• The EBUMAWE Of AGO-IWOYE
The Regberegbe age grouping is a systemic categorization of children born within the period of 3 years interval. It is synonymous with the Ijebus of the South Western Nigeria founded about two hundred and thirty-seven (237) years ago with the oldest age group, Basanle, within the age bracket 1777- 1780. Membership is made up of both sexes, professional and vocational geniuses who constitute potent factors of development in the sub-nation. The idea has been part of the ancient culture of the Ijebu people proudly used for the democratic contribution of the groups to society and administration.
Commerce and Industry, for which the Ijebus are renowned, are by-products of the Regberegbe, giving the race leverage in developmental competitiveness. The Ijebus are a set of people whose conscious, elegant and gorgeous dressing distinguishes them from the multitude of the other races. They are, indeed, a beauty to behold on Ojude Oba carnival bringing colour, fashion and glamour to the event. At social events aside, the Regberegbe grouping, they are easily distinguishable: well-dressed, outstandingly admirable in colour combination and out-dressing their closest competitors. Regberegbe and Ojude Oba have become one inseparable tradition of excellence admired by all from far and near.
‘What outsiders find most striking is our way of dressing. All the groups painstakingly go through their outfits and spend as much as one year to plan and organize what they would wear for the social events. For uniformity, only the same tailor is used. A group’s outfit cannot be worn by members except when it is exclusively assigned to be worn by all members.’
Resuscitation of the Regberegbe in Ago-Iwoye became imperative to reawaken the spirit of collective responsibility to the community as it were in the days of the founders of the social grouping. Oba Adenugba, the Ebumawe of Ago-Iwoye, was instrumental to the rebirth of the age-long grouping through his membership of the Bobakeye Akile Ijebu Age Grade. He was encouraged to resuscitate the Regberegbe in his domain given the reception organized in his honour by his friends, school mates and age group on his ascension to the throne. He used his age grade, the Bobakeye, 1956 -1958, as the trail blazer and the
first two years were, indeed, the Bobakeye years before others joined. ‘I thank the Bobakeye of Ago-Iwoye for their marvelous embrace and support for my initiative. They all attended the first Ojude Oba celebration which I presided in 2006. The group was inspirational to others that emerged thereafter. ‘
The coming alive of the Regberegbe is a wake up call for the indigenes to their responsibilities to community development. It has strengthened the unity of the people in the areas of religious tolerance, co-habitation, exchange of beneficial economic ideas and assistance to the less privileged. ‘The essence and beauty of the Regberegbe is that age mates assist themselves in the enhancement of their economic well-being. The problem of a member is the problem ofthe others; and the fortune of a member is the benefit of all.’ The beneficial effects of the Regberegbe are unimaginable. For the first time in the history of Ago-Iwoye, the Gbobaniyi age group, ably led by Giwa Femi Bakre, organised an Economic
Summit with the theme: Unlocking the economic opportunities and potentials for development. It was designed to take advantage of resources available to the community to empower the people. Highlights ofthe Summit include: *Historical Economic Strength of Ago-Iwoye, *Education, Youth Development and Empowerment, *Infrastructure: Roads, Electricity, Water and Housing, *Agriculture/ Agro Allied Businesses, *Health and Security, *Finance and Investment Opportunities for Growth.
The Summit was set to provide a platform for top-level public/private dialogue on specific economic issues; establish a consensus on policy options aimed at transforming Ago-Iwoye and its constituents in an economically viable environment; harness the abundant human and natural resources of Ago-Iwoye for its economic development; and attract local and international private investors. Others are to articulate a road map for the economic advancement of Ago-Iwoye; redirect the focus and effort of its people towards development; synergize and give private sector fillip to the people’s efforts towards economic growth of the town; and harness the competitive individualism and adventurous spirit of Ago-Iwoye. On the heels of the Summit, Gbobaniyi, the organisers of the awareness, has established a micro-finance outfit for the benefit of its members and the community at large as a first step towards actualizing the objectives of the Summit. Talking development, the Regberegbe in Ago-Iwoye have formed the Regberegbe-In-Council, a think-tank charting the way forward for the community. As a take-off point, the Council has established a Recreation Centre as a meeting place of ideas. The Council is purely traditional, made up of leaders of the age grades committed to contributing personal resources and ingenuity for the development of their place of birth. “In terms of unity, Ago-Iwoye people are friendly. We feel it is better to come together as age grades to strengthen the already existing unity. The number of the age grades has risen from one in 2006 to about 10 in 2013. Of the lots, only three – Bobakeye, Bobagunte and Gbobaniyi – have registered with the Aajin. Despite the non-registration of the others, they still participate in the Ojude Oba activities. They are encouraged to register to be part of the developmental initiatives of the community”, said Kabiyesi. The. Regberegbe, like any other social organisation, .. meet monthly, rotating hosts. They discuss progress and current issues relating to the community. They crack jokes, as friends and age mates while considering issues of development of the land with seriousness.
However, what is today’s Ojude Oba Carnival was homage paying to royal fathers in Ijebuland centuries ago. It began in the days ofthe elders who, once in a year, gave honour and presents to their Obas during the yearly Eid-El-Kabir (Ileya) celebration. Two days after Ileya, people, irrespective of religion or social status converge on the Aafin to give honour and respect to the royal fathers. On such occasion, they appear in the best of their dresses to demonstrate joy, happiness and decency. The ceremony commences with the Baloguns (war generals) atop of their beautifully decorated horses dancing to the Aafin in the midst of members of their families and well-wishers. On arrival at the Aafin, the Baloguns will disembark from their horses and joined by the people to pay homage to the royal fathers. The Kabiyesis, in turn, present gifts to the Baloguns. The occasion is usually colourful so much so that a first timer would always want to keep a date with the Ijebus in subsequent years. Closely on the heels of the Baloguns are the Regberegbe, flamboyantly dresssed in their uniformed attires also to pay homage to their traditional rulers. When. they come, it is not wi.h empty hands; they ‘unload’ gifts at the feet of the Kabiyesis and they too, give their royal blessings whole-heartedly.
Ojude Oba is famously celebrated in Epe and Aiyepe on the second day of Ileya, in Ago-Iwoye and Ijebu-Igbo, on the third day, same with Ijebu-Ode. The ‘grand finale’ holds at Ijebu-Ode and it is the grandfather of all carnivals. That day, the Ijebus at home and in the diaspora converge on Ijebu-Ode at the Aafin extension as a mark of honour and respect to the Awujale of Ijebuland. The social exhibition associated with the carnival makes it glamorous to the extent that the Regberegbe would not want to miss the celebration. When the event falls on a work day, the Ijebus would first go to work and still be part ofthe carnival at Ijebu-Ode or their respective towns. Some people, for the love they have for the event, arrange their annual vacation to co-incide with the Ojude Oba!
Traditional governance in Ijebu is a beauty to behold. The Awujale sits atop the administration, supported by his fellow Obas. On Ileya day, he kills rams and distributes to all the traditional rulers who would have sent theirs to him earlier. All the Muslim Obas in their respective domains worship with their subjects at the praying ground and have the whole of the second day to themselves attending to visitors. On Ojude Oba day, royal fathers close to the Awujale would accompany him to the Aafin Extension, venue of the carnival, pay homage alongside their age groups and return to theirrespective domains to celebrate the day with their subjects. They are also accorded honour and respect as they had given to the Awujale.
In Ago-Iwoye, Ojude Oba celebration had existed since the creation of the Ebumawe Dynasty. His Royal Highness, Oba Abdul-Razaq Adenugba has not only enlivened it, he has taken it to greater heights. It is a rallying point for the subjects irrespective of age or religion. He holds his allegiance to the Awujale, Oba S.K. Adetona, Ogbagba II. On Ojude Oba day, he pays homage to the Awujale and later in the day, receives his subjects particularly the Regberegbe. ‘We are not competing with the Awujale but making our people happy, taking the advantage of coming together to celebrate. The event is not peculiar to Muslims alone; it is common to all religions. It is a period set aside once in a year to show love and loyalty to the traditional rulers; and a time to pride in our place of birth. As the saying goes, every developmental stride has its price. The costs of the first four Ojude Oba celebrations in Ago-Iwoye were borne by the Ebumawe. He gives monetary gifts to the Baloguns every year and after about four years, the Baloguns started to reciprocate the gesture. And then the Regberegbe followed suit. It is traditional to give and receive because love is reciprocal. All the Regberegbe are Ebumawe’s children and no children go to the father empty-handed.
–Culled from the Book, MY STORY: The biography of HRH Oba A. A Adenugba, the Ebumawe of Ago-Iwoye By Femi Odugbose