Did you know there is an annual celebration called Oke’badan Festival in Ibadan? If your answer is no, then let’s quickly tell you about the historical festival.
Oke’badan Festival is an annual event. It is a festival that all sons and daughters of Ibadanland don’t joke with.
The festival usually holds around March, at the beginning of rainy season of every year. It normally takes place during the Ibadan week celebration, which is normally organized by the Central Council of Ibadan indigenes (CCII).
Oke’badan Festival is also one of the many colourful and glamorous festivals in Ibadan.
Over the years, the festival has remained a great unifier for Ibadan indigenes as all sons and daughters of the ancient city from within and beyond the shores of Nigeria come around during the celebration.
Apart from the fact that the festival is very rich in cultural content, the historical significance of the celebration is another reason why many prominent Ibadan indigenes don’t joke with it. It’s a very important and cherished cultural heritage of Ibadanland. Ibadan people also believe that Oke’badan protects them from evil and also delivers their men and women from impotency and barrenness. Another major reason why many don’t miss Oke’badan Festival is because of Aboke soap. Aboke soap is strictly prepared by the Aboke family. The soup is believed to have the ability to cure measles or smallpox.
According to history, Oke’badan Festival is mainly to celebrate the founding of Ibadan and to show gratitude to its founders, as well as uniting all sons and daughters of Ibadanland, both home and in the diaspora.
“Oke’badan Festival that we are celebrating every year is to commemorate our ancestors and forefathers who fought for peace, protection and progress of Ibadan.” The Aboke of Ibadanland, Chief Ifasola Famapowa told City People recently.
As a matter of fact, Oke’badan Festival has been made more attractive lately not only to Ibadan indigenes but also to tourists from different parts of the world, who throng the ancient city on a yearly basis to witness the historical event. A good number of cultural activities have since been infused into the celebration. There are activities and events such as Ibadan beauty pageant, different cultural displays, stage plays, competitions, operation make Ibadan clean, conferences etc.
But how did the festival come into being? According to some historical facts, Oke’Badan Festival was started by Lagelu: Oro Apata-Maja, the founder of Ibadan. In fulfillment of his pledge to a female goddess called Aboke, who was said to have helped him and other warlords spiritually, in wars and their aspirations.
The warriors who were believed to have migrated mainly from Ife, Oyo and Ijebu and headed by Lagelu founded what was then known as Eba Odan and now Ibadan.
This explains the existence of Aboke family and why head of the family walks with his bare legs and kept his hair plaited like that of the female goddess.
The Ifa divination verse (Odu-Ifa) that was given the warriors in founding Ibadan was “Ose Meji” which later became “Ose Olubadan”.
This also explains the two major events, Isin Oba and Ekuru Night, that precede Oke’Badan Festival celebration every year.
While Isin Oba is a festival during which sacrifices are offered to the gods in memory of Ibadan progenitor, Ekuru Night is to inform the people of the commencement of Oke’Badan Festival.
During Ekuru Night, the Olubadan of Ibadanland and his chiefs are presented with Ekuru, a food made from beans.
The second day, this food is presented to the Governor of Oyo State and the Local Government Chairman concerned. All these are part of the preparation for Oke’Badan Festival.
On the Oke’badan day, food must not be cooked, no fire whatsoever. Any food intended to be eaten must be prepared on the eve of Oke’badan until the early morning of that day.
Aboke, the Chief Priest, is the one that chooses the day for the celebration of the festival to Olubadan and his chiefs.
Whatever chosen usually falls on Thursday and it is always in the month of March. So as to appease the spirit of the hill to give them abundant rain for their crops. Also Thursday is chosen as it is regarded as the day that Yoruba people worship their deities as denoted by the name of the day “Ojobo”. Which means the day that deities are worshiped.
After the Olubadan and the council of chiefs had approved the day, announcement is made to the people for necessary preparations. Olubadan provides all the sacrifice materials such as cows, snails, fish, tortoise, dogs, etc as required by the Aboke.
Oke’badan Festival is usually a work-free day. The festival always starts by people thanking their ancestors for keeping them alive to witness the day. Also they take cold meal on the day as a reminder of the period their ancestors were on top of the mountain without food. Later in the day, the Aboke performs rituals at the shrine which has now been moved from Oke’badan Hill at Awotan to ‘Oja’ba.