By Jimoh Babatunde
They came in their numbers regally dressed and took vantage position in the courtyard at the recently celebrated Ojude Oba festival in Ijebu-Ode, Ogu. State.
For the un-discerning observers, they would have been mistaken for one of the age grades otherwise called regberegbes .
But, alas, there were staff of the First City Monument Bank Group, whose founder, , Otunba (Dr) Olasubomi Balogun, is also the Olori Omo-Oba Akile Ijebu.
There were there to support the festival which is an age-old tradition of Ijebu indigenes in honour of the Awujale and Paramount ruler of Ijebuland, every third day after the Eid-el- Kabir or the ileya festival.
Their participation was also to reiterate the bank’s commitment to support activities that promote and add value to Nigeria’s culture and heritage which are also capable of boosting tourism, trade and the hospitality sector.
Historians documented that the festival started over 100 years ago when the earliest Muslim converts in Ijebu-Ode paid homage to the Awujale of Ijebuland to thank him for granting them freedom to practise their religion.
As usual, the 2019 edition featured presentation of gifts, procession of Oba’s council members, sons and daughters of Ijebuland grouped according to their age and colorful dance shows.
The festival remains number one in the country’s cultural festival that has continued to attract domestic and foreign tourists to the ancient city of Ijebu Ode yearly.
This year was not an exception as the Paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, plate host to guests from far and near that trooped out in stylish attire and resplendent colours to celebrate with him.
This year’s celebration was unique as the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, witnessed the festival with a prominent masquerader known as Danofunjora.
Danofunjora, one of Oyo’s most prominent masqueraders, was brought to pay homage to the Awujale, Oba Sikiru Adetona, as the longest serving paramount ruler of Ijebuland.
The masquerade thrilled guests at the festival with a mind-blowing performance as the man from the spirit world was set on fire severally by was not burnt or hurt by the fire.
Apart from the masquerade from Oyo , tourists had enough of entertainment as they were treated to different dance steps and songs by the glamorously-dressed Regberegbe groups.
The Balogun families as usual rode horses to the arena, strutting to drums and ceremonial gunshots.
Among the Balogun families who featured at this year’s festival are the Kuku Family, Odunuga Family and the Balogun Alausa. The event also featured prize awards to the best performing groups.
For the male category of regberegbe cultural display and payment of homage to the monarch, the Bobamayegun Okunrin Asiwaju was declared the best and Ana ward was presented to the representative by Governor Abiodun.
Bobamayegun Okunrin came second and its prize was presented by a former governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, while Tobalase Okunrin got the third prize and was presented by another ex- governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel.
For the female category, Bobamayegun Obinrin Aremo came first and the award was presented by the state Deputy Governor, Noimot Salako-Oyedele. Jagunmolu Obinrin Original came second and received an award from the governor’s wife, Bamidele Abiodun.
The third prize went to Jagunmolu Obinrin stainless and the prize was presented by wife of a businessman in Ijebu, Fatimo Adegunwa.
On horse ride, Balogun Odunuga stole the show this year as it came first while Balogun Soye and Balogun Alausa came second and third respectively.
The Awujale, in his goodwill message, appreciated those who supported the festival especially the sponsors such as the Founder of First City Monument Bank Group, who is also the Olori Omo-Oba Akile Ijebu, Otunba (Dr) Olasubomi Balogun, among others .
the Founder of FCMB Group, Otunba (Dr) Olasubomi Balogun, CON, expressed his gratitude to the paramount ruler for his selflessness, distinguished and exemplary leadership for the 59 years he has been the paramount ruler of Ijebuland, which makes him one of the longest reigning monarchs in Nigeria.
According to Balogun, the Awujale has demostrated distinguished and exemplary leadership as the paramount ruler of Ijebuland.
In the message delivered on his behalf by the Group Head, Corporate Affairs of the Bank, Mr. Diran Olojo, Balogun said, “As your children and subjects, the period provides us the platform and the opportunity to pay you homage in demonstration of our affection for a very special and exceptional father.
“As our paramount ruler who has continued to endear himself to us, his people and who by divine grace, renews his strength annually, in unison, all Ijebus say, “Kabiyesi k’ade pe l’ori, Ki bata pe l’ese.
“We pray your reign will continue to bring joy, inspire prosperity and engender togetherness in abundance to all of us, your children, the entire Ijebu race, at home and in the Diaspora.
“Being the Olori Ebi (the head of the family, by the grace of Almighty God), and as your Olori Omo-Oba (the head of princes and princesses), I will continue to lead the way in showing our appreciation to you.
“As you extend yourself to our people’s different requests and yearnings, I wish to reiterate that the annual paying of homage should not be the only occasion we should show our appreciation. This is because you have consistently earned our affection and our adulation, Kabiyesi.’’
In the same vein, the Group Chief Executive of FCMB Group Plc, Mr Ladi Balogun, congratulated the monarch for upholding the values of Ijebuland and raising the status of the event over the years.
He stated, ‘’The Ojude Oba Festival is a rallying point to promote the sustainable growth and development of our community. We recognise that celebrating our heritage is an important part of our national identity, a means of educating visitors and future generations about our history and an opportunity to measure our growth, development and sustainability. Hence, for us at FCMB, the Ojude Oba Festival is a pride to us; being a major platform through which we reaffirm our commitment to the community and promote our nation’s cultural diversity.
“We will continue to support all activities of the state with focus on the economic and social development. We are committed to the longevity of the Ojude Oba Festival and are proud to be associated with its grandeur.’