The Ojude Oba (translated ‘The King’s Courtyard’) is a one-time-in-a-year festival held to celebrate the cultural heritage of the Ijebu people from the South-west of Nigeria. During the celebration, various age groups (popularly known as the Regbe-Regbe), indigenes, friends and associates, including tourists from around the environs, all storm the town adorning colourful costumes woven with the traditional fabric (aso-oke).
The native age grades (Regbe-regbe) converge at the Awujale’s palace (the traditional ruler) to pay homage and to seek the peace and progress of Ijebuland (the name of the community).
The festival is celebrated on 3rd day after Id-El-Kabir, this is the Muslim festival usually observed in the month of August. This event that is so looked forward to with booming of guns and horse riding didn’t just start today. It has been carried on from generation to generation for over 100 years.
A Brief History of Ojude Oba festival…
According to history, it all began in 1892, when the then traditional ruler, Oba Adesumbo Tunwase, signed a treaty of relationship with the British Queen, to give land to the Muslims to establish their Central Mosque. At the same time, he agreed with the British missionaries to preach Christianity in the same Ijebu Land. He also went further to allow some of his children to be baptized and gave the land on which the first church in Ijebu Land was built – St Saviours Italupe.
The Muslims started the Ojude Oba Festival, using it as an occasion to pay homage and showing appreciation to the reigning Monarch for his benevolence towards them. As the people of Ijebu Land evolved and thrived, they came up with a classification method where every indigene belonged to an age grade.
This festival has a long-lasting history of bringing together all the sons and daughters of Ijebuland once every year. The festival affords people of the land both home and abroad and their well-wishers a chance to pay homage to their traditional rulers and give honour to the symbol of Ijebu tradition. So, it does not only stand as a unifying factor and a tourist attraction, but it also goes a long way to amplify and showcase the rich cultural heritage that the community possesses. From one small gathering of adherents and followers of the Islamic religion, the Ojude Oba festival today has become an all-encompassing showpiece, transcending religious lines and attracting people of all beliefs, as well as tourists from near and far.
A year never goes by without the joyful noise and celebration. However, because of the global pandemic, the paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Sikiru Adetona, announced that all the arrangements would now be refocussed on the 2021 edition of the festival. So, attires and accessories already bought by the people would be kept till the 2021 edition when safety measures would have been in place to contain the spread of covid-19.
It goes without saying that the Ojude Oba Festival is a clear reminder that despite the exposure, modernisation and influence of developed nations, people still yearn for that factor that unites them in one language, one lifestyle, one history.
Indeed, culture commands respect.
Is there a local festival in your community that draws global attention? Share with us in the comment section.