FROM December 13 to 19, 2009, Ilesha, Osun State, drew a throng of excited natives and well-wishers, as it hosted this year’s edition of Iwude Festival – a cultural showpiece of the Ijesha kingdom.
Held at Obokungbusi Town Hall and the popular Ereja Square, Iwude, otherwise called the festival of unity, saw Ijesha sons and daughters all over the country and in Diaspora come home to participate in its pomp and pageantry
People of same age, associations and families were seen marching round the town in colourful costumes as they danced, drummed and rendered several cultural displays.
The weeklong event began with a special service at the Holy Trinity Church, Omoofe, Ilesa. There was also a Carnival Float from Obokungbusi to Ibokun, the traditional Ayo (pot game) contest, Aromatic Schnapps night, breast/cervical cancer screening, and the Ijesa Unity Soccer championship Cup, among several others.
The festival, which soon added some political flavour, saw the candidate of Action Congress in the 2007 governorship election, Engineer Rauf Aregbesola, show off his wealth at Ilesa, his home town.
As Kabiyesi Oba Adekunle Aromolaran’s horse-drawn carriage halted in front of the residence of Oba Ala of Ijesaland, where he was to perform the traditional rites with his host, the deafening roar of Aregbesola’s helicopter pervaded the air causing the crowd to turn their heads skywards, as they beheld the sight of two choppers rotationally manoeuvring an approach to land in the historic town.
The crowd pulled in the direction of the Ilesa Grammar School ground where the choppers; one bearing Rauf Aregbesola and his associates. The other had the Hon. Speaker, Lagos House of Assembly, who represented the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola; and Mr. Muiz Banire, Lagos State Commissioner for Environment, and other visitors from the state.
Admiral Dele Abiodun treated the crowd to highlife tunes at the yearly event, which marks the official outing of the royal father of the land.
The Iwude Festival dates back to 1100 A.D when the first king of Ijesa kingdom, Owa Obokun Ajibogun, who was the youngest child of Oduduwa, settled in and founded Ijesa Land. Although, historians also hold that the festivals proper started years later with Owa Obokun Owari, who was then the King, at about 1200 A.D, this event was and is still a 30-day affair, which features other equally exciting carnivals and festivals organized by the various ruling houses in Ijesa land.
Festivals such as the Obalogun in Iloko, Oniyo in Osu, Obokun Festival, Ajimoko, and Opa Festival – which are designed to ward off diseases, sicknesses and other problems from Ijesaland – herald the festival. Originally called Iwude Ogun Festival — in honour of the god of iron — whom Ijesa people pay homage to, the festival has been given a new lease of life by Oba Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran II, the Owa Obokun and paramount ruler of Ijesaland, who considered the need to encourage inter-denominational participation.
According to the monarch, Ijesaland is the Jerusalem of Nigeria. He described the land as the abode of God. He mentioned great ministers of God in the country, who are of Ijesa origin: the late Ayo Babalola of Christ Apostolic Church; pastors William Folorunso Kumuyi and Enoch Adejare Adeboye of the Deeper Life and Reedemed Christian Churches respectively; Prophets T.O. Obadare, Gabriel Fakeye, and S.K. Abiara. He did not want Iwude to be regarded as a festival for Ogun worshippers only, but a global event rich in culture and tradition.
He added that most of the rituals associated with the festivities had been scrapped this year in line with the rebranding process and every other traditional rite of the event would be performed strictly within the palace premises.
Another improvement on the event is the slight expansion of the route of the Owa Obokun’s traditional ride through the community. Prominent among the places where he touches during his tour are Yeyerije, Obanla, Sawe, Lekoja, and Salotun’s palaces where he’s expected to hold court. But the 2009 tour, according to the monarch, was expanded so that he could get to see more of his people on the day, which by tradition, is the only day that the community sees the Owa in his full royal regalia.
Deputy Governor, Osun State, Erelu Olushola Obada, andrepresentatives of MTN Nigeria were also on hand to add colour to the year’s event. The festival also had a large presence of Lagos State government functionaries such as Adeyemi Ikuforiji (Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly), Cardinal Odumbaku (Chairman, Highway Managers, Lagos), James Faleke (Chairman, Committee of Lagos State Local Government Chairmen), Onibiyo Adelabu (Lagos State House of Assembly) and Kehinde Bamgbetan (Chairman, Ejigbo L.C.D.A, Lagos).