By FOLASHADE ADEBAYO
Ila Orangun community rolls out the drums to celebrate Isinro, a festival that traditionally signifies the beginning of a new year
With the warmth of a successful politician, Oba Wahab Oyedotun, the king of Ila Orangun, a quiet town in Osun State, beamed at his people who lined the streets, waving and bowing in obeisance. Every few metres, the king’s entourage pauses, collecting gifts from the cheering crowd. He returned the favour by doling out crisp naira notes.
The grand procession was not a homecoming event. It is an annual royalty parade demanded by culture during Isinro, a festival that traditionally signifies the beginning of a new year and the biggest of its type in Ila Orangun. For Oyedotun, the stakes are higher this year. It is his 10th outing as king and the royal parade is symbolic of his popularity and acceptance even after a decade. “I am here to show appreciation to the king and the queen for being nice to us. What they have achieved in this town is too numerous to count,” said Olabisi Olajide, a resident of the town.
Indeed, sighting the king in Ila Oragun is a rarity. Therefore, the Isinro festival is a golden opportunity for both the old and the young to exchange smiles and prayers with their king. Oyedotun is emphatic that Isinro is a festival of thanksgiving to the people who have stood by him despite the rigour of traditional leadership. “It is an opportunity to thank the people for their cooperation at the end of the year. In Ila, we have 17 days forming a month and when you have 17 days in 17 places, it marks the end of the year in Ila. That is why we celebrate Isinro to mark the end of the year and show appreciation to our people,” he said.
The king has every reason to appreciate the town. Since his coronation in 2003, Oyedotun had faced litigations challenging his selection as king. It has been a challenging decade for the king and the lingering court cases almost overwhelmed his administration. However, Adeola Faleye, a traditional chief, remarked that the people supported the king throughout the trials. “There have been so many hiccups but he is still alive to witness today. The kabiyesi is loved and valued. The huge crowd here shows that Ila Orangun has not abandoned its culture unlike some other communities who have abandoned or absconded from aspects of tradition,” she said.
The Isinro was truly colourful and popular in Ila and its immediate environs. The magazine gathered that it symbolises a turn of the New Year and for the people, it is a major festival just like the way the Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving Day. Adeniyi Adeleke, a prince of the town, said Isinro usually coincides with the time new farm produce like yam and maize comes out. “It marks the beginning of a New Year also just like Muslims celebrate Hijjrah and Christians celebrate Christmas. So, it is a time of celebration when all the chiefs and people of Ila will come and pay homage to the king,” Adeleke said.
The colourful Isinro is however not exclusive to Ila Orangun. It is also shared by the neighbouring Oke Ila. And this is hardly surprising since Ila Orangun and Oke Ila enjoy a mutual heritage. History has it that the two towns used to be one until a little disagreement set them apart. Nevertheless, an enduring kinship still exists between the towns. Both Oyedotun and Adedokun Abolarin, the king of Oke Ila are addressed as Orangun while all compounds and titles of chiefs are also replicated in both towns.
In spite of Isinro’s larger than life status however, the festival is yet to achieve national popularity and attract sponsorship. Unlike the Ojude Oba festival in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State and the Osun Osogbo festival, Isinro is yet to enjoy a national acclaim. Faleye who is also a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife, Osun State, attributes this to religious and external influence. “There are different reasons ranging from religion, cultural exposure and interference that may make some people say they will not be part of it. But we are creating the awareness using the Internet to educate people on the essence of Isinro,” she said.
Oba Oyedotun also told the magazine that he has set up a committee that will recommend how best to promote Isinro. “We are looking for sponsors all over the world to appreciate the essence of this festival. Already, it is a state festival and we are looking forward to making it a national festival,” he said.
In the absence of corporate sponsors who can give the festival a national mileage, the community has resorted to self-help, raising fund to organise the festival. “My academic studies on cultural and tourism matters show that it has been challenging funding festivals like this. Some people are not interested because of religion. Some are more interested in politics than keeping tradition. But this community is interested in keeping tradition. Individual compounds tax themselves to show commitment to this festival. The state government has also given us some bright light to support us,” said Faleye.
Adeleke added that Ila has started the process of rebranding Isinro. “This is an age-long festival. Initially, there was this impression that it was occultic but since the ascendance of Oba Oyedotun we have been working harder to debunk that belief. The festival has nothing to do with occult and very soon we are believing God that many people will come to that realisation,” Adeleke said.