Ojude Oba is a festival that celebrates the rich and diverse heritage of the Yoruba people of Ijebu-Ode, a town in Ogun State, Southwestern Nigeria. The festival, which means “the king’s fore-court” in Yoruba language, is held every year on the third day after Eid al-Kabir, also known as Ileya, to pay homage and show respect to the Royal Majesty, the Awujale of Ijebuland.
The festival has its origin in the late 19th century, when the first Muslim converts in Ijebu-Ode decided to visit the Awujale to thank him for allowing them to practice their religion freely. The Awujale, who was a tolerant and benevolent ruler, welcomed them warmly and gave them his blessings. Since then, the festival has grown to become a grand occasion that attracts people from different parts of the world, especially those of Ijebu descent.
What is Ojude Oba: A Festival of Culture and Spirituality?
The Ojude Oba festival showcases the cultural, religious, social and military aspects of the Ijebu people. It features various activities such as:
- The parade of different age groups (regberegbe), who dress in colorful and elaborate costumes and display their loyalty and allegiance to the Awujale.
- The display of horse-riding skills by the Baloguns (war chiefs) and their followers, who also pay tribute to the Awujale.
- The performance of traditional music and dances by various groups such as Egungun (masquerades), Sango (god of thunder), Osun (goddess of water), Ogun (god of iron) and others.
- The exhibition of local crafts, arts and cuisines by the women and youths of Ijebu-Ode.
- The presentation of awards and gifts to the Awujale and other distinguished personalities by the sponsors and organizers of the festival.
Ojude Oba is more than just a festival; it is a symbol of unity, harmony and identity for the Ijebu people. It is a time to celebrate their history, culture and spirituality, as well as to renew their bond with their king and their land. It is also a time to welcome visitors and friends from near and far, and to share with them the beauty and hospitality of Ijebuland.
Who is the Awujale of Ijebuland?
The Oba of Ijebu Land is the traditional ruler of the Ijebu Kingdom, a historic and cultural state in Southwestern Nigeria. The Ijebu people are one of the subgroups of the Yoruba ethnic group, and they have a rich and diverse heritage that dates back to the 15th century.
The title of the Oba of Ijebu Land is Awujale, which means “the one who is above all”. The Awujale is the paramount ruler of Ijebuland, and he has his palace at Ijebu Ode, the capital of the kingdom. He is also the head of the House of Anikinaiya, one of the four ruling houses that rotate the kingship among themselves.
The current Awujale is Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, Ogbagba Agbotewole II, who was installed as the king on 2 April 1960. He is one of the longest reigning monarchs in Nigeria, and he has witnessed and contributed to the political, social and economic development of his people and his country. He is also a respected elder statesman and a custodian of the culture and traditions of Ijebuland.
The Awujale traces his ancestry to Obanta, a prince of Oyo who founded the Ijebu Kingdom around the 15th century. According to legend, Obanta left Oyo with some followers after a dispute with his father, the Alaafin. He settled in Ile-Ife, where he married a daughter of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba people. He later moved to Ijebu Ode, where he established his dynasty.
The Awujale has several subordinate chiefs who assist him in administering his domain. These include the Baloguns (war chiefs), who display their horse-riding skills during the annual Ojude Oba festival; the Osugbo (Ogboni), a council of elders who act as the kingdom’s courts; and the Regberegbe (age groups), who show their loyalty and allegiance to the king.
The Awujale is also a spiritual leader who oversees the religious affairs of his people. The Ijebu people practice various religions, such as Yoruba traditional religion, Islam and Christianity. The Awujale respects and tolerates all faiths, and he encourages harmony and peace among his subjects.
The Awujale is a symbol of unity, dignity and identity for the Ijebu people. He is a source of pride and inspiration for his people, both at home and in diaspora. He is also a bridge-builder and a peacemaker who fosters good relations with other kingdoms and communities in Nigeria and beyond.