I know its been exactly five days since the Ojude Oba festival held on the 14th of September, 2016, in Ijebu ode and so this post might come to you a tad bit late but all the same I just want to share my experience at the festival with you. and before I proceed, I will like to give you a background information on the Ojude Oba festival
By the way I found out that Ojude Oba festival is also done almost all towns in Ijebuland but the Ojude Oba of Ijebu Ode people is the biggest, most glamorous and the most popular of them all.
The Ojude Oba celebration in Ijebuland, Ogun State is an annual event during which the indigenes, their friends and associates throng the palace of the king for the carnival-like celebration. Ojude Oba which means “The king’s fore-court or frontage,” could also be translated as “majestic outing”, started about more than 100 years when the first converted Muslims deemed it fit to visit their king, the Awujale of Ijebuland, the paramount ruler of the Ijebu, to thank and felicitate with him for cooperating with them and allowing them to practice their religion.
According to oral historical accounts, the festival began when Balogun Kuku, one of the leading personalities in the community, accepted Islam. He decided to gather his friends, families, and well-wishers to pay homage to the king for giving them the opportunity to practice their religion peacefully. (Balogun Kuku, n.d.). And in another account, it is said that the festival started when Imam Tunwatoba led his friends and family members to pay homage to his friend, who was also the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Fidipote during the eid-l-adha festival. Imam Tunwatoba appreciated the king for being instrumental to the freedom enjoyed by the converted Muslims in the community to practice their faith in a peaceful atmosphere. (Babatunde, 2007). It is during this period that they pray for the monarch to enjoy a long life, good health, and for the progress and prosperity of Ijebuland. Whichever the correct version of the origin was, the festival which began as a visit became a culture that has grown in leaps and bounds to assume the status of a flagship cultural festival.
Ojude Oba festival began as purely a Muslim affair but it has over the years acquired a new meaning as it now embraces features of 21st century festivals, as Muslims and non-Muslims always look forward to this one event that has crossed all religious, cultural and social boundaries. Ojude Oba festival, an annual event for over a century ago is no doubt seemingly the most glamorous cultural and spiritual festival in Ogun State and perhaps Nigeria in general. This festival comes up on the third day of the Eid-el-kabir celebration when the Ijebu sons and daughters at home are joined by those in Diaspora together with their friends and well-wishers, irrespective of their religion and political affiliation come together to enjoy themselves and to celebrate the age-long tradition which has a cultural, religious, social, and military significance. The glitz and colours associated with Ojude oba festival ranked it among the most celebrated cultural festivals in the country.
At the one-day event are the glowing tributes of a festival that is responsive to social trends, while retaining the tradition of having different age groups come daily to the festival to entertain and renew their allegiance to the traditional ruler. It is usually a dance, but more importantly, a dance with meaning to which each age group creates the spectacle at the expansive lawn that separates the king and his guests from the crowd. That makes the festival an inspiring experience one can ever imagine
Ojude Oba 2016 through my lens..
The day began with heavy down pour continued from the previous day, looks like it was never going to stop but it did and so the preparation began. Arrived at the town from my host location despite the rain, I could see Ijebu people going out in different groups to the venue of the festival right in front of the Awujale’s palace with different activities going on around the streets and people having the fun of their life inside the drizzling rain. The arrival of guest which includes the Governor of Kaduna state Mallam Nasir El-rufai, Governor of Bayelsa state Seriake Dickson and Ogun state Governor Ibikunle Amosu. The arrival of the Regberegbes sitting at their respective seats, music stages all set, arrival of the Imams and other invited guests.
The Ojude Oba festival 2016 began with prayers by the Imam of Ijebuland, followed by the National and Ogun state Anthem, next is the Awujale Anthem, and finally the lineage praise of the Ijebu people. After these prayers and other protocols duly observed, they move in parade known as Regbe regbe – a unique and age long institution, designed to wield the society into age groups, male and female for bringing development and progress to the community. These groups, which comprise captains of industries, top managers and chief executive officers dance before the king one after the other. There are about 36 groups with an average of 50 members per group and each of them bears names that are connected to the throne. Bobayo for instance means “those who rejoice with the King”, Bobakeye means “those who join the king in splendour“, and also Bobajolu means “those who assist the King to unite the town’’ while Gbobaniyi means “those who honour the King“. Each of these group is expected to clad in the latest fashion in the world. They file past in turn with their drummers to pay homage to the king and sometimes present a special gift to the king as they parade and at the end of the day’s event, prizes in form of cheque and a trophy is given to the best Regberegbe male and female, and also to the best balogun. Then the night will follow with different music fiesta by sponsors and also each of the groups, arts exhibition and beauty pageant to the lineup of activities.
The Awujale anthem goes thus: Kaabiyesi o (2ce) Alaiye Oba wa, K’adepel’ori o kibatape lese, k’adepel’ori. K’odigbapel’orun, Ki Oba petiti, Ki ijobatuwalara, kaabiyesi o. Oba waoninu re. Kaabiyesi o (2ce).8
It did not really matter whether the group parading is that of the elderly, like the Mafowoku Akile Ijebu (male) or the younger tauntingly attractive women, Egbe Arobajo, who made their debut at the festival in 2014, but what is important is that the Awujale sits on the throne throughout the duration of the event to receive his people, pray for them while they also pray for him. There is no doubt that since its inception, Ojude Oba festival has always had enough visual pleasantries for every visitor- home or abroad and some of the attractions are the beauty of a group of people in the same age group coming together in service of their motherland. Many of the group’s names are related to the king such as Obafuwaji, Gbobalaye, Bobakeye, Gbobayo, Gbobaniyi and Bobamayegun etc and are divided into male and female.
Each of these groups has its uniqueness, either in the manner of appearance, the attire, style of dressing or dance pattern. The Gbobaniyi group for example; young middle-age men, who has the former Governor of Ogun state – Otunba Gbenga Daniel as its patron has one of the most special appearances by dressing in rich traditional Aso Oke clothes. They all hold walking sticks and dance like conquerors that they seemed to be.
The Bobagbimo, true to the group’s name, they appeared in learned and cerebral attire. The group has little of dance and pleasantries but more of grins, nods and prayers.
Bobagbimo came 1st in the male category of the competition
Gaiety and dance are the hallmarks of the all-female, Gbobaleye which has the Waka Music Superstar, Queen Salawa Abeni as one of its prominent members.
The Bobakeye, another one of the unique traditional age-group institutions which has the popular fuji music megastar Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde Anifowose (K1 the Ultimate) and also Otunba Michael Olasubomi Balogun – the Otunba Tunwase and Olori Omo-Oba of Ijebuland and also the founder of First City Monument Bank -the co-sponsor of the Ojude Oba festival with Globacom Technologies.
The parade of the Baloguns and Eleshins is the most colourful and breathtaking part of the festival with each Balogun and Elesin families take their turn to pay homage to the king amidst martial music, jubilating and hilarity of an estimated crowd of over one million both at the palace square and through the town including participants, visitors and tourists. (A Balogun or Elesin is a direct descendant of the war heroes who gained notable victories for the Ijebu nation during the inter-ethnic Yoruba wars in the pre-colonial history of Nigeria.) It is commonly believed that it was at Ojude Oba that the families of the war heroes led by the reigning Balogun and deputies exhibit their equestrian prowess by simulating mock battle shows and displays. Each of the families, including the Otubu, Kuku and Balogun, files out with the leader of the family – in most cases the eldest in the family or his child or grandchild – who mounts horsebacks and dances to war-like drumbeats. The Awujale of Ijebuland (Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetona (OFR) had described the day as the Ijebus national day.- The Bobakeye official webpage
The Josi Family
Balogun Dodondawa Family
Balogun Kuku Dynasty
Regardless of the economic situation of the country, the Regbe regbe continues to contribute to the development of Ijebuland while also uplifting the people as acknowledged by the king who made a statement in this regard during the 2014 festival celebration. He said ‘we are pleased to observe the positive contributions that our unique regbe regbe institution continues to make to the development of Ijebuland. We are pleased to see a healthy rivalry among them in their efforts to do something tangible for our society so as to immortalise their names in the annals of Ijebu history.”- The Awujale of Ijebuland (Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetona (OFR)
With the above pictures, you will agree with me that Ojude Oba festival not only has all the ingredients of uniqueness and greatness but has over the years matured into a world class event as this is the time most Ijebu people come home to celebrate. The period when men and women slugged it out as if they are on the fashion runaway – From exotic lace fabrics to assorted shoes, bags and other fashion accessories. The venue of the celebration which is directly opposite the palace of the Awujale of Ijebuland is sparked with a display of colours. The traditional Etu, Aso Okes designed and cut into agbada and danshiki, the women and their different styles of Geles (headties) plus extra one wrapped around their waist or across their shoulders. This festival remains a mixture of the ancient and modern when some men came out in Aso Oke mixed with damask fabric. The Ojude Oba festival, which was meant to be a traditional festival in honour of the paramount ruler of the Ijebuland, has no doubt turned round to be a fashion parade but still it is about the social and cultural responsiveness on the part of the people and most importantly this is a festival you will like to attend.
More pictures from Ojude Oba festival 2016
Bobamayegun Asiwaju Akile Ijebu (Female)
Bobamayegun Asiwaju Akile Ijebu (Male) paying homage to the king
The male bobamayegun Asiwaju Akile Ijebu making their major public outing and their first appearance at the Ojude Oba since recognition by the Awujale in 2015.
Bobagunte Females during their parade
Bobamayegun Asiwaju came 3rd in the female category of the competition
Arobayo Female paying their homage to the king
Other Balogun families on parade
Jagunmolu women came 1st in the female category of the competition
The experience at the 2016 Ojude Oba festival was an awesome one and we hope by next year, with the right sponsorship we will bring you a short documentary of the festival from the beginning, during and after the event.
Thanks to the people of Imodi Imosan Ijebu for being a good host and showing me around.
Thank you all for taking your time to read this… We will like to read your comments!
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