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Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria

Ojude Oba is a Yoruba festival held in Ijebu Ode, a town in Ogun State, Southwestern Nigeria. It is held annually the third day after Eid al-Kabir. The festival began over 100 years ago. Today, the festival is usually attended by over 250000 people across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. The festival is often sponsored by the incumbent Awujale, the people of Ijebu-Ode, individuals and corporate organizations.

The Ojude Oba celebration in Ijebuland, Ogun State is an annual event during which indigenes, their friends and associates from far and near throng the palace of the Awujale for the carnival-like celebration. Ojude Oba festival is no doubt seemingly the most glamorous cultural and spiritual festivals in Ijebuland and in fact in Ogun State in general. The glitz and colours associated with the festival made it rank among the most celebrated cultural festivals in the country.

The Ijebu sons and daughters, Muslims and non-Muslims always look forward to this event. It comes up on the third day of the Eid-el-kabir celebration to celebrate the age-long tradition. This is the time the people at home are joined by those in diaspora together with their friends and well-wishers, irrespective of their religion and political affiliation come together to enjoy themselves.

Ojude Oba has been an annual event for over a century when the first converted Muslims deemed it fit to visit their king, the Awujale of Ijebuland, the paramount ruler of the Ijebu, to thank and felicitate with him for cooperating with them and allowing them to practise their religion. It is during this visit that they pray for the monarch to enjoy long life, good health and for the progress and prosperity of Ijebuland and the country.

After the prayers, they move in parade known as Regbe regbe a unique and age long institution, designed to wield the society into age groups, male and female for bringing development and progress to the community. These groups, which comprise captains of industries, top managers and chief executive officers dance before the king one after the other. Each group is expected to clad in the latest fashion in the world. They file past in turn with their drummers to pay homage to the king.

At the one-day event are the glowing tributes of a festival that is responsive to social trends, while retaining the tradition of having different age groups come daily to the festival to entertain and renew their allegiance to the traditional ruler. It is usually a dance, but more importantly, a dance with meaning. Each age group creates the spectacle at the expansive lawn that separates the king and his guests from the crowd. That makes the festival an inspiring experience.

However, it did not matter whether the group parading is that of the elderly, like the Mafowoku Akile Ijebu (male) or the younger tauntingly attractive women, Egbe Arobajo, who made their debut at the festival last year. There is no doubt that since its inception, Ojude Oba festival has always had enough visual pleasantries for every visitor. Some of the attractions are the beauty of a group of people in the same age group coming together in service of their motherland. Many of the group’s names are related to the king such as Obafuwaji, Bobakeye, Gbobayo, Gbobaniyi and Gbobalaye.

Each of these groups has its uniqueness, either in the manner of appearance, style of dressing or dance pattern. The Gbobaniyi group; young middle-age men, who has Governor Gbenga Daniel as its patron has one of the most special appearances by dressing in rich traditional Aso Oke clothes. They all hold walking sticks and dance like conquerors that they seemed to be.

The Bobagbimo, true to the group’s name, always appear in learned and cerebral attire. The group has little of dance and pleasantries but more of grins, nods and prayers. Gaiety and dance are the hallmarks of the all-female, Gbobaleye which has the Waka Music Superstar, Queen Salawa Abeni as one of its prominent members. The parade of the Baloguns and Eleshins is usually the most colourful and breathtaking event of the festival.  A Balogun or Elesin is a direct descendant of the war heroes who gained notable victories for the Ijebu nation during the inter-ethnic Yoruba wars in the pre-colonial history of Nigeria. It is commonly believed that it was at Ojude Oba that the families of the war heroes led by the reigning Balogun and deputies exhibit their equestrian prowess by simulating mock battle shows and displays.

It was a spectacle to behold as each Balogun and Elesin families take their fun to pay homage to the king amidst martial music, jubilating and hilarity of an estimated crowd of over one million both at the palace square and through the town including participants, visitors and tourists. The Awujale of Ijebuland (Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetona (OFR) had described the day as the Ijebus national day. “Ojude Oba is now maturing into a world class event. It has all the ingredients of uniqueness and greatness,” he said.  Though they are referred to Regbe regbe, the king acknowledged their contributions to his domain when he said during the last year’s festival celebration ‘we are pleased to observe the positive contributions that our unique regbe regbe institution continues to make to the development of Ijebuland. We are pleased to see a healthy rivalry among them in their efforts to do something tangible for our society so as to immortalise their names in the annals of Ijebu history.

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Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria

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