ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA who was at the world media event staged by the organisers of Udiroko Festival 2019 writes on the attempt by the people of Ado Ekiti, their monarch and Ekiti State government to put the yearly festival on the global tourism map
The occasion was the world press conference staged over the week at the Airport Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos by the organisers of Udiroko Festival 2019, a yearly historical and cultural tourism festival celebrated by the people of Ado in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State.
It was to intimate the world of the preparations for the hosting of the festival this year, with the theme: ‘Enforcing and sustaining the solidarity of our history, culture and tradition.’ It is scheduled to hold between August 12 and 20, in Ado Ekiti, with the grand finale billed for August 20. But more importantly, it was to let the world into the new spirit of the age – long festival, which is to blaze the global tourism trail and position it to propel the people and the city into a new economic era.
The banquet hall was colourfully decked and draped with the colours and cultural motifs of the people of Ado who left no one in doubt of the richness and colours of their cultural heritage. While the people waited for the event to get underway, the cultural troupe from Ado Ekiti gave a good account of the cultural propensity of Ado people as they enthralled the audience with energetic and entertaining performances ranging from songs to dance.
The audience was a mixed one, reflecting the importance and historic nature of the world press conference, with a number of Ado people resident in Lagos sharing the podium with their kin and kindred from Ado Ekiti who had come in their number to grace the occasion.
The home front was led to the event by no less an important personality than their royal father, Oba (Dr.) Rufus Adeyemo Adejugbe Aladesanmi III, the Ewi of Ado Ekiti, with his olori, Bosede Adejugbe Aladesanmi III, the Eyesorun of Ado Ekiti, and the full complement of his council members, officials and palace attendants.
It was a graceful and majestic event, with the Ewi in his full traditional attire, adding colour, elegance and splendour to the event, which turned out to be a rich and colourful cultural display by the people of Ado Ekiti. For the audience that was thrilled by the rich display, it was like an added pep to plan to attend the festival for the full dose of the savouring cultural bouquet that the Ewi and his people are planning to serve the people.
A display of our cultural values – Adelusi – Adeluyi Speeches were given by various speakers at the event, including the monarch, in a bid by the organisers to win converts for the festival and explain the reason behind the festival. One of those that spoke was the chairman of the festival, Prince Julius Adelusi – Adeluyi, who is also the chairman of Juli Pharmacy. Besides being an astute businessman and administrator, he showed another side of his, which perhaps is not known to many.
The fact that he is well abreast with the tradition and culture of his people, Ado Ekiti, as he backed up his pitch for the festival with display of cultural nuances and lacing his presentation with songs and rally cry for ‘cultural solidarity’ from the people.
He started off by letting the audience know that Ado people are a proud race and cherish their tradition and cultural heritage, which they have laboured over the years to preserve and promote through celebration of all sorts. ‘‘We are proud of ourselves and we have a big city that has existed for centuries, therefore, we have our traditions but the most important of all our festivals is Udiroko,’’ he said, even as he stressed that ‘‘it is a national day for us in Ado Ekiti.’’ With this, he struck at the import of the festival and the reason why the people go all the way to celebrate it yearly, with the celebration of this year’s edition a notch higher than previous ones, as the emphasis is now on giving it a global audience and mainstreaming it into the economic development mix of the people and town.
He emphasised the need for people to understand their culture, as he disclosed that: ‘‘A group of people without culture is a group that that can be written off.’’ Therefore, he implored the audience, particularly the youth, to not only study but to embrace their culture. An Ekiti man, he said is known for his culture and then called for support for the festival, as this will give impetus for the people to keep promoting the festival and their culture. ‘‘When you support Udiroko you are strengthening our traditional values.
Ado Ekiti people have content and our programme today will be the success of the future.’’ A celebration of our historical foundation – Akindele Professor Sunday Akindele is the chairman of the festival planning committee for this year. Although with a petit physique but he has a dashing and overwhelming nature, with a full grasp of the history and culture of his people. He treated the audience to a dose of this as he went down historical lane to present the essence of the festival to the people, stating that: ‘‘The essence of Udiroko is to annually remember the foundation of Ado Ekiti Kingdom,’’ adding that ‘‘it has nothing to do with fetish or idol, all our programmes are recorded and documented for all to see.’’
According to Akindele, ‘‘it is about the historical development of the people and the town.’’
He then attempted to paint the history of the people and the festival, saying that it dates back to 12000 AD and that it is of great significance to the people as it defines their humanity, existence and authenticity as a people.
Therefore, he insisted that the festival is purely historical, cultural and traditional celebration and has no religious or political undertone. It is for this single reason that the people gather yearly under the guidance and leadership of the Ewi to celebrate the festival amidst colours and cultural pageantry as a national day event.
Having the monarch of the town grace the occasion, he said underlines the importance that the people and the palace attach to the celebration, especially given the new spirit of the festival, which is opening it to the world and using it as the bedrock for the socio-economic development of the people and town. Given this, no one else was fit and proper to unfold this new initiative to the people than the royal father, who according to Akindele, is not given to frivolities and not ordinary as well as not prone to travelling out of the palace commonly.
His visit to Lagos for the event, he said was very significant and historic as that would be the first time of his visiting Lagos since he assumed the stool of his ancestors in 1990 as the 28th Ewi of the town. We will create a new impetus for the festival to prosper – Gov Fayemi For the Ekiti State government, this year signifies a new dawn in the annals of the festival as the Governor John Kayode Fayemi – led administration is poised at rebrand the festival and put it on the global tourism map hence it is partnering with the palace to organise and promote the festival. This new commitment was disclosed by the governor who was represented at the event by the Director General of Ekiti State Council for Arts and Culture, Wale Ojo – Lanre. The governor commended the Ewi and his people for their tenacity in preserving and celebrating the historic and cultural festival yearly.
According to him: ‘‘The Ekiti State Council for Arts and Culture has the full mandate of the government of Dr. John Kayode Fayemi to promote our culture as a well as our core values in order to evolve a state that manifest the vision of its founding fathers; this explains the passion and commitment of the council towards a collaboration with communities to transform their festivals into a prosperity instrument for the people.’’
He further stated that: ‘‘Since it is within the compass of our purview to inject critical innovations into the original manners of celebrating festivals in Ekiti, we initiated this world press conference in furtherance of the strategic marketing of some Ekiti festivals.’’
Therefore, the choice of Udiroko as one of the festivals to earn the partnership of the state government, is also informed by what he said to be the consistency, energy and tenacity of purpose displayed by the people of Ado Ekiti.
‘‘We have noticed the energy and vigour with which the Ewi and the people of Ado prepare and celebrate Udiroko annually hence our decision to partner with Ado Ekiti people to rebrand the festival, globalize its celebration, seek marketers for the festival so that it becomes self – sustaining and involve Ado – Ekiti indigenes in The Diaspora as a well as those outside the shores of Ekiti States.’’ Achieving this onerous goal is no mean task as it will take time and resources hence the state governor concluded by stating that: ‘‘This mandate is being delivered gradually.’’
A lift to our history, culture and tradition – Ewi of Ado Ekiti
For the elated Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Oba (Dr.) Rufus Adeyemo Adejugbe Aladesanmi III, the occasion for many reasons was an epoch making one for him and his people. Visiting Lagos formally to felicitate with his people after his first attempt was aborted 28 years ago was a thing of joy and a dream come through.
Besides visiting to launch a new initiative for the festival, which is meant to propel the festival to a new height and open a new vista for the economic development of the people and town, is a welcome development. It was for this reason that he elected to grace the event with his presence to announce the beginning of this journey to the world and personally invite the world to his domain for the festival, which commences next week. He was more detailed in his presentation as he took the people on historical excursion of the kingdom and the festival, which according to him, is as old as the people and defines the existence and essence of the people.
‘‘The Udiroko Festival, which marks the first day in Ado Ekiti traditional calendar is yearly celebrated to continually give a pride of place to our history, culture and tradition as a people.,’’ said the Ewi, adding that: ‘‘The celebration of this tripod of our collective existence as Ado people every year provides the ample opportunity to all Ado sons and daughters both at home and in Diaspora to come together to appreciate God and pray for continuous peace and progress in the coming year.’’
The word Udiroko, according to the monarch, means Idi igi iroko (Under the iroko tree). Therefore, Udiroko, he said became significance to the people of Ado Ekiti right from the creation of Ado Ekiti through conquest in the early 13000 AD. Following this, the people were said to meet under the tree to celebrate and commemorate the founding of the town and since then they have yearly celebrated the festival, which today is assuming a new dimension.
The festival, which has not only become the national day of the people of Ado but a New Year Day for them, is celebrated by all the people from across the world with the Ewi and his council taking the lead in the celebration. According to him, it is a joyous celebration, which is coated in the mode of thanksgiving by the people to God for another year and that it is free from any form of ritual hence the entire community, regardless of the religious and socio – economic backgrounds, are involved in the festival. The festival is a weeklong celebration, with each day before the grand finale devoted to different activities, such as feasting, music, dance and performances of all sorts underlining each day’s celebration. The Ewi promised a colourful, exciting and fulfilling celebration as he beckoned the world to Ado Ekitit to witness the people at play for one week