as our niche contribution to global tourism and Ojude Oba festival is such a sellable cultural event.

Abeni Aso-Oke

Dr. Bisi Olawunmi, Senior Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State and former Washington Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria, is a Fellow, Nigerian Guild of Editors (FNGE) 08033647571 ; email : olawunmibisi@yahoo.com

Wednesday, 3rd July, 2024.

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