World Bulletin/News Desk
Every year, Ijebus worldwide converge on Ijebu Ode, a boisterous town in Nigeria's southwestern Ogun State, to celebrate the Ojude-Oba festival – a one-of-a-kind event throughout the whole of West Africa.
Ojude Oba, which literally means "King's Arcade," dates back over 150 years.
The celebration is held on the third day of the Eid al-Adha, the Muslim religious feast marking the climax of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, near the king's palace.
It is an annual reunion of Ijebu sons and daughters – who are predominantly Muslims – and a celebration of the Ijebu Kingdom and its former ruler, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebuland.
An Oxford University graduate, Adetona was crowned king on April 2, 1960 at the tender age of 26.
"We usually open the event with an opening prayer by the chief imam of Ijebu Ode who seeks God's mercy and protection for the king and the people and for the peace and progress of Ijebu," Buraimah Kadiri, an aide to the Awujale, told Anadolu Agency.
"We follow this with an impressive display and procession of the regberegbes, who are gorgeously dressed in their ceremonial attire to exhibit affluence and prosperity," Kadiri added. "They do this while paying homage to the king."
'Regberegbe' is an Ijebu word for the different age grades that take turns paying homage to the king in their various ceremonial regalia.
There are at least 36 different age grades in the town, each having up to 50 members spread among different professions and families.
"There is the breathtaking parade by the Baloguns and Dodondawas, who are descendants of war heroes of Ijebuland in the pre-colonial era," Kadiri said.
"The reigning Balogun and his associates engage in mock battles in commemoration of the wars of liberation fought by the Ijebus," added the aide. "They do this with their ceremonial war armor."
Along with the parade of the regberegbes, sounds of gunshots, traditional songs, poems and horses can also often be heard at the annual festival.
The Ijebus are a sub-group of the Yoruba ethnic group who speak the Ijebu dialect of Yoruba.
Like many Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria, some Ijebu people worship local deities, although their monarch reputedly does not partake in such practices.
Ijebu Ode is both a local government area and a city unto itself.
It is located 110km northeast of Lagos and is within 100km of the Atlantic Ocean in the eastern part of Nigeria's Ogun State.
According to official 2007 figures, it boasts an estimated population of some 223,000.
Ijebu Ode has a local television station affiliated with the government's NTA network.
It is also the commercial center of a farming region in which yams, cassava, grain, tobacco and cotton represent the primary crops.
The Ojude Oba is by far the most celebrated festival of the Ijebu Kingdom, showcasing the Ijebus' Islamic heritage.
"The Ojude Oba is an annual occasion where the ancestral lineage of the first converted Muslims of the Ijebu people pay homage to their king, the Awujale, for allowing their ancestors to practice Islam," Deji Balogun, an indigene of Ijebu who belongs to one of the regberegbes, told AA.
"It is celebrated on the third day of Eid-el-Kabir, displaying the rich cultural heritage of the Ijebu people and attracting tourists from across the world and Ijebu indigenes home and abroad," he added.
Akeju Maryam, a chartered accountant, explained that each age group appears in different ceremonial dress, some riding horses clad in ancestral colors signifying the lineage to which they belong.
"This is especially true of princes and princesses of the town," she told AA. "We sing and salute the dignitaries in different groups. The winning group is awarded based on how early you come and how your parade goes."
Professor Lasun Gbadamosi, a member of the Egbe Bobakeye (an age group of Ijebu men born between 1956 and 1958, whose collective name literally means "people adoring the king's pride"), said the festival included displays of Ijebu styles of dance, dress and horseback-riding.
"All these culminate in collective prosperity and freedom for all," a World Bank consultant and dean of the education faculty at Ogun State's Olabisi Onabanjo University, told AA.
"There you see traders selling their wares and food. Transporters make brisk money," he added. "So it touches all aspects of human endeavor and that is why we do it annually under our ruler, the Awujale of Ijebuland."
Segun Balogun Seriki, a local politician, said his family had attended the Ojude Oba for the past 50 years.
"It's our culture and tradition," he told AA. "We come down to celebrate our culture."
"The essence is bringing us back home," Seriki added proudly.
"This is the only place in Yoruba land where this kind of thing takes place."Last Mod: 22 Ekim 2013, 11:09