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Horses, fashion & fun at Ojude Oba

“We the Ijebus as a people are a rare breed and very unique in many ways.” These words form part of the message of the Awujale of Ijebuland Oba Sikiru Adetona during this year’s Ojude Oba celebration which held on the third day after Sallah and which was graced by Senator Ibikunle Amosun, the Governor of Ogun State, Dr. Suleiman Adegunwa, the Special Guest of Honour, and many other visitors and dignitaries. 

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The festival, of which Globacom is the major sponsor,  has been held for more than 100 years. Islam entered Ijebuland in 1878 during the reign of Oba Ademuyewo Fidipote, the 48th Awujale of Ijebuland. Otunba W.O Osinusi, Chairman, Ojude Oba Festival committee comments “It is the most celebrated festival in South West Nigeria. Even though it had its origin in Islam, it is now being celebrated by all and sundry… History has it that in the 19th century, when Islam advanced 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. There was no war or rancor. After observing the Eid -el-Kabir, which includes the exchange of gifts and the slaughtering of the sacrificial rams, on the third day, the Muslims, their leaders  and the new converts paid homage to the reigning monarch and thanked him for his magnanimity. As time went by, this tradition metamorphosed into what is now known as the Ojude Oba festival.” As earlier  mentioned, there is so much that is  unique during the event, which showcases the  good taste of the Ijebu and their special intuition for detail, grooming, finery, fashion  and deportment. A work titled Ojude Oba Festival 2017, sheds light on this “The Ijebus are equally noted for their sociability throughout the Yoruba kingdom: they work hard and celebrate well. They are known to go a long haul to make events memorable, borrowing in some instances if the need arises.”

Men and women come out in their best attire and all wear matching outfits depending on the age grade that is on parade. Each age grade competes against the others and there are prizes for the best grades. This is why there is much pomp, style and a bit  of the dramatic  as the parade advances. These age grades are known as Regberegbe and are a “major instrument of social cohesion and mobilization in Ijebuland.”

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According to a publication made available at the venue of the event “At every Ojude Oba, every age group goes to the Awujale to pay homage to the Paramount Ruler of Ijebu in their most fashionable dresses.” The women come forward dancing in harmony and in lovely attires. In the process they reveal good taste in shoes, colours, as well as jewellery. They wear beautiful headties, which became an enchanting rainbow, or they have  their hair done in  nice uplifting  ways. The women dance and sing and it is a delight to watch and to listen to them, and even if you understand just a few words of Yoruba, somehow you  are able to  follow their dance and the song they sing. The men wear caps and handsome well embroidered gowns and some of them carry  walking sticks, which they sometimes wave as the music intensifies. Clearly, the tailors of Ijebu Ode did profound and extensive work in the months leading up to the Ojude Oba. The value chain created by Ojude Oba is huge. Those who sell  cloth, shoes, ear rings, jewellery, and so many other accessories for both male and female, as well as the many items  for the horses and horsemen, will make great sales at this time of the year. Both men and women  look  like royals and when each age grade reaches a spot directly opposite the Awujale of Ijebuland, they kneel before him in salute. Each of the 45  or so male and female grades will do this. The  Ojude Oba festival is a time when  Ijebu sons and daughters return home to connect with their roots and to plan for and develop the town, and all the townspeople look forward to it.

The high point of the celebration is the moment when members of the many horse riding families of the town  come into the stadium riding elegantly decorated horses ridden by equally well dressed horsemen. They are the Baloguns. They ride up to the Awujale and greet him, and then they proceed outside and go into the town, to the admiration of countless townspeople who cheer them on, and even if one or two horses look  a bit thin when compared with other well fed breeds at the festival, this does not prevent the mass of the people from catching fun. Some of the horses have been trained to make motions suggestive of a dance and this thrills the spectators  not a little. 

Other riders have learnt to dance while still on top of their horses. One of the riders, a fair complexioned fellow, makes a very good job of this to the accompaniment of music. This is an amazing sight. The procession goes through some very narrow streets. It is a miracle that all the horses and riders were able to snake through those very narrow streets where there were huge populations awaiting the horsemen. Sometimes, the horses seem buried within the vast numberless, pulsating crowd surrounding them. Very soon they emerge from the press of the crowd. The festival draws huge crowds such that hotels are fully booked and restaurateurs have many mouths to feed  during the period. Many other traders, such as those who sell  drinks and snacks enjoy brisk business at this period of the year. On this, the publication referred to earlier, states “The festival also boosts commerce and trade in its entirety as commercial and trading activities  are at their  peak immediately before, during and after  the festival. The festival touches every spectrum of life in Ijebuland. All the facilities-hotels, restaurants, artisans, craftsmen, transporters, professionals, market men and women,among others are fully engaged with several multiplier corporate effects.” 

The Ojude Oba festival is regularly sponsored by Globacom and other reputable organisations. Many music makers were present during the event, and these included drummers, those who play the Shekere, a beaded gourd  which yields a stirring sound, as well as the many trumpeters. The rain came down, but it didn’t affect the festival much, rather it seemed that the festival became more beautiful, more colourful on account of the gentle shower. All of a sudden the glorious sun emerges pouring  radiant colours  upon the scene, as though it  were  saluting the Awujale, as the age grades had  done  all morning.

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