Within the limits and restrictions imposed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s edition of the famous homecoming pilgrimage/socio-cultural convergence of all Ijesas at home and in the Diaspora hits the stage with a thunderous thud. NIYI OLASINDE chronicles its essence, focus and thrust.
IWUDE Ijesa is one of the rich, colourful ageless traditions of the indigenes of the Ijesa nation in the South-West geopolitical zone of Nigeria. In its primordial and original form, it gathered the convocation of Ijesas across the globe and brought them together for a complete month.
This implies that Ijesas across towns, villages and communities remained where they were, shared the fun and festivities of the season and exchanged visits with fanfare. Those who reside in places far and wide come home to relish and savour the season. They remained in this mood while they awaited the great grand finale when they celebrated with their monarch, who doubles as the chief celebrator, the Owa Obokun of Ijesaland. They saw him in his full royal regalia, brought regal homages to him, while he sat in various quarters of the Ilesa town to adjudicate in cases and to shower prayers on his subjects. Prior to this stage of the grand finale, the monarch had been in spiritual confinement/seclusion and the occasion afforded the mammoth crowd the privilege of seeing him physically, at least, once in the year.
Those earlier times under consideration, the celebration was known as Iwude Ogun. However, a wave of renaissance blew across the horizons of Ijesaland, as between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, some prominent, well-educated, urbane and widely-exposed indigenes saw the intricacies and intrinsic qualities and potentials of the events. They explored and brought out how the best could be obtained from the ancient celebrations, removing from it all shackles and semblances of fetishism and employing it to facilitate, gravitate and galvanize overall development to the entire physical, socio-economic and political space of Ijesaland. Gladly today, this is being radically achieved. Not only have vast number of indigenes across various social, religious, political and other divides shown great interest and committed enormous stake to the celebration, they have also demonstrated renewed commitment to fast-tracking the total development of their fatherland.
The Annual Iwude Ijesa Festival has been the rallying point and the grand avenue for the convergence of Ijesa indigenes both at home and in the Diaspora, to reflect on their ancestral heritage, assess the level of development so far reached, as well as chart new courses towards breaking higher frontiers in the development of the entire Ijesaland.
The week-long events marking the festival in modern times are marked with pomp, pageantry, glitz and glamour; lined up with events and activities which indigenes and their friends and lovers across the globe attend to promote. The events are impressive indeed, climaxing in a grand finale, where all but the fetish aspects and flavours of the traditional festivities are retained. The crowd-pulling event is a glorious sight to behold. More than the opportunity it affords for convergence and reunion, as well as promoting the cultural/traditional qualities which are intrinsically inbuilt into it, the development it enhances and facilitates are highly appreciated and commended. It is hoped that someday, the celebration will occupy a vantage space in the famous Guinness Book of Records and also find its way to UNESCO’s heart, to the extent that it would be designated an international tourism event and conspicuously positioned on the World Tourism Map.
Iwude Ijesa is a significant event, most unlike many others held in various communities. It outstrips them in so many unique ways. For instance, it anchors various shades of development for the entire Ijesaland. An instance is the fact that this year, a decent and befitting ultra-modern palace complex for the monarch, constructed through communal efforts and patriotic participation of all Ijesas at home and in the Diaspora, and fully built with 10 months shall be officially commissioned for use.
This year however, owing to the sad realities of the COVID-19 outbreak, especially the second wave that is just rearing its ugly head, only the minimum crowd-pulling aspects of the events will be brought to the fore. While events like traditional ayo olopon contests and football match(es) will be featured, others will require the physical presence of major role players in the events and vital dignitaries. Even at this, the COVID-19 protocols and regulations will be strictly adhered to.
On this monumental occasion, paying royal homage and anniversary eulogies to the Paramount Ruler of the entire Ijesa Nation, Kaabiyesi, Owa Obokun Adimula, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran II, PhD., CFR, LLD; who is also the Chief Celebrator, will not be outrageous. Similar royal salutations go to all Obas, Chiefs and members of the traditional institution in Ijesaland on this occasion. OSUN DEFENDER also congratulates the teeming peace-loving and highly progressive people of Ijesaland. Congratulations! “E ku odun; e ku iyedun, emi y’oo se opo odun l’aye os”.