Revitalizing Iwude-Ijesa: Uniting Tradition and Progress through Egbes

According to A.F. Opoola, festivals are celebrated based on people’s belief in gods or deities who are objects of worship as a result of their powers when they were alive.

She said further that some gods are rated high and their festivals are celebrated by only a few people (2006).

Festival therefore can be seen as events held in honour of deities or humans made gods to show how high they are rated and how much the worshippers respect them.

Festivals reflects the rich tradition and culture of the people of a community and they portray their beliefs and customs. Festivals are celebrated periodically to mark certain historical events and seasons.

For instance, the new yam festival is celebrated annually in some parts of Africa. This heralds harvesting and eating of new yam. It is also the occasion for appeasing to the gods of the land and praying for a better harvest in the coming year.

The celebration lasts for a minimum of one week and maximum of a month or three months in the case of series of pantheon festivals.

It is always a period of merry-making featuring eating of specially prepared delicacies and, drinking of palmwine and other assorted drinks.

In most communities in Africa, the kings and priests have important roles during festivals. It is the responsibility of the king, and by extension, the Priest to ensure communal recreation and it is their obligation.

Adegbola, (1983) notes that festivals provide recurrent and social opportunities for communal recreation and social revival.

He stresses that recreation is a special province of gods.

It is in festivals that man revitalizes god’s creation so that it does not become ancient history but present reality. It is the creation of historical (natural and social history) aspects of festival. In most Yoruba communities the Oba (king) and the Chief Priest are responsible for consulting with the Ifa – Orunmila Priest in choosing dates for the festival celebrated annually.

For example, the Ijesa Obokun people dedicate one month of every year: mid-November to mid-December, to celebrate the Ogun Festival – the pathfinder and god of iron and steel. It commences with “lilu agogo ogun” (beating the ogun gong) to its grand finale known as Iwude Ogun but now renamed Iwude-ijesa Festival.

Of the myriads of festival in Ijesaland, in Ilesa in particular, Ogun is definitely the most popular. Its celebration marks the beginning of a new year – the only occasion when the Owa visit his chiefs, ensuring their loyalty. Ogun is a national festival in Ijesaland in general; and the occasion is marked by other towns in succession in the region… (Agbaje-Williams, & Ogundiran, 1992:28).

The Ijesa people, a distinct Yoruba people in Yorubaland of Southern Nigeria have some festivals unique to them apart from the Ogun Festival.

Some of the festivals are “Odun Oniyo” in Osu-Ijesa, Atakunmosa West Local Government Area, “Odun Obalogun” in Ilesa and Iloko-Ijesa, Oriade Local Government Area. The Iwude Ijesa is a unique festival among the Ijesa people not only because of its grandeur but because it is very important and it involves all the Ijesa people.

Ijesas have a long standing historical traditional festival in honor of Ogun, the pathfinder, and the festival is the hallmark of the annual Ogun Festival celebrated for about one month in Ijesaland.

The festival was instituted and incorporated into the Ijesa Obokun traditional calendar by the Owa Obokun Owari, who ruled the Ijesa Empire from Ipole. The Iwude Ijesa Festival was made elaborate and consolidated by the Owa Obokun Atakunmosa.

The traditional festival commences around mid-November of every year and culminates in the Iwude Ijesa towards mid-December. The festival commemorates Ogun, the god of iron and warfare, who the Ijesas holds in very high esteem. The one month celebration commences with “Lilu agogo Ogun” the beating of Ogun gong, followed by “Jije agogo Ogun” feast of Ogun, and followed by “Mimu Obi losi Ipole, Ibokun and Ijebu Jesa” – taking kolanus to ipole, Ibokun and Ijebu – Ijesa which are traditional regional/provincial headquarters of Ijesaland which followed a day after Ibegun Ipole – sacrifice to Ogun at Ipole and in six or seven days after we have the “Odun Owena”- the Owena festival- which is followed by the “Ibegun Ilesa” – sacrifice to Ogun at Ilesa which is in two phases – the first takes place at the Ogun Shrine to Ogun Owa Obokun Adimula sited within the Royal palace courtyard and the second at Ogun Ijesa shrine sited adjacent Odegeru. It is also simultaneously done with the “Abole” Ijebu Ilesa and a day after by “Ijeun ogun” which is the feast for the hunters which is follow by “Iwaaso” when special homage is paid to the Owa Obokun Adimula in readiness for the grand finale of the Ogun festival in three days.

At the Iwude which is the climax and Hallmark of the Ogun festival in Ijesaland. It is noteworthy to mention here that in preparation for the Ogun festival, the floor of the core traditional places leading to Ogun shrine are painted with blue “Aro” – dye (Agunlejika, 2011).

On the grand finale of ogun festival called Iwude-Ijesa, the Aafin Adimula is agog with pomp and pageantry, all the Ijesa Obokun crowns are kept in two boxes called the “Apoti Ade”, well prepared by the “Esira”- the chief who worships “Oduduwa”- and does the required scarifies in obeisance to the “Ade eleye Oduduwa Abalaye”- the sacred ancient crown of the Owa Obokun Adimula worn once a year at the Iwude Ijesa festival. The Baba Ile Oke of Isagbe, the chief slave of the Owa Obokun and the Risa-Mese forms the advance party who would have combed all traditional routes to the Owa Obokun would be conveyed.
It is mandatory for the Owa Obokun Adimula to come out once in 365 days visit his subjects at the grand finale of the Ogun Festival called Iwude Ijesa. His Ijesa subjects pay him homage and obeisance at his Aafin Adimula Royal Palace 364 days of the year. On the Iwude celebration, the Owa Obokun Adimula of Ijesaland comes out of his Aafin Adimula Palace moves in grandeur across a section of the community with his people and returns to his palace in the evenings. (Agunlejika 2011) When the Owa Obokun Adimula steps out, he starts the visit with obeisance paid to him by Yeyerise and the Isogbas at the frontage of the Arise courtyard. The Yeyerise- Head of the Ijesa women also prays for him. A white cloth coverage is used to cover the view of the monarch as he change his crown. The royal procession moves to the Prime Minister and the Head of the Agbanla order Palace- Obaala’s courtyard.

The Obaala is the head of the Ijesa Obokun commoners and he also heads the Iwarefa highest traditional body and Ijesa Obokun Parliament known as “Agba Ujesa” – “Eta-ule Eta-oko – Uwa refa mefa”. The Obaala’s person represents the headship of the Ijesa Obokun public. The Owa Obokun Adimula alights from his vehicle and dances to “Ijo agba” rhythm/tune of drummers as he enters into the residence of the Obaala in company of Royal Palace Counsellors and close Royal aides led by the Odole, and Risawe with all Emeses Royal Palace Emissaries. At the Obaala’s courtyard. He is expected to have the longest stay of close to two or two and a half hours at the Obaala’s courtyard where he will address some Ijesa Obokun interest groups, eat, dine and feel at home. While leaving the Obaala’s courtyard, it expected of him to deep his left big toes in the blood of the cockrel killed in his honour to mark his presence at the Obaala’s courtyard for the Iwude celebration of that year.
He may or may not stops at the junction of Ilemo where the Lemodu pays him homage and if he has any traditional message from the Obokun shrine at Lemodu’s compound, he delivers to him and the procession moves on to Idi-Ose at Okesha where the drums turns to warriors’ tune which signifies that the Owa Obokun has moved from the region of Administrators to the region of warlords which Sawe of Ijamo-Ilesa represents the group of Elegbe war commanders. He barely stays more than few minutes at the Sawes’ who lead the Ijesa Obokun Commander – in – Chief to meet with Ijesa Obokun senior war commanders led by the Lejoka – the Ijesa Obokuns most senior Defence Chief assisted by other Ijesa generals. Loro, Lejofi and Lokiran and other Elegbe junior war commanders.
They troop out with their swords to pay homage to the Ijesa Obokun monarch. At Orita Ijoka, the Lejoka, in company of his most senior commanding officers in the Elegbe-Oke hierachy: Loro and Lejofi- with others within the Elegbe Odo military commanding hierarchy-dances to meet the Owa Obokun Adimula of Ijesaland. From Orita- Ijoka, the procession moves to the Lejoka’s courtyard where the Ijesa Obokun, Monarch changes his crown and attire and spends about an hour in the Lejoka’s Chieftaincy compound. Amidst voracious beating of the “Igangan Obokun” rolling drums in the replica of the military rhythm, the Owa Obokun Adimula leaves the Lejoka’s Residence. It must be noted here that in time past, the royal procession from Lejokas courtyard heads for Enuodi Ijebu-jesa where the Ogbonis’ of Ijebu-jesa and Ibokun dances to meet the Owa Obokun Adimula and pays their homeage and obeisance to him. In recent times the royal procession leaves the Lejoka’s residence back to the Orita-Ijoka where a brief stop over is made to wash the feet of the Owa Obokun Adimula. This is done to show to the Ijesa Obokun public their unflinching loyalty to his Government. It must be noted here that historically, the stoppage of the Ijesa Obokun Monarch reaching Enuodi Ijebu in the Iwude festival of 1886 by Owa Obokun Agunloye Bepo was for security reasons, and since then, no other Owa Obokun has reverted to the status quo. With Obeisance made and prayers offered for him by the Elegbe chieftaincy group, the procession make its way towards Otapete quarters for a brief ceremonial stop over at the Salotun’s residence. From there, the royal procession moves to the outer Ereja by the left hand side of the Ilesa Central Mosque where a royal pavilion has been constructed and the royal seat of the Owa Obokun Adimula, Oloris and the Agbanla/Iwarefa order of chieftaincy would have been placed. On arrival, the royal train, takes their place amidst the voracity of the Igangan Obokun rolling drum moving vigorously in line and display of the Elegbe Oke and Odos re- enactment of their mastery of warfare with their swords made to touch the floor in obeisance and homeage to the Owa Obokun Adimula.
The Omode Owa and the Elegbaji chieftaincy groups take a queue in their turn. At that point, the Igangan Obokun rolling drum slows down. The Ijesa Obokun monarch is covered with white cloth while the ancient Ijesa Obokun Royal crown- “Ade Oodua Eleye Abalaye” is placed on Him in the midst of the sounds of gongs alone as he is flanked by his two most senior Oloris, most likely Yeyesanya and Yeyesorun, sit one by his left and the other by his right while the rank and file of the chieftaincy cadre pays their Obeisance with their swords touching the ground three times and praying for the Ijesa Obokun monarch. Afterwards, he gives the “Iwure”- royal blessings and prayers which shall be answered with a thunderous “Ase oo”. This is a royal prayer and blessing for his people. The Owa Obokun Adimula rises and in the midst of the huge crowd, he takes a walk of about 500 metres between the outer Ereja and Okemese Royal courtyard via the Enugeru to stop by the mouth of “Ori-opo Ijesa”, the Ijesa Obokun Adimula royal throne, where the monarch will be given his own “Ajase”-victory swords, the swords given to his gransires, Obokun Ajibogun Adimula, by his father, Oduduwa Olofin Aye. He touches the floor with the sword three times and will say some words of gratitude and appreciation to “Olodumare” – God in Yoruba belief and to his ancestors, gods and goddesses of the Ijesa Obokun royal pantheon for making it possible for him to celebrate the years Iwude with his people and in peace and prosperity in the land. He concludes this with prayers that the succeeding year should be a more prosperous and peaceful year for all and sundry. This prayer and his entry into the Ori-Opo into the Oke-Adodo the royal throne room of the palace harem marks the end of the Iwude Festival of the year. At the palace, the Esira and the Yeyesorun performing their traditional roles cover the Owa Obokun Adimula with the white cloth to remove the Ancient crown which is expected to be taken into custody of at the Ijesa Obokun pantheon where it will be appeased at the shrine of Odua in preparedness for the festival of the following year.
Recently due to continued dominance in tourism, entertainment and cultural sectors by Ijesa and Ijesaland, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation and the Osun state Government through her Ministry of Tourism, classified the Iwude Ijesa Festival, the Olojo Festival at Ile-Ife, the Osun Osogbo Festival at Osogbo and the Aworo Ose Festival at Ila-Orangun as first class tourist events while cultural sites like the Erin Ijesa waterfall,s the Aafin Adimula, Ilesa and the Aafin Owa Obokun Owari at Ipole respectively are marked of special tourist sites in Nigeria for UNESCO’s consideration by the Osun State Government. Iwude festival has undergone certain metamorphic changes since inception centuries ago. In January 1901, automobile was first introduced to the Iwude Festival to convey the Ijesa Obokun Monarch as against being carried on a special royal chair by royal palace emissaries- Emese Owa royal servants. His Imperial Majesty, Oba Fredrick Kumokun Haastrup Ajimoko 1, the Owa Obokun Adimula of Ijesaland in 1900, became the first Ijesa Obokun Monarch to be conveyed in a motorcade for the Iwude festival. In recent times efforts have been made since 2011 to introduce various innovations incorporated into the Iwude Ijesa Festival. One of such is the introduction of the Ayo Olopon Competition, concerts with high tech. extensive equipment and extensive media coverage of the event.

The Significance of Iwude Festival
During the Iwude Festival, all Ijesa chiefs residing in all parts of the world return home to play their own roles – traditional and ceremonial in the festival. Ijesa people of different locations in Nigeria and abroad return home at the period not only to unite with their families but also participate in the all important Iwude Festival. The period provides the opportunity for them to start new building, roof on-going ones, acquire new wives and the younger ones among the males go with the older “Osomaalo” traders in far away places to learn the art of the “Osomaalo” trader.
Iwude Festival in the modern era serves as a rallying point to foster greater unity among the Ijesa people all over the world for the purpose of developing Ijesaland, celebrating their heroes and heroines, and in the process, opening new frontiers of cooperation and progress in Ijesaland. The period of Iwude Festival also brings back to memory, the historical relationship of the Owa Obokun with his senior chiefs, other Obas and Chiefs in Ijesaland. Many of such chiefs come to the fore to play some traditional roles in the entire Iwude Festival. Iwude Festival is also of sociological significance in the sense that it is a festival of reunion of all the Ijesas. The Owa Obokun is at home to serve as a pivot of all the activities involved in the festival. Such activities include the purely traditional ones and the ceremonial ones.
In the present era, Iwude Festival is now being celebrated as a modern version of the Iwude Ogun Ijesa. Today Iwude is now a convergence of the ancient and modern. It is a celebration of the best in the cultural values of Ijesa people. It is a convergence of culture and tradition, pomp and ceremony, excellence and beauty that makes it the foremost festival of the Ijesa people even in this modern era.
Another great significance of the Iwude Festival is at the spiritual cum social level. It related to the mass mobilization, participation and movement of people during the Iwude Festival. It is believed that every evil, ill-luck, tragedy and misfortune are warded-off for peace and prosperity to reign.
During the festival, when gunshots are fired, the people respond by praying and flipping their hand over their head saying;
“Mo taka osi danu
Mo taka ibanuje danu
Mo taka ofo danu, ati be be lo.
I wish-off or ward-off poverty
I wish-off or ward-off sadness
I wish-off or ward-off untimely death etc.
Through the massive celebrations and tumultuous joy and gladness engendered by the mass participation of people, it is believed that all forms of evil, disease and problem are generally ward-off from Ijesaland through the Iwude Festival.
Iwude Festival affords the Owa Obokun Adimula the opportunity to remember his ancestors, pay homage to them, offer sacrifices and prayers to “Olodumare” – God in Yoruba belief for the good of his people, peace and prosperity in the land and abundant blessing for his subject.
More importantly, the festival provides an avenue for all Ijesas to come together, since most of them will come home for the festival. They use this avenue to discuss issues relating to family affairs and other matters that relate to their progress and welfare.
Iwude Festival tends to promote integration of the members of the Ijesa society. This promotes interpersonal relationship with one another. In the same vein, the period of the Iwude Festival celebration tend to unite all the different traditional worshippers of Osun, Egungun, Onifon/Obatala, Aramfe and Ifa-Orunmila as stakeholders in the celebration of the annual Iwude Festival (Culled from COMFORTHEZ BOOKS facebook page)

As we strive to enrich our cultural heritage in Ijesaland, the Iwude-Ijesa Festival stands out as a symbol of unity and progress. Inspired by the success of Ojude Oba which was not as glamorous as it is now, it is the sons and daughters of Ijebu who are the key contributors to what it is today. We can emulate and surpass their achievements while maintaining our unique identity. The formation of age-groups, or Egbes, is a bold step towards this goal.

The initiatives of having Egbe(s) are not to limit the funfare of the grand finale of Iwude-Ijesa Festival but aim to:

  1. Rekindle Love and Unity: Foster bonds of love and unity amongst people of different age brackets from every part of Ijesaland.
  2. Global Recognition: Add value to the festival to achieve global recognition.
  3. Cultural Connections: Serve as a platform for connecting members of each group to joining already established indigenous societies.
  4. Economic Boost: Boost the socio-economy of Ijesaland before, during, and after the festival.
  5. Cultural Bonds: Create bonds and brotherly love amongst Ijesas worldwide.
  6. Cultural Promotion: Promote cultural experiences for youth and adults.
  7. Support Local Businesses: Support local businesses and artisans through sponsorships and partnerships.
  8. Community Development: Organize community development projects, such as educational initiatives and healthcare services before, during, and after the Iwude-Ijesa Festival.
  9. International Collaboration: Foster collaboration with international organizations to enhance the festival’s global appeal.
  10. Preserve Traditions: Preserve and document Ijesa history and traditions for future generations.
  11. Fundraising and Charity (CSR): Each Egbe must engage in fundraising and charity projects to give back to the community.

By embracing the Egbes and their innovative ideas, we can revitalize the Iwude-Ijesa Festival, making it a global phenomenon that showcases the beauty and richness of Ijesa culture. Let us celebrate our cultural heritage and progress together.

Fundraising and Charity (CSR)
In addition to the above objectives, each Egbe should undertake specific fundraising and charity projects aimed at giving back to the community. These projects can include:

  • Educational Scholarships: Provide scholarships to underprivileged students in Ijesaland to support their education.
  • Healthcare Initiatives: Fund health camps, vaccination drives, and support local healthcare facilities.
  • Infrastructure Development: Contribute to the construction and maintenance of public amenities such as parks, libraries, and community centers.
  • Environmental Conservation: Initiate and support projects aimed at environmental sustainability, such as tree planting campaigns and waste management programs.
  • Skill Development Workshops: Organize workshops to impart vocational skills to the youth, aiding in their employment and self-sufficiency.
  • Support for the Elderly: Establish programs to assist the elderly with healthcare, social activities, and daily necessities.

By incorporating these fundraising and charitable activities, the Egbes will not only contribute to the socio-economic development of Ijesaland but also foster a spirit of giving and community service among the people.

Omo oba Sunday Adewusi, Bobaseye Akinyemi Fashakin, Yeye Bola Lufadeju
For Conveners

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