Tourists Club International Magazine
Arts & Culture News & Events

Interrogating the Ojude Oba Festival

By Osa Mbonu-Amadi

Today, July 11, 2022, all roads lead to Ijebu Ode for the 2022 Ojude Oba, an ancient festival that has existed for more than a century. As colors, pomp and pageantry reign in the town which has an estimated population of 222,653, according to 2007 census, the Tourists Club International Magazine puts the festival, the town, the kingdom and the bank, FCMB, which sponsors the Ojude Oba Festival, under its lens.

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Ijebu-Ode is a town in Ogun State, South-West geopolitical zone in Nigeria. It is located 110 km by road north-east of Lagos. Ijebu Ode is within 100 km of the Atlantic Ocean in the eastern part of Ogun State, and possesses a warm tropical climate.

According to the Britannica, by the 16th century it was established as the chief town, and since pre-colonial times it has been the capital of the Ijebu kingdom. Ijebu Ode is home to Sungbo’s Eredo, one of the largest fortifications in West Africa. As with most Ijebus, people from Ijebu Ode have a nationwide reputation of being natural entrepreneurs. The staple food for the Ijebus is called ‘Ikokore’.

The First City Monument Bank, FCMB, which has been promoting the festival for almost 20 years, has said it is committed to initiatives that would promote tourism and the development of Ogun state and Nigeria in general.

In a goodwill message to the Awujale, the founder of FCMB Group and Olori Omo-Oba of Ijebuland, Otunba Olasubomi Balogun, while recounting the negative impact of COVID-19 on the festival, said: “I have always felt that through the love of God our Saviour, we shall all soon be saved from this pandemic and will resume this unique annual adoration and paying of tribute to our Royal Father.”

Looking at many of those who are participating in the event, one can hardly see anyone wearing mask. The COVID-19, as many already know, has largely been contained globally, and is no longer a threat in Nigeria. After all, it was upon that premise that the Ojude Oba Festival and other similar social activities in Nigeria and across the world returned. This is therefore a vindication of Otunba Balogun’s optimism and faith in a better tomorrow for the country and for humanity at large.

Similarly, the Chief Executive Officer of FCMB Group Plc, Mr. Ladi Balogun, also said “the festival remains a unique platform for home-based Ijebus to promote their wares to a broad range of visitors, thus contributing significantly to economic growth and development.”

The question to ask here is, what are the unique selling points of Ijebu people in Nigeria? What special arts, culture, tourism products and landmarks, has the Ijebus that distinguish them from the rest of Nigerians? Surely, these things must be there. But unfortunately, those who are marketing the Ojude Oba Festival have not brought out these unique selling points of the Ijebus for better appreciations and attraction of interests and visitors to the festival.

For instance, Ijebu people are known for their entrepreneurial acumen similar to those of Igbos of South-East Nigeria. What, in Ijebu land, can one point at, as being products of this Ijebu entrepreneurial acumen? Yes, Ijebu Ode has many successful business men and women, but what physical hubs for the sustenance, incubation and transfer of this gift to future generations exist in Ijebu land? For instance, the Igbos have the great Ariria Market and Awka Tech Hub where highly skilled artisans make the best clothes, shoes and technological inventions in Nigeria. There should be similar places in Ijebu land. If none exists, FCMB, in addition to promoting this festival, will do well to begin to finance such projects in Ijebu land that will harness the legendary thrift, innovativeness and entrepreneurial skills of Ijebu people.

After more than 100 years of the existence of Ojude Oba Festival, there should have been concrete benefits and outcomes with direct links to the festival that one can point to. They should be there. Are the marketers and promoters of this festival bringing them out? Unfortunately, none has been seen.

 

  • Dr. Osa Mbonu-Amadi is the President of Tourists Club International and Editor-at-Large, Tourists Club International Magazine, a not-for-profit tourism, arts, culture and environmental organization.   

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