Kwara State is blessed with many cultural festivals such as Shao Awonga of Shao community in Moro local government, Ijakadi ( wrestling) in Offa, Offa local government and the popular Gaani festival in Baruten local government area.
Gaani is an annual cultural festival among the Bartonum people of the old Borgu empire, who are presently occupying Baruten and Kaiama local government areas in Kwara, Borgu in Niger State and Nikki, a community under the Borgou department of the Republic of Benin.
It is the second most popular festival among the people of the Nigeria’s border communities after the Islamic festivals of Eld-el- Fitr and Eld-el- Kabir.
The uniqueness of Gaani festival stems from the the way it entrenches and promotes trans-border relations between the Nigeria people and their kinsmen in the Benin Republic.
The Beniniose national do join their brothers in these Nigerian local government areas anytime the festival is celebrated just like the way the Nigerians also cross border to associate with their kinsmen that fall in the francophone country during the celebration.
LEADERSHIP Weekend findings showed that Gaani festival is a unifying factor and a place, where these people of the same trait, identity and historical background meet and celebrate their culture.
This cultural event is first flagged off in Nikki town, which is the headquarters of the old Borgu empire every year on the 12th of Rabbiu Awwal; an Islamic lunar calendar month; a day that commemorates the birth of Prophet Mohammed.
Subsequently, other emirates under the empire, majority of which fall in Nigeria will follow suite and appoint their festival days based on their hierarchical positions under the empire.
These emirates in Nigeria include Yashikira, Okuta, Ilesha-Baruba and Gwanara in the Baruten local government area, Kaiama in Kaiama local government area of Kwara State as well as communities across Borgu local government area in Niger state.
This festival is marked in the same way among these communities. Whenever the programme is held in any of the Nigerian border communities, Mr Garba Mohammed, an indigene of Yashikira said that colourful events are lined up for three consecutive days between Friday and Sunday.
The first day, which is Friday is Gaani eve, a day set aside for display of various types of drum peculiar to their culture at emir’s palace. The old would also converge at the palace, where praise-singers perform to the admiration of the people. The day also avails royal children that travel home from their various places to meet, sit down together and interact till dawn.
The real festival day according to him is Saturday when the emir in the early morning, pays a visit to his ancestors and offers prayers at the graveyard of his predecessors for a peaceful reign and tremendous development in his domain. Activities resume at festival arena later in the afternoon, where the monarch will send message of the year to his people.
Immediately after he delivers his message, cultural activities begin and feature horsemanship, different cultural dances and acrobatic displays, among others.
The third day is for departure of guests. And in some cases, not every year, some distinguished personalities are bestowed with traditional titles.
During the 2022 Gaani festival last weekend, the speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly Engr. Yakubu Danladi-Salihu said the state government under the dynamic leadership of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is committed to harnessing and promoting culture and tourism in the state.
The colourful festival was held at Ilesha Baruba in the Baruten local government area of the state.
The speaker who also hails from Baruten local government area, commended the Emir of Ilesha- Baruba, Professor Halidu Abubakar for sustaining the age-long festival.
“I heartily congratulate my father, the Emir of Ilesha, His Royal Highness, Professor Halidu Abubakar, and the entire good people of Ilesha Emirate on this auspicious occasion of the 2022 Gani festival where we gather to celebrate our rich and age-long culture and tradition. I must commend His Royal Highness, Professor Abubakar for the efforts put in place to sustain this unique festival that has brought all our people across borders together to celebrate common culture.
“As a government, I want to reassure you of the commitment of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq’s administration to promote this festival through the Ministry of Communications to engender socio-economic development in our land while strengthening ties of people with the same trait, identity, and historical background”.
While soliciting the continuous support and cooperation of the people gor Governor AbdulRazaq and his government which he said is poised to do more, Danladi-Salihu donated N1 million towards the construction of Ilesha Town Hall which was launched at the programme.
In his remarks, the Emir of Ilesha-Baruba, Prof Halidu Abubakar, expressed delight over the sustainability of the festival and thanked the indigenes of the community, home and abroad, for finding time to be part of the epoch- making event.
He expressed the community’s appreciation to government functionaries and guests from far and near who joined his people to celebrate, praying God to reward them abundantly.
The frontline monarch who described Gaani festival as a unifying factor and tourists attraction, said all efforts would be made not only to sustain it, but make it a memorable annual event.