BY BASHIR ADEFAKA
In some other communities, celebrating new yam eating is called yam festival. But in Owu Kingdom, where the veteran broadcasting journalist and unpretending evangelist, His Majesty Dr. Olusanya Adegboyega Dosunmu reigns on the throne as Olowu and the paramount ruler, yam festival has been encoded into a different brand.
The ancient kingdom, one of the two communities said to make up Abeokuta, celebrates new yam eating as Odun Omo Olowu – the 13th of which was held on Saturday October 6, 2012.
Owu is another of the few Nigerian communities that is trying hard to keep hope alive for Nigerian diverse cultures by not abandoning the festival because of the influence of western cultures on Africa. That is why the festival is still celebrated in the ancient kingdom, not really as yam festival but as the Odun Omo Olowu.
The Owu Kingdom’s past 12 kings from Oba Pawu (1855 – 1867) through Oba Salami Gbadela Ajibola (1949 – 1972) to Oba Olawale Adisa Odeleye (1993 – 2003) celebrated this festival and the Oba Ajibola, father of Prince Bola Ajibola (SAN), former Nigerian Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation remains a reference point as the longest celebrant of same being the longest serving monarch on the throne.
Therefore, what was celebrated on October 6 was not alien to history of such traditional festivity in Owu Kingdom, where, through the able leadership of the paramount ruler, Oba Olusanya Dosunmu, the kingdom remains a major reference point of cultural preservation in Nigeria.
It was a week long activity that started with a road show and rounded up with the popular Ayo games on Monday October 1, Nigeria’s independence day.
As part of activities marking the event, the Olowu, according to the Omotobase of Owu Kingdom and Public Relations Manager to the throne, Chief Akinpelu Browne, paid visits to some traditional and historic sites within the Owu Kingdom such as the Amororo Royal Ruling House, the Alebiosu Ruling House, Erunmu township, Apomu township and houses of some of the king makers.
Sporting activities like table tennis and football matches were not far from it just as they all culminated in a special Jumat Service at the Owu Central Mosque on Friday October 5 before the grand finale that took place the following Saturday when glamorous cultural and traditional beauties made the Odun Omo Olowu a standout turned out.
“What you are witnessing today is grand finale of all the week long event of activities where sons and daughters of the Owu Kingdom are brought together to rejoice and further foster peace and development among people of the community,” Chief Browne explained.
The event took off at 2.30pm following the arrival of representative of the Governor of Ogun State and Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor, Alhaji Salis Shuaib Omoyayi and the retired judge of the International Court of Justice and former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Prince Bola Ajibola (SAN) and several others including chairmen of all local councils under the traditional jurisdiction of the Olowu and other Obas, Baales and chiefs.
The ceremony burst into thunderous applause with the arrival of the Olowu and paramount ruler of the Owu Kingdom, the Olowu Kangunere, Amororo II, Oba (Dr.) Olusanya Adegboyega Dosunmu, CON. Accompanied by the about 18 Obas from across the various towns under his rule including the Onijoko of Ijoko, Oba Lasisi Ogunseye; the Onifo of Ifo, Oba Olujide Akinyemi; Alarigbajo of Arigbajo, Oba Gbemileke Babajide and Olojodu of Ojodu, Oba Saidu Hassan; the paramount ruler’s majestic step-by-step dance towards the red-carpeted high stage became a thing that thousands of ecstatic people on the occasion fell on one another to have a glimpse of.
Clad in white agbada and white pair of shoes to match with simple beaded but truly high-class crown and light-blue wrapper tied round his shoulders, the aged but vibrant Oba was greeted with explosive songs and drumming composed by ladies dressed in Aso Oke with white lace on the top and men dress in same with traditional eleti-aja caps, respectively.
One of the very illustrious sons and high chiefs of the Olowu’s cabinet, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, was conspicuously absent as his high seat – one of only two – second to the king’s was vacant until the Olori Omoba Owu Kingdom, Prince Bola Ajibola, probably, received instruction to sit in for him.
In all, the day was a success. The cultural displays started with a lineup of Owu warriors, dressed in black traditional war attires each bearing lifeless guns in his hands and dancing to catch the interest of the Olowu, who waved his irukere to them from his seat of majesty as they danced and sang their cultural war songs, just the way it used to be sung in the early days of Owu warriors.
There were also masquerade dance, female harvesters’ dance and the Isan dancers’ shows. The Isan dance was dance of eight men dressed in brown semi-agbada attires with the traditional eleti-aja caps to match. The men who appeared from both sides of the red-carpeted high stage danced round a pot wrapped round with white cloth and eight thin rods (Isan) with round strips in it. Each dancer took one, danced round the stage and returned it into the pot and disappeared.
“It is for a completely different purpose that the Owu people present an Isan to an Olowu although it also stands as an emblem of the community’s acceptance of him as having authority over them. In Owu, the Isan is used to record the number of yam festivals or Odun Omo Olowu an Olowu has celebrated,” said a palace release.
He receives one per year (festival). He keeps it away in a good corner of his palace and this is counted to know how many years the Olowu had spent on the throne,” said in a release by the Olowu palace.