To say the least, the just concluded Iwude Ijesa festival was a generous show of colour, love and excitement. Visitors to Ijesa, in the South Western part of Nigeria, during the recent 30-day long traditional and socio-cultural festivities, will at least commend the people for preserving their age-long heritage.
Despite the overbearing influence of western culture, the raw performances – dances, songs and parades, all depict the ancient. It was truly a rallying point and homecoming for the entire Ijesa people all over the world, to once again identify with their heritage that marks their sense of existence. They appeared in their best attires; some were in the popular ‘Aso Ebi’ uniform, and made merry while celebrating the cultural festival together.
No doubt, the Osun-Osogbo Festival, and the Osun Grove, the second World Heritage Site in Nigeria after Sukur in Taraba State, are among things that every visitor wants to see on a trip to Osun State.
Besides unifying the Ijesa people (both home and abroad) led at the festival by Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, the festival also provided another tourism offering and excitement option to visitors.
The many festivities in one Iwude, as the festival truly is, also offer a boost to the domestic and international patronage of the Osun State tourism potential.
Unlike previous years, the 2011 edition was adjudged by many as the beginning of better things for the people of the Ijesaland, with the festival as a tourism product that will open Ijesaland for development and promotion of core cultural value and norms.
Aside sustaining the heritage of the people, encouraging the young generation to imbibe, preserve and promote the Iwude Ijesa festival, also created a formidable platform for the people to rally support for the development of their land for the socio-economic benefits of the people.
However, there were several highpoints at last year’s edition of the festival:
Owa Obokun Royal Chariot
At about 10am on the D-day, a carnival-like procession was kick off by Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran II, the Owa Obokun Adimula of Ijesaland, where he paid routine visit to traditional palaces Yeyerise, Obaala, Sawe, Lejoka and Salotun’ for offering of prayers and blessing.
The Oba, who rode on a royal chariot all through the six hours ritual to traditional courtyards, also blessed the crowd that include palace guards, praise singers, chiefs, age groups, warriors, cultural troupes from the Osun State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, young and old and a host of others. The procession displayed different cultural values and norms that are evidence of the unique essence and pride of the heritage of the Ijesa people.
However, the entrant of MTN Nigeria as the frontline corporate sponsor of the Iwude Ijesa Festival gave every aspect of the eight-day fiesta a touch of sophistication.
The events that played host to sons, daughters of ijesaland from December 17 to 24, 2011, came with lots of entertaining activities; a special carnival float across all the six local government areas in Ijesaland, a soccer competition among various secondary schools and a traditional game for the communities.
The MTN raffle draw pulled spectators to the musical show at the Elite Club, where numerous winners were presented with solar lamps, DVD players, MTN branded souvenirs, standing fan and motorbike. Bisi Adebayo and Rasheed Lawal were among winners that went home with motorcycles.
Wisdom Babalola, MTN marketing activation manager, Osogbo, said the telecom firm’s involvement in the 2011 festival was to boost the activities and to celebrate the unique heritage of the people.
Babalola did not fail to acknowledge the strategic effort of Lawrence Akharume, South-West regional marketing manager, at making the sponsorship bid of the festival, noting that the MTN will continue to factor ways to add values and benefits to the socio-cultural wellbeing of the people.
The festival concert
For the first time, New Day Nigeria Limited, the new marketing and communication consultant to the festival, introduced a musical concert where top musicians and entertainers kept spectators spelled bound by their electrifying performances.
The concert aimed at encouraging and growing local talents among Ijesa youths. It afforded up and coming artistes opportunity to showcase their talent, meet notable musicians and also to overcome stage fright.
Big business for commercial transport operators
The festival provided big business opportunities for both cab operators and ‘okada’ riders, who almost doubled the fare and had a field-day with booming passengers. Transport fare on ‘okada’ routes rose from N30 to N50 and N100, respectively, while cab operators doubled their takes.