The 2020 edition of the groundbreaking Olojo Festival in Ile-Ife, Osun State has gone with the grand-finale held on Saturday 26th September, 2020.
Though yet to be enlisted by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage, Olojo is a world-acclaimed annual cultural festival that embraces participants from all walks of life across the globe.
Besides the glamour of the festival, Ile-Ife, the source of mankind and cultural headquarters of the Yoruba people plays host to thousands of people annually either as worshippers, tourists or by extension, official duty for the cele-bration of the historic cultural festival.
The 2002 Olojo festival though unique was not elaborately celebrated, as it was affected by the COVID-19 protocol caused by the coronavirus pandemic presently ravaging the world.
Olojo festival is about the offering of sacrifice to the hero Ogun, a personality with enormous wealth and political power idolised by the Yoruba race. Olojo in Yoruba means ‘the day of the first dawn’, but in Ile-Ife, the Olojo festival is an annual cultural festival that is created to celebrate the day the Almighty created the earth.
It is an all-encompassing festival starting with the retiring into seclusion of the Ooni, following the announcement of Gbajure by the Owa Eredumi.
The monarch remains in seclusion for seven days, during which he does not receive visitors, relate with human beings or eat, but communes in spirit with his ancestors and the great ones.
The notification by Owa Eredumi that signifies the entry of the Ooni into seclusion in Iledi House in Iremo Quarters, also enables the Ooni to perform traditional rites and pray for peace, unity and development of the town.
During the period of seclusion, ancestors would be appeased and pacified while prior to the king’s exit after seven days, some rites and rituals would be performed to appease the gods.
In the Olojo festival, it is said that the night the king first appears to the people after the seclusion, whatever he says will come to pass as he will be highly spiritually possessed by the Irumole and the gods.
Usually, anxious people, including groups from across the world will wait with bated breath as they expect the exit of the king from seclusion.
The King’s exit was a spectacle to behold as the monarch – supposedly possessed by the spirits, stepped out gracefully and looked every inch like a secluded man.
The peak of the festival is the wearing of Aare Crown by the Ooni. This is the ancient, sacred crown inherited by the king and it is the only physical symbol of authority of 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 hoes and cutlasses, weighing 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 fes-tival season.
Despite the ravaging coronavirus across the globe, not a single rite was left unperformed in the 2020 Olojo festival though with caution.
Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, has grown to become a celebration for the black race as a whole, hence the crop of a high-profile individual who attends the event across the globe.
The event witnessed the traditional paying of royal homage to the Ooni by groups, priests, chiefs and traditional rulers and the visit of the monarch to royal quarters in the ancient city.
As usual, Ooni Ogunwusi, opened the event with his seven-day seclusion in Iledi House in Iremo Quarters of the an-cient town.
Unlike last year’s celebration, a number of social activities were shelved in compliance with the social distancing proto-col occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, on Saturday 26th September, the Ile Oodua palace of the Ooni was filled with people who attended the event for diverse circumstances.
The monarch, at a gathering before the wearing of the Aare Crown played host to prominent people at the premises of the palace which include the governor of Osun State, Mr Adegboyega Oyetola.
At the event, governor Oyetola expressed his very strong commitment to developing tourism attraction in the state into a world-class destination.
“We are vigorously pursuing these potential investors to ensure that our dream of making Osun a tourism and invest-ment haven is achieved.
“To further show our commitment to the preservation and promotion of our roots, Ile-Ife, the State Government has decided to establish a unique and world-class edifice – the Yoruba museums And Heritage Centre – to showcase our unique culture, tradition, heritage and experiences to the globe and create a huge market for the State.
“We are happy to have an Ooni who shares our dream that Olojo Festival should be of tourist and commercial value, and not a mere avenue for celebrations and merry-making,” the governor noted.
The entourage of the governor included : the chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Osun, Prince Gboyega Famodun; the Chief Whip, Osun House of Assembly, Hon Tunde Olatunji; commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Dr Obawale Adebisi; commissioner for Home Affairs, Mr Tajudeen Lawal.
Others included the commissioner for Education, Mr Folorunso Bamisayemi; commissioner for Youth and Sports, Mr Yemi Lawal; and special adviser to the governor on Education, Mr Jamiu Olawumi.
Immediately the gathering ended, Oba Ogunwusi retired into the palace to wear the Aare Crown.
The appearance of the monarch in sparkling white, with the magnificent crown on his head, threw the atmosphere to ecstasy as people gathered to catch a glimpse of the monarch.
Oba Ogunwusi then proceeded amidst prayers, hailings and gunshots, to the Ogun shrine, a distance of about 600 me-tres away from the palace, to meet the Osogun.
The Osogun walked around the shrine seven times in the presence of the Ooni during which prayers were offered to Ogun, the Yoruba god of iron, for peace and tranquility and a wish that both meet at the same point the following year.
The monarch came back to the palace and took time to pray for his subjects who in turn pray that they have the op-portunity to witness the next outing.
During a chat with Oba Ogunwusi in his palace, he referred to Oojo as the celebration of God Almighty adding that it is a way of Yoruba culture, tradition and heritage.
He noted that Olojo is the celebration for all black races all over the world, and it is the pride of the entire blacks and not only the people of Ife.
“It is not only for 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.”
Also speaking, the media director to the Ooni, Mr Moses Olafare noted that the Ooni in compliance with the prevailing situation in the world, decided to make the 2020 Olojo festival low keyed.
According to him, Oba Ogunwusi had to turn down the request from various quarters, for the inclusion of many social activities in the celebration because he was at the front of the fight against COVID-19.
He made reference to efforts of the Ooni, which included the fumigation of the entire Ile-Ife and donation of facilities to tackle the virus to states across the country.
Olafare, however, opined that the 2021 edition of the Olojo festival will be groundbreaking, adding that sponsors who approached the Ooni this year and others will be welcomed.