By Tola Gbadamosi
Ogun festival which is an annual festival performed in the Kingdom of Odigbo signifies the celebration of the god of Iron. Ogun is believed to be a legend. Hence, long after his death, he is being celebrated in many parts of Yoruba land till date.
Traditionally, Ogun festival is celebrated in late August or early September with sacrifices of snails , tortoises and dogs. The festival provides the opportunity for followers to catch fun, march through the street in a bid to pay respect to their ancestors. Participants are richly dressed with white and blue powder on their faces and masquerades are seen on the street dancing.
The celebration of the Ogun festival would not be regarded as complete till the dancers march to the Ogun shrine where dogs are sacrificed ,the priest/priestess performs traditional dances and ritual rites. The worshippers of Ogun believe that observing the Ogun festival brings forth good fortune to the land.
This year, the festival was held amidst pomp and pageantry. The Ondo State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism Alhaji Ismaila Olurimisi was adequately represented at the occasion by His Special Assitant Hon. Johnson Akinkunmi.
The Palace of His Highness Olapega Alaja of Adaja Oba Rufus Okugboyega Akinrinmade Orunja of Odigbo Kingdom, Oba Adebusoye also witnessed the influx of a massive crowd during the celebration.
Adding colour to the event was the Ondo State Cultural troupe from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism which filled the air with sweet melodies and wonderful dance steps.
Akinkunmi who did not hesitate to display his cultural values during the celebration said he is not shy to associate with his people as a son of the soil irrespective of his religious beliefs.
He identified culture and tourism as crucial to national development saying they also help in unifying people regardless of their differences.
He observed that the annual Ogun festival provides the opportunity for the people to celebrate the rich cultural values that are available in Odigbo Kingdom.
He posited further that the Ogun festival is being celebrated by the traditional ruler of Odigbo as a way of bringing his subjects together adding that his attendance at the event is an attestation to the present administration’s belief in cultural strengths and to show the support of government to the Odigbo people.
“We must try in all areas to elevate our cultural heritage. Philosophically, we believe culture is a way of life. Without culture you will not know the unique way of life of a certain society or a group of individual. I want to strongly advise the people to hold on to their cultural heritage so that it would not go into extinction.
“We thank the government of Arakurin Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) for not leaving any stone unturned in the State. He has been moving around taking care of all sectors of the State and people have been feeling his impact in governance in all areas of the State.
Also speaking, His Highness Olapega Alaja of Adaja, Oba Rufus Okugboyega Akinrinmade Orunja of Odigbo Kingdom, Adebusoye I expressed his gratitude for government’s involvement in the year 2017 celebration of Ogun Festival in Odigbo Kingdom
“We thank God for today. Ogun being the god of iron is one of the special deities we celebrate in Odigbo. A lot of sacrifices have been carried out and the Kabiyesi is the first person to appeal to all the gods at the crack of dawn.
“We are very happy and I will use this medium to thank our amiable governor,Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) for appointing our son as the Culture and Tourism commissioner. That is why we have him here today. We do not want the people of Odigbo Kingdom to forget our culture and tradition. In any community there must be culture and tradition which must be preserved.”
Akinrinmade noted: “Nowadays it is unfortunate that we don’t value the culture and tradition of our land. But I will appeal to the people of Odigbo to cultivate a good attitude to their culture.”
Ogun’s Chief Priest in Odigbo, Lomi Akintileje of Odigbo Kingdom, was overwhelmed as he also expressed his gratitude: “I thank our governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu for this wonderful opportunity he has given to us in Odigbo.
“He remembered the people of Odigbo and gave us commissionership slot. And he yet remembered us again during our Ogun festival and sent his commissioner to us in Odigbo. He has really done well.
“I urge the people of Odigbo to join hands together to support the Kabiyesi to make presiding over the affairs of the Kingdom easy.
“Since I became the Ayadi of Odigbo Kingdom, no commissioner has ever joined us in the celebration of Ogun festival in our land. For this we give kudos to Arakurin Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) for this wonderful display of leadership. If Aketi wants to come again as governor, the people of Odigbo will vote for him.”
The Asuwaju of Odigbo Kingdom said: “This is an annual event and this year’s celebration has been wonderful. People came from all over for the event. Likewise myself, I came from Lagos. I had to be here for my King, to celebrate the Ogun festival with him.
“I wish my people well and they should not forget our culture and the custom of our fathers. I am a traditionalist and I don’t have anything against any form of religion.”
The youth leader of Odigbo Kingdom Mr Taye Adekanbi who is in charge of the young men and women dancing round the town said: “we are glad of this development and we hope things like this would keep on happening in the land. This is the way our forefathers were celebrating this festival. We should not derail from it. We must continually endeavour to move our culture forward.”
Adekanbi stated: “Today, the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism is in our presence to celebrate with us. It means that the Aketi government has brought good things to our land this year, we are very grateful.
“We give kudos to the government of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) because this is the first time we have the involvement of the State government in our celebration of Ogun festival.”
He said: “I would want to urge the youth to remain calm and level headed. They have always been doing well and coming together to help move the Odigbo community forward. The Governor should know that the Odigbo Community Youth (OCY) are strongly behind him.”