This year’s Iwude Ogun Festival was remarkable for a number of reasons. It would go on record as first of its kind in the heartland of Ijesa Kingdom. If not for any other thing, it afforded the sons and daughters of Ijesaland an opportunity to felicitate and fraternize with one another. It was a unifying factor among the people who stormed the venue with their admirers with fanfare.
Its grand finale played a rendezvous for the locals and ‘foreigners’ alike to engage in traditional fellowship with grandeur. It was also a period when the palace of Owa Obokun of Ijesaland was turned to a Mecca as it was the only opportunity the people of the land had to sight their oba in his full traditional regalia without much stress. It was also a period when economic activities in the ancient town enjoyed a leap forward because of exodus of people to the town.
While the locals smiled to their banks because of their increased patronage, the ‘foreigners’ made new friends. It was a veritable venue for showcasing of tangible and intangible services. As banks flooded the venue with their products, politicians of different parties and mission were also not left out.
Anything written or said about this year’s Iwude festival may not be comprehensive enough without making an allusion to injection of political theatrics into the annual festival of which the ruling party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its arch rival, the Action Congress (AC) are the active players. Prior to the grand finale, there had been a hot debate whether to allow the Symbol of Oranmiyan, Engr Rauf Aregbesola who doubles as governorship candidate of AC to grace the occasion because of his popularity that soars on daily basis.
Anytime Aregbesola is in any part of Osun State, his supporters and admirers mill round him like ants do to sugar. All one needs do to pull the crowd is to drop Aregbesola’s name, and before one knows it, his supporters and admirers will turn up in thousands. If there is information that Aregbesola has been sighted in any of the senatorial zones in the state, his admirers and supporters in the other two zones will jettison their schedules and head straight away to where the Symbol of Oranmiyan is. This swelling popularity of the AC governorship candidate has been a major concern to the Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola-led administration in the state.
The organizing committee of Iwude Ogun Festival had a hectic time over ceaseless debates on whether to allow the Oranmiyan Symbol to attend or not. Sources close to the committee showed that the body was sharply divided on the issue at stake. Those in favour saw no reason in listing the issue on the agenda as it would be unthinkable, irrational and preposterous to deny a bonafide indigene of Ilesa a fundamental freedom of movement and association.
Their justification had been that Aregbesola is not a criminal and should not be treated as such, adding that if there was any need to prevent anybody from gracing the occasion, it should be a non-native. The committee members who were against Aregbesola’s coming to the event are said to be members of the PDP who were doing the bidding of Oyinlola who pathologically hates the sight of Aregbesola and can develop convulsion at the sight of his shadow because of the popularity being enjoyed by the Ijesha-born politician.
A spent political gladiator who had seen better days as a prominent progressive politician who hails from Ilesa was said to be leading the vanguard of those who were against the coming of Aregbesola to the Iwude festval, saying “Aregbesola’s coming to the event would promote confusion” of which he was asked to justify but to no avail.
It was gathered that the state governor who donated fifty million naira to the rebuilding of the burnt Owa’s palace recently had given a condition that Aregbesola should not be allowed to grace the occasion, if he (Oyinlola) must come. Oyinlola feels threatened with the soaring popularity of the AC governorship candidate. If marks are to be awarded in terms of popularity rating, where Aregbesola would be scoring excellent, Oyinlola’s portion would be irredeemable failure.
This is based on experience. In Osun State today, events have shown that Aregbesola is the most popular politician. This position can not be controverted. When it was apparent that Aregbesola could not be stopped from gracing the Iwude festival, unconventional plans were hatched to deal with the AC governorship candidate, which leaked to him. Intelligence reports confirmed that the state had wanted a repeat of Oroki Day 2006 saga when some political thugs were strategically positioned with a view to permanently silencing the star politician. A notorious political thug who had his thuggery training in Modakeke was enlisted for a fee. The professional thug was to work hand-in-hand with another set of thugs trained by a notorious and controversial local government chairman in Ijesaland.
Aregbesola was to be attacked either on his way to the event from Lagos or at the event. As the thugs were keeping vigil on the Aregbesola expected route from Lagos, they were caught napping when they learnt that the AC’s governorship candidate had arrived Ilesha Grammar School, Ilesha in a chartered helicopter in company of the accomplished Nobel Laureate, Emeritus Professor Wole Soyinka, Honourable Dele Alake and Professor Sola Adeyeye, among other dignitaries.
Aregbesola rode to the Owa’s palace, venue of the Iwude Ogun with fanfare, while his supporters milled round him in thousands. Security operatives had a hectic time as Aregbe’s foes, friends, old and young were anxious to catch a glimpse of the politician who has been a torn in the flesh of the incumbent governor in the state. Anywhere he went, people followed him and it was as if the Iwude was an AC affair. More than 80 per cent of those who graced the occasion are either of AC extraction or unrepentant admirers of the AC candidate. Against all odds, Aregbesola and his supporters dominated the scene like collossuses.
Initially, there was a misgiving expressed by Aregbesola’s supporters when they found out that his name was not on the programme prepared and circulated by the planning committee. To the chagrin of some people, Friends of Aregbesola (FORA) came up with a beautiful programme which was distributed free of charge while the committee’s own being sold at N500 per copy was not affordable by majority of the patrons.
Various sets of people were called to the dancing floor in turns while Sunny Ade was on the band stand. When it was the turn of the controversial and impeached Ilesha Local Government Council Chairman, Mr Ibukun Fadipe a.k.a. “Omo Oloka”, he was surrounded by political thugs who appeared in vests on which “IBK” was inscribed against the directive of the planning committee. The state deputy governor, Erelu Olusola Obada, a daughter of the soil who apparently represented her boss, the state governor, had earlier taken the dancing floor before Fadipe and there was nothing to suggest the status of the deputy governor, as those on her dancing train were about 20. It was scanty indeed. She hurriedly left the scene immediately she left the dancing stage.
When it was time for the Symbol of Oranmiyan to dance, the whole place became positively charged and electrified with expression of ecstatic joy on the faces of Aregbesola and his supporters, to the extent that the whole venue became a dancing stage. Both the PDP and AC members danced to the special rendition for Aregbesola and Sunny Ade made more money during the Aregbe’s turn than what he had made in the other turns put together. The whole venue became dusty as a result of the multiple feet on the dancing floor. The Aregbe dancing session which lasted for about 30 minutes marked the apogee of the occasion and its end marked the end as the people followed the AC candidate out of the venue en masse. That was the end of the occasion.
Without Aregbesola, the Iwude Ogun would not have attracted such publicity. Iwude Ogun minus Aregbesola amounts to one of the common festivals being held in various communities across the state. He, it was, who put kinks into the whole event.
The whole scenario teaches us a lesson that though democracy is ideal in any progressive setting but it may be meaningless without injection of defiance and stubbornness. Had it not been that Aregbesola defied series of pieces of advice from some of his admirers and immediate members of his family not to come to the Iwude Ogun Festival, the PDP would have stolen the unmerited show on the occasion. With tenacity of purpose, the Oranmiyan Symbol invoked the stubbornness of the late Cicero of Esa-Oke, Chief Bola Ige to dare Oyinlola and his cohorts.
The Iwude was a show of political strength between the PDP and AC. With this development, it is pungent clear that stubbornness is an essential prerequisite of a political leader. What however was not clear was that Oyinlola was said to be in the palace of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, throughout the duration of the Iwude Ogun Festival. What for? If it was for any ulterior motive, it had failed and it will continue to fail. After several failed attempts to deal with Aregbesola extra-judicially, my humble advice is that those after his life should desist from such as the struggle itself transcends Rauf himself because it’s God’s own project. I am yet to see a mere mortal who will fight with God and get away with it.
Happy New Year in advance.