Olojo in Yoruba means ‘the day of the first dawn’ but in the lores of Ile-Ife, the Olojo Festival is an annual cultural festival created to celebrate the day the Almighty created the earth.
However, to the Ooni of Ife Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, it has grown to become a celebration for the black race as a whole.
“Olojo is the celebration of God Almighty. It is a way of our culture, our tradition and our heritage. That is the reason why it’s the celebration for all black race all over the world and it is the pride of the entire blacks, not only people of Ife, Osun State.
Not only Nigerians; it is the celebration of the entire blacks all over the world. God actually appointed me and anointed me on this throne to do my very best to correct a lot of wrongs, especially as far as our culture and tradition is concerned.
It’s indeed the celebration of God at the first dawn (Ojo ti ojo di ojo),” he said in a recent chat.
To the monarch, beyond the usual frenzy and razzmatazz, Olojo Festival is very remarkable and symbolic.
“We have landmarks to prove that there’s nowhere in the world that you’ll place a cock, the cock must crow at dawn. And for this celebration, a cock is symbolic to what we are doing. A cock is the indicator of time; a cock does not have any wristwatch, but God uses a cock to tell every human being about the dawn of a new day,” the Ooni said.
Like with the tradition, this year’s Olojo festival commenced with the announcement of Gbajure by the Owa Eredumi of Ife.
The chief notified the people of Ile-Ife of the beginning of the festival, which also signified the entry of the Ooni into seclusion in Iledi House in Iremo Quarters to perform traditional rites, for seven days during which he communed with the ancestors and prayed for peace, unity and development of the town.
Olafare Moses, the monarch’s spokesperson, who explained the nature of the seclusion process, said, ‘’the monarch, during the seclusion would not be receiving visitors nor step outside.”
He added that the ancestors would be appeased and pacified during the period. Prior to the King’s exit after seven days, some rites and rituals were performed to appease the gods.
In the Olojo mysticism, it is said that the night the king first appears to the people, whatever he says will come to pass as he will be highly spiritually possessed by the Irumole and the gods. Various groups from across the world waited with bated breath as they expected the exit of the king.
The King’s exit was a spectacle to behold as the monarch – supposedly possessed by the spirits, stepped out gracefully and looking every inch like a secluded man.
One of the reasons for this edition’s buoyed pomp and pageantry is the promotion and sponsorship the festival received this year, especially from the Information and Communications Technology company, MTN Nigeria.
The company’s Sales and Distribution Executive, Kunle Adebiyi, had announced earlier in the year that the company would sponsor over 37 festivals across the country under the Kulturefest umbrella for 2018.
“KultureFest is a major investment for us. We’ve been supporting festivals for over a decade now as we seek to promote culture and create the affinity between the people of Nigerian communities and the MTN brand. We are picking 37 festivals across the country this year and I believe that by next year the number will increase,” he said.
Subsequent activities of the festival showed detailed planning and strategising from all angles. Particularly, September 29, 2018, was a historical day as the Oooni was adorned with Aare crown.
This is the ancient, sacred crown inherited by the king and it is the only physical symbol of authority the Ooni of Ife.
The crown is believed to be the original crown used by Oduduwa during his reign in the classical era of Yoruba history.
Myth has it that the holy Aare crown is made of over 149 undisclosed objects such as cutlasses and hoes and weighs, conservatively 100 kilogrammes.
This crown holds great significance in the Olojo celebration, as the Ooni of Ife is the only person spiritually enabled to wear it during the cultural feast.
Historically, it is believed there is a deep tie between the sacred crown and the Ogun deity (the god of iron) due to the crown’s components and it must be brought before the Ogun deity at Oke-Mogun shrine in Ile-Ife on each Olojo festival season.
This year’s, Ojo Aare was a thoroughly entertaining day with over fifty families performing before the king, praying for the king who in turn gifted the families with cash.
Hundreds of visitors gathered to celebrate the significant celebration, with the wife of the Executive Governor of Ogun state, Mrs. Olufunsho Amosun, top officials of Osun State government, palace chiefs, Yoruba kings and priests making the numbers.
All the gods in Yoruba historical background were duly represented in performances that lasted for 20minutes.
According to record, there is yearly a push of rain. A specific family that worships sun will surface their idol and used the idol, which is branded on a vertical rod to direct and disperse the rain out of the palace. ,This year was also not exceptional.
At about 5:35pm that day, the Lokoloko, who are soldiers of the king were seen with canes on both hands paving and clearing the way for the king as he symbolically walked out of the palace to the Ogun shrine in an all-white apparel. The mammoth crowd jubilated ecstatically as the Ooni wore the sacred ‘Are Crown’ for the fourth time since his enthronement.
The head of the hunters, Mr Olafioye, shared a twenty-one-gun salute, which will relieve the heaviness of the Aare crown.
The Oba Ogunwusi then proceeded amidst prayers, hailing and gunshots, to the Ogun shrine, a distance of about five hundred (500) metres away from the palace, to meet the Osogun. They Ooni and the Osogun walked around the shrine seven times during which prayers were offered to Ogun, the Yoruba god of iron, for peace and tranquillity and a wish that both meet at the same point the following year.
Ojo Ajoyo is a day of the festival set aside solely for the king to dine and mingle with the people. People of honour, captains of brands and industries, kings around Nigeria amongst others arrived in Ile-Ife to dine with the king also. Nollywood actors and actresses also lit up the day with their colourful appearances. Thespians such as Mama Rainbow, Iya Ereko, Akin Lewis, Yemi Solade, Opeyemi Ayeola, Pa Lere Paimo and others graced the day.
Opeyemi Aiyeola, who spoke at the event, expressed her surprise at the dimensions that the festival had taken and was happy to see the celebration of custom at its origins.
“I can’t imagine seeing this on screen. Olojo is really the name it should be called as it showcases different culture unified in one garden. You can imagine sango performing here. In fact Olojo should be a course in universities,” the actress said.
Yemi Solade, a Yoruba actor said, “as an artist, I have never seen a festival in this wise. Yoruba should not forget their source and we need to teach our children the custom and tradition also the myth.’’
Before joining the people outside main palace, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi addressed the press, urging government and Nigerians to promote culture and while also calling for peace and harmony.
He charged the Nigerian government to promote indigenous languages and culture as they play major roles in national development. He also pressed for the Yoruba race to promote the mother tongue and custom.
“Its very important for us that our culture, tradition and heritage is keyed into every sociocultural development of our nation. Our culture is our culture as we can’t grow or borrow culture; you can see how beautiful the Yoruba culture is. So far, so good,” the monarch said.
Willy Santos, a Brazilian who witnessed the festival, stressed the need for Nigerians to preserve their rich culture and tradition. He urged the people to rise to the challenges facing their cultural heritage and try all possible means to protect the cultural beliefs and values from extinction.
The MTN Kulturfest initiative is birthed out of a desire to preserve and protect Nigeria’s cultural heritage, with the aim of putting them on the international pedestal.