This is sad news for all those who have been looking forward to this year Ojude Oba Festival. From what City People gathered authoritatively, it is not likely that this year festival will hold, although the organisers have not said anything about it officially.
Usually, each year, Ojude Oba holds 3 days after Ileya. This year’s Ileya falls on July 20, so if there is going to be Ojude Oba Festival, it will be on the 23rd. But we hear that the Awujale & his top chiefs are not convinced that holding Ojude Oba this year will be a good idea, taking into consideration the state of COVID-19 and the talk of the 3rd wave of COVID 19 strain breaking out soon. That was the reason it was not held last year. But it took place in 2019.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic happened last year, many Ijebu people have been wondering if the event will be cancelled or not because of the huge gathering of people that the event usually attracts. We can tell you that no fewer than 20,000 sons and daughters of Ijebuland and their friends and family usually assemble every year, 3-days after the Ileya festival to greet Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona. The event which plays host to the Governor of the state, Governors from other states and top politicians and Obas from Ogun and other states is one event many Ijebu sons and daughters look forward to yearly.
The planning usually takes exactly 12 months and even those in the diaspora use the opportunity to re-connect with their old friends and families. Many Ijebu sons who have also formed themselves into various age groups and grades (Regberegbe) also use the opportunity to catch up with the latest happenings in their town in the last 1 year.
The event also shoots up the social and economic activities of Ijebu Ode and its environs where the event will hold. All hotels are usually booked ahead because of the high influx of guests who always come to witness the historical-cultural event.
The last Ojude was in 2019 and it was grand. The Festival is a very spectacular celebration of the Ijebu and the festival took its origin in Islam. But it is now being celebrated by Muslims, Christians, Traditionalists and Non-Believers. This long-cherished Ijebu tradition has been in existence for about 2 centuries. The Ojude Oba festival is a classic example and manifestation of religious tolerance in Ijebuland.
History has it that when Islam made an incursion into Ijebuland, the reigning monarch prevailed on his subjects to give those professing the new religion the latitude to operate according to the dictates of their conscience. In other words, there should be neither war nor rancour in religious matters. Basking on this clement environment, the emerging Moslem Community after observing the Eid-el-Kabir, which included the exchange of gifts and the slaughtering of the sacrificial rams came out on the third day to pay homage to the reigning monarch and thanked him for his kindness, accommodation and the religious liberty he gave them. As time went by, this tradition metamorphosed into what is now known as Ojude Oba Festival and has been embraced not only by Ijebu at home and in the diaspora, but also by millions of people within and outside Nigeria. The Festival is indeed a gift of the Ijebu nation to Nigeria and the rest of the world being a unique case study of religious tolerance and harmony.
The present Monarch, Alaiyeluwa Oba (Dr.)Sikiru Kayode Adetona, who was crowned on April 2, 1960, has succeeded in making the festival a global brand. The festival is not only all about equestrian display, the parade of culture and tradition, merrymaking and funfair, it provides the Ijebu nation with the opportunity to supplicate to the Almighty God, take stock of their activities, embark on self-help projects, and reunite with family members and acquaintances. The festival also boosts commerce and trade in its entirety as commercial and trading activities are at their peak before, during and after the festival. The Festival touches every spectrum of life in Ijebuland. All the facilities (hotels, restaurants, etc) artisans, craftsmen, transporters, professionals, market men and women, among others fully occupied before and during the festival.
The theme chosen for the 2019 edition of the festival was OJUDE OBA: THE UNIQUENESS OF THE IJEBU NATION. The Ojude Oba festival is the cultural heritage of the Ijebu that has earned its uniqueness in the country and the world.
Since time immemorial, the Age Grade System had been the focus of development and socialisation in Ijebuland. The Age Grade system of Ijebuland has now been rejuvenated and rejigged in the last 3 decades by the reigning monarch, Oba (Dr.) S.K. Adetona, CFR, JP, Ogbagba II, Awujale and paramount ruler of Ijebuland.
In 2019, 50 male and female Age Grades were on parade. The first in each category was awarded a Gold-plated cup and cash prize, while the first runner-up and second runner-up are also rewarded with cash prizes, courtesy of our Main sponsor, Globacom, the Telecom Giant.
What does Ojude-Oba entail? 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 the 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. 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 yearly celebration of the Ojude-Oba event. Horse-riding comes with drumming, music and parades. 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 relationships 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 rancour 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 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, 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.
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.
We hear Kabiyesi, the Awujale has asked every Egbe to go and celebrate this year’s Ojude Oba, the usual way, but no parade.