The 2019 Ojude Oba Festival will hold next week time in Ijebu Ode.
It is an annual festival that holds 3 days after Ileya. It was originally a Muslim-religious affair and has largely remained so in Yoruba communities. In Ijebuland, it started during the reign of Oba Awujale Adesimbo Tunwase around 1888/1889. Oba Tunwase gave Muslims the land for the first Yidi (praying ground). Oba Tunwase also granted the Muslims land to build the first Mosque at an open space at Eti Ita Ale (night market). It was, therefore, possible that the first Ojude-Oba took place around 1890 during the reign of Awujale Tunwase.
What is Ojude-Oba? It means going to the Aafin (palace) grounds to pay a courtesy visit to the Oba. For the Muslims, it is a special annual celebration on the 3rd day of the Eid-el-Kabir, popularly known as Ileya Festival, to thank the Oba for the gift of the ram (Agbo) slaughtered at “Yidi”. In Ijebuland, it is known as “A dupe Iru’ visit (A Thank u visit).
On this special annual visit, the Muslims come together to thank the Oba. They also pray for him, his family the town and the whole of Ijebuland. By 1904, half of the population of Ijebu Ode was already Muslims including Balogun Kuku and a vanguard of notables and new Muslim elites. The Ojude-Oba became more regular under the reign of Oba Awujale Adeleke Ogbagba (1895). Awujale Ogbagba, after much pleading, allowed the Muslim leaders to use small umbrellas to Yidi and back, but not to Ojude-Oba and never when passing in front of his house or palace.
However, during the reign of Oba Awujale Adetona Fusigboye (1906), the Muslim community in Ijebu Ode requested land to build a Central Mosque and the Awujale Fusigboye, himself granted them land at Oyingbo. Ojude-Oba Festival continued to flourish in Ijebu Ode. The Muslim communities in the suburbs followed the Ijebu Ode example and followed suit Ojude-Oba in thanksgiving to Allah, praying for the Awujale and for peace and harmony in Ijebuland. During Ojude-Oba, there is merriment, music and dancing as participants depart from the palace to their various quarters and homes.
The glamour and popularity of the Ojude- Oba affair took an exciting turn when horse-riding was introduced. Horse-riding was not part of the early celebration of Ojude-Oba event. Horse-riding comes with drumming, music and parades was introduced in the ’20s and ’30s and particularly from early ’40s during the reign of Awujale Adenuga Folagbade (1925), Ogunnaike-Fibiwoga (1929), Daniel Adesanya-Gbelegbuwa (1939). In the last 52 years, notably during the reign of Oba (Dr.) SikiruKayode. Adetona (Ogbagba II), CFR, Ojude Oba has been transformed into a world-class carnival with unprecedented grandeur, excitement, pomp and pageantry.
The event has become a landmark of Ijebu culture. It has become the Ojude-Oba of Nigeria and the Black Race. The Awujales have from time immemorial received certain Chiefs and Princes in processions to Ojude-Oba. These processions include horse-riders (Chiefs and Princes). From the ’30s, their numbers and protocol have become formalized. Today, there are more than 20 groups (chiefs and families) chosen and graded, while horse-riders are also from distinguished families. Horse-riding and pageantries evolved over the years, so are the families who participate in the procession and/or sponsor horse-riders. Formalized protocols have also been introduced. The protocol arrangement for the procession into Awujale’s Palace is that the non-Balogun families’ horse-riders will first come in to pay homage to the Awujale, followed by the past Baloguns, the immediate past Balogun, the Otun Balogun and lastly the current Balogun of Ijebu Ode.
Ojude-Oba celebrations have become a unifying ceremony of Ijebus irrespective of their religious faiths. And this has been exploited to create avenues for enduring peaceful relationship in Ijebuland. Ijebuland has remained very peaceful these past 52 years. The spirit of tolerance, friendliness and accommodation has been generated by the annual Ojude-Oba.
The active involvement and participation of age-grade groups(Regberegbes) in Ojude-Oba carnivals have had a tremendous impact. Members of the Regberegbes belong to different religions. They elect their officers without rancor and work (and play) together as genuine brothers and sisters. Also, all Obas in Ijebuland and the vast majority of Otunbas and Chiefs, both Muslims and Christians, participate in Ojude-Oba Festival. Non-Muslim citizens also join in the carnival either as members of the families of horse-riders, spectators or invited guests of the Regberegbes. The result is the most enduring and friendly relationship which now reigns in Ijebuland. The Regberegbes have existed and functioned in Ijebuland for more than 200 years. The first group, Egbe Basanle had men born between 1777 and 1780. Going by the meaning of their name, it is clear that the Egbe also met some customs in the land. All Regberegbes are named or christened by the reigning Awujale. As Professor Ayandele correctly pointed out in his book: “The Ijebu of Yorubaland”, an index of growth, prosperity and tranquility of 19th-century Ijebuland was the systematic organization reflecting significant events.
The Regberegbes play very important social, cultural and economic functions for the survival of Ijebuland. From ages past, they cleared footpaths, constructed bridges and markets, cleared rivers for drinking water and navigation to transport logs to Lagos. They also provided much-needed security for the towns and villages. Regberegbes are consulted by the Awujale on important issues concerning people’s welfare, their religious and cultural affairs. Leaders of the age-grade groups were appointed to serve on important bodies and/or committees in the old native administration.
During the reign of the present highly-revered Awujale, Oba (Dr) S. K. Adetona (Ogbagba II), with the calibre of the leaders of the age-grade groups, the motivation and encouragement from the Awujale himself has turned the Regbegbegbes into a formidable vanguard for development and advancement in Ijebuland.
A cursory look at the town of Ijebu Ode and its expansion, both in population and density, has revealed a growing community with modern domiciles compared to the ’60s. The roles of each segment of the Regberegbes in the face-lifting efforts of the town since the ascension of Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona in 1960 have shown their interest in community development and philanthropy. These Regberegbes: Mafolowu (Male) 1932 to 1934, Olubadebo (Male) 1935 to 1937, Bobaloju (Male) 1947 to 1949, Bobaloju (female) 1947 to 1949, Bobagbimo (Male) 1953 to 1955, Bobakeye (Male) 1956 to 1958, Obafunwaji (Male) 1950 to 1952 have their names indelible in the sands of time.
Generally, the function of Regberegbes in those days was almost exclusively social in nature. They helped in the construction of markets, courts, palaces, etc. On public occasions such as the installation of a new king, the inhabitants were regimented according to their age-grade groups. In the groups, there were convenient ways of organizing the people for the performance of their duties as citizens. It is to the credit of the reigning Ijebu monarch (His Majesty, Alaiyeluwa Oba S. K. Adetona (CFR), Ogbagba II, Awujale of Ijebuland) that the institution of Regberegbe has been given added impetus to the extent that it is now a major force in the scheme of things in Ijebuland.
-Culled from a Book on Regberegbe in Ijebuland