Monday, 6 April 2009
BY ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA
DATELINE: Saturday, March 28. Shaibu Kayode Sadiq is seated at the Epe Recreational Centre. From time-to-time, he nods his head, taps his feet and gleams with smile to the traditional music ushering out from the jukebox in the midst of other celebrants. He is filled with joy. For the almost 70 year-old man from Ibeju Lekki, there is no telling that his presence at the occasion is a fulfillment of plan long made.
Sadiq’s mien is a reflection of the occasion, which like a wild fire affected everyone with ecstasy. The event is the grand finale of the 2009 edition of Epe Day otherwise known as Okosi of the Eebi Epe Festival.
In the words of Oba Kamorudeen Ishola Animashaun, Arolugbade Elepe 11, the Oba of Epeland, “the essence of the festival is to celebrate our cultural heritage.”
A celebration that was first enacted in the 13th Century and solidified as a yearly event from 1760 AD, it takes over three months to prepare for it.
The Oba says each of the events holds a lot of historical significance for the people, hence time and care are taken for its preparation.
Some of the traditional events include Iwode Okosi, which is the procession of the different age groups in the community. It parades people of different backgrounds, all dressed in their element and marching to the grove for a common rite. Equally enchanting is the boat regatta.
Following behind are the Iyonfonron cultural firewoods burning procession; the Okoro; and the Epa Woro nite. Dance and music also feature prominently.
The youths also had their fill with the Oloja Youth Football Competition and Sisi Epe; a beauty pageant that debuted this year.
THE Oba, as the chief host, led the visitors and celebrants to the centre for the feasting. Among such visitors were the governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola and his retinue of officials; and Chief Sonny Kuku of Eko Hospital, Lagos, who was the chairman of the occasion.
Apart from the payment of obeisance to the Oba by different groups; guests were treated to different entertaining banquet ranging from traditional music, dances, masquerade, and magical arts among others.
Governor Fashola, impressed by the thriving commerce, called on the community to elevate it to a viable tourism product that would attract investors.
He also stressed on the need for the state to evolve a cultural festival calendar that should clearly give details of the diverse cultural event in the state.
An opinion also shared by Kuku, who emphasised the importance of preserving the nation’s cultural heritage, contending that a nation that discards or abolishes it cultural fabrics is heading for the dead. He spoke of the need to develop the sector into money spinning and employment generating ventures.
Kuku said: “We must encourage this, preserve our culture and then take advantage of it to bring in tourists because in many countries of the world, tourism is the largest foreign earner.”
For the Oba of Epe, culture remains a potent force for forging unity and development, hence he would continue to encourage the celebration of the festival, and try to elevate it to greater height to bring meaningful development to the people.
“It is a culture that we inherited and we have to promote it by showing the world that our culture is still alive; and also to bring back our people in Diaspora,” reveals the Oba.
In the words of Lawrence Ararhume, MTN Nigeria, the outfit “has chosen to connect with the people at times such as this, when they are celebrating passion and culture. We are also using this medium, as an opportunity to identify talents, and to give the people the power to do much more.”
The Last Word
IT is commendable that the people of Epe have realised the need to extend the frontiers of the festival beyond their community by insisting to make it a national and international event.
To this end, they have engaged Infogem Nigeria Limited, the marketers of Osun – Osogbo Festival to help prep up the profile and to create the awareness among corporate bodies.
It is a good start for the festival and the people, but to reap the benefits, the people must look into direction to attract investors to build its infrastructure, and tourism support facilities.
Specifically, the community needs standard hotels that would fast track this laudable dream.
Also, it must think of engaging tour operators and travel brokers that would bring in tourists while attention must be paid to organisation, especially the grand finale.
The various events must be well structured with ample time given for the various cultural displays.