This year’s Igogo Festival has come and gone but the frills and thrills of new things that happened cannot be easily forgotten. Taiwo Abiodun writes
…………..New Chief Priest performed role
…………..Rumour mongers shamed
…………..Festival not fetish
HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY
OBA DVF OLATERU -OLAGBEGI III (CFR) DURING THE FESTIVAL
THE GREAT SUSPENSE
The big palace was full with visitors , natives, well wishers, friends and lovers of Culture from far and near . Most of them came to watch the popular annual and most celebrated festival in Owo and Yoruba land while few ones who are rumor mongers, religious fanatics and those who never believed in good tidings were there to confirm whether the Monarch would come out to observe the annual festival or not.
Ears were on the ground. Eyes were fixed at the palace. Rumors were spread. Doubts filled some people’s minds. Some said the Monarch had traveled. Tension filled the air. Who will be proved right and who will be proved wrong?.
Suddenly, a crowd came out from the inner chamber . Who could that be?. Is he the one or not?. Many surged forward to have a glance and be proved wrong or right. Many were pushed aside , struggling to catch a glimpse at the chief Celebrant and the Custodian of Culture and Tradition . Some Thomases who doubted the festival would hold hurriedly left in shame as they were disappointed and covered their faces with shame while well wishers and those who love the ancient town went wild in jubilation.
Then came the Monarch in high spirits in gaiety and in his royal splendor -he was full of smile and appreciation.He was surrounded by his well wishers, family members, loved ones, princes and princesses and important personalities .
With his plaited hair that made him looked like a female ,and in his dressing as he wore his ornamental Ewu Okun , a royal customized beaded attire dress. To shield him from the scorching sun, he was protected by a specially -built giant umbrella .
His skin glitter while the three white feathers called Urere Okin , special white feathers attached on his head ”danced” in the air . Attached to his white ”skirt” was the Uda Omalore (royal symbol of authority ) that appeared beneath.
Dangling on his neck , wrists and ankles were special royal coral beads glittering and making sound as he walked along .The traditional ruler who doubled as the Chief celebrant was the cynosure of all. He rested his stretched beaded hands on two of his chiefs and would once in a while bring out his own special iron metal gong and beat it. Then start a new song while others would join in chorus.
His wife Olori Yeye Ololade, all Chiefs, princes, princesses , family members and well wishers followed him while showering praises and pouring panegyrics.
They hailed the Monarch as he appeared from inner chamber of the palace .Yes!, His Imperial Majesty , the Olowo of Owo, Oba David Victor Folagbade Olateru -Olagbegi III (CFR) was a sight to behold as he took the spectators and admirers aback by his dancing skills , dexterity and agility despite his age.
Greetings flowed, panegyrics (Oriki) were rendered and Traditional songs flowed freely as the Monarch responded with smiles and satisfaction. Many went on their knees to pay obeisance to him. Then followed by a thunderous of ‘‘Ologho, Baba O, Untunkan nii se , Tu wa ko wa pee! , Leeji, waa gbo, wa to waaa je ju bare, Orisa Oke ma dunhun S’Ologho” (Our revered Monarch you shall live longer than your forefathers, you will lead us for long . The Almighty will protect you) .
Elerewe during the festival
At the Oja Oba ( King’s Market) , the monarch danced to and fro nine times, according to custom. Each time the Monarch dances with High Chiefs Osuporu and Akowaloja and rendered native songs while the whole multitude would join him to sing, and added footsteps; it was a different song and also showing more of the stuff in him as he takes better dance steps on each occasion.
At the end of the last dance the Monarch headed back to the palace.
In the evening the new Chief Priest of the town, Ajana who replaced his late father ( the late Michael Adelanke Ajana) took the role of the Chief Priest , prayed for the town,the monarch and well wishers.He performed other necessary rites as the town’s chief priest and the festival continued.
Some participants during the festival
The Igogo celebration always make the town interesting as market women have many souvenirs to sell and business boom. Not only this the Chiefs participate fully and in accordance to its custom wore women apparel by mimicking the female counterpart with their plaited hair and their dressing . Some of these male chiefs had their hair braids even those who preferred wigs put them on their heads and interestingly many could erroneously be taken for a woman while the men padded their chests with foams and earrings as they all danced round the town all in honor of the Monarch’s wife, Oronsen who ruled in the ancient town over 600 years ago. Children were not left out as they sang songs and used sticks as drums .It was all fun. Some of the chiefs who participated are High Chief Tunde Elerewe who is the Elerewe of Owo, High Chief Osuporu ,Chief Ogwatowose, High Chief Oshere, High Chief Ojumu and host of others.
Those who are old and can no longer dance round the town like Chief Madam Fehintola Famulagun (97), who was also a participant stayed at home where she received visitors and entertained them. She said ” I am old and cannot dance round the town again but I received visitors and participated in the festival”
Throughout the 30days of the festival (September to October) the palace was in a festive mood as people, indigenes and non-indigenes alike all trooped out to have fun. Gifts were exchanged, as the royal father as usual entertained guests and gave out gifts.
Igogo as some will call it, is a festival of love, others say it is a festival of unity while others call it the festival of the maidens, but above all, it is a festival that serves a a unifying factor for the people of the ancient town because during the festival, the people usually forget their differences . Owo is always agog during the festival with old and young, males and females coming together as one and exchanging gifts, smile and happiness.
The Owo Cultural Ambassador in person of Mr.Tunde Onibode who was the brain behind some of the social activities for the festival and has been supporting the festival said ” it is high time we cooperated the more to the festival. We should not leave everything for the Monarch alone, we should support him , that is why I am contributing my own quota to the festival”.
GENESIS OF IGOGO FESTIVAL
The story of Igogo festival started over 600 years ago ,according to Chief Niyi Adewale the Iminiken of Owo, the story of Oronshen started ”when the then Monarch , Olowo Rengenjen who reigned and unknowingly married a goddess called Moore Oronshen .The Queen, Oronsen was suspected to have a supernatural power. The Monarch was so much in love with this strange woman that she became an envy of other wives in the palace .The woman’s behavior was strange to everybody and the king loved her more than other wives , when this was known to other wives then there was jealousy as Oronsen became the envy of others .”The story continued that she was loved by the Monarch because she made the town be more prosperous as she would be excreting expensive coral beads ,thus she demanded for a special room of which the Monarch happily gave her.
”However, she revealed her taboos to the Monarch which must be kept secret and not be broken ,these are : One must not throw firewood before her, water should not be splashed before her and okra spices must not be cut in her presence”, said Iminiken.
THE GREAT BETRAYAL
”The secrets were kept by the Olowo Rengenjen until when other wives of the Monarch grew jealous and got him drunk into a stupor and made him revealed Orosen’s secrets to them. One day the Monarch went for hunting expedition , and the other wives planned against Oronsen and broke her taboos. They did the unthinkable as they plotted against her . The three taboos of her were broken as they ganged up and threw firewood ,splashed water and cut spices before her eyes!. She felt betrayed and grew annoyed then in tears she ran away from the palace into a forest called Igbo Ujala (Ujala forest)” .
The story went on that when the King arrived and was informed of what happened , he was angry and he sent some palace guards (Ayoyo) to go and look for her .While searching for her , her head gear was found and her bitter voice was heard crying of betrayal from the Ujala Forest!. The palace guards begged the woman to return home but she was adamant. She instead instructed them to inform the King of her love , but in remembering her she should be celebrated yearly as a sign of love and honor. In tears she told them that men and women must be plaiting their head, coral beads to be used while the booming of guns and beating of leather drum should be stopped . In addition, caps and head gears must not be worn during the festival. On their return the Palace guards brought canes to discipline the wives , since then we have been seen the Ayoyos with their long sticks during the festival. Since over 600 years the rules are carried out to the letter . During this period no booming of guns, caps must not be worn by men and women must not put on head gears while leather drums are forbidden in honour of the woman , Oronsen.
Before the festival the print and electronic media cum the town criers would announce the festival and implore natives and non natives , all religious organizations to obey all these rules at all functions and ceremonies .
FESTIVAL NOT FETISH and RUMORS
On whether the festival is fetish, Prince Olanrewaju Abegunde , debunked the erroneous ”sermon” being preached by some religious fanatics that the festival is worshiping of idol, he said ” I thank God that the festival went well and well attended. Many who rumoured that it will not hold were put to shame”. He continued ” the religious fanatics who called it fetish should go and read Bible where tradition was honored and respected. The festival is not fetish at all, and it is Culture , there is a difference between Culture and Religion. There is Osun Oshogbo festival , Olojo festival and many others and nobody ever said they are fetish”, Abegunde added ”the Monarch’s role is not of that Chief Priest, it is the job of the Chief Priest of the town to perform his role as the chief priest” . He continued ” it is true that in the olden days human being was being used for sacrifice but this is no longer the case now as animal is now used”, he said with confidence .
WHY IT MUST BE OBSERVED
And the question boggling many people’s minds are ; is the festival compulsory? According to Chief Famulagun in one of her interviews , ”the festival is compulsory for it is the culture and tradition of our forefathers, they had been celebrating for centuries . We should praise Kabiyesi for his contribution to it, he is trying his best and should be praised and supported”.
Mrs. Morenike Ogunseitan said the festival is a must as there is evil omen to it if not observed , she said ” I remember a time when the festival was not held for about two years, some young men were beating cow’s horns as drum instead of that of a buffalo as it should be . Then a buffalo appeared from nowhere and passed through the town. The strange animal was shot at but the pellets missed it. The animal stopped, looked back but continued going. The photographers who took its picture said it did not show and only the legs were shown. It later disappeared into a bush around Imade College”, she said . Ogunseitan continued ”some said it could be the woman, Oronshen who appeared in animal form because the festival was not held. But since then we have not heard or seen any strange thing again since it is observed annually”.
Chief Tola Ogwatowose who praised the Monarch for upholding the tradition said ” kudos should be given to the royal father who always make sure it is fully done, he said ” adding ” It is called celebration of love when we exchange gifts and love.In the olden days ladies and young men find their lovers and could be likened to Valentine.It is always interesting as people came all the way to witness it”
Although the 2018 edition of the annual Igogo festival has come and gone, but its frills and memories will continue to linger on.