It started in 1890 as Ita-Oba Festival and later metamorphosed into Ojude-Oba Carnival usually held on the third day of Muslims’ Eid-El-Kabir (Ileya) Festival. Literarily, Ojude Oba means going to the “Aafin” Palace Ground to pay courtesy visit to the reigning Awujale and the Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland. For the Muslims, it is a special annual visit to thank the Kabiyesi for the special gift of a ram slaughtered at Muslim praying ground on the Sallah day.
Meanwhile, the origin of this carnival that unites all Ijebus across religion divide, home and diaspora will not be appreciated unless the history of Islam in Ijebuland is revisited.
Like every Yoruba communities of the old, the Ijebus were predominantly pagans and traditionalists practicing the religion of their forebearers. However, from recorded history, the spread of Islam started in the late 14th Century to Kano from Mali and spread to other parts of the North.
However, the spread of Islam was attributed to Othman Dan Fodio (1754-1816), a Fulani Jihadist who, on the invitation of Alimi, reinforced the emergence and spread of Islam in Ilorin and from there to other parts of Yorubaland excluding the Ijebu nation who still lived in isolation practicing their inherited paganism.
Despite the strict adherence to paganism, the eventual emergence of Islam was made possible by the Ijebu traders who knew about the religion through their trading activities in Ilorin, Minna, Lafiaji, Oshogbo, Ibadan and Offa. Some of these traders had imbibed the religion but could not practice Islam openly for fear of persecution by the Odis (palace errands) and traditionalists.
However, in 1878 during the reign of Awujale Ademiyewo Afidipotemole (1852-1885), open practice of Islam started through a slave named Alli who later became Alli-Tubogun who received the blessings of his master, Tubogun a traditionalist of Porogun Ward to practice his religion without hindrance and fear of any persecution. With this singular effort and accidental endorsement by Tubogun, Islam started growing by leaps and bound attracting many converts and by 1880 local mosques were built at many wards in Ijebu-Ode. It is on record that by 1904, more than half of the Ijebus were already Muslims decimating the population of the traditionalists significantly.
Meanwhile, the early efforts of the Christian Missionaries did not materialise until the British defeated the Ijebus at Imagbon War and the triumphant entry of the British troops into Ijebu-Ode on May 20, 1892 opened the gate for Christian Missionaries to introduce Christianity into Ijebuland. The interest and effort of the educated and leading technocrats among the Ijebus led by Dr. Joseph Odumosu, the most educated Ijebuman of his generation, a pioneering printer, publisher and author of books such as Iwe Egbogi, Iwe Iwosan, Iwe Irohin Ilu, Iwe Iranti Itan Ijebu, Iwe Itunmo Ala and Iwe Gbedegbeyo ( Yoruba Dictionary), all published by his Printing Press between 1893-1900. Amongst his early Christian vanguards, preachers and prayer warriors included but not limited to Pa Emnanuel Ewumi, James Kogbe, Amis Awote, Gabriel Adebogun, Isaac Otubusin, Daniel Olusanya, Josiah Osilaja, Ezekiel Ogunade, Josiah Ogunade. Aleshinloye.. amongst others attracted many converts and traditionalists including the wealthiest, most influential, extremely popular and powerful Ijebuman of his generation, Balogun Odueyungbo Bello Kuku into Christianity.
The incident and drama that happened on September 27, 1896 when Rev. R.A Conner and Rev. E.W George baptised 41 Ijebumen with their proclamation to retain only one wife out of the many wives they had earlier married. The devotees accepted amidst protests and condemnations by their families including the reigning Awujale, Oba Adeleke Ogbagba but the presence of a British representative, Captain Hook prevented any form of violent resistance. In the circumstance, Balogun Kuku with over thirty wives, more than 200 slaves, ardent followers and other contemporaries like Chief Odejayi, Abass Odunsi, Buraimo Kogbagbe, amongst others relinquished Christianity to embrace Islam which encouraged polygamy.
Furthermore, the personality, extreme wealth and respect the Ijebus had for Balogun Kuku attracted many dignitaries, nobilities and commoners alike to convert to Islamic religion and, therefore, the role of this foremost Ijebuman in rapid spread of Islam can’t be underestimated. It is on record that in 1890 during the pagan annual ceremony called Odeda festival in which the worshippers of the various traditional religions such as Sango, Egungun, Osun, Yemule, Ogun, amongst others dance in turns before the Awujale in his palace, Balogun Kuku dared the pagans by emerging gorgeously dressed in a well-ornamented horse along with his elderly sons and the Muslim Community in a long procession. The entourage was preceded by drummers with their gangan, dudu, shekere, bata and singers with several dane guns booming as they moved towards the Awujale’s Palace. When the traditionalists saw the unprecedented display of wealth, affluence and showmanship with pomp and pageantry, they all dispersed in confusion.
And this thus signaled the end of the annual Odeda festival which gave way to Ita-Oba Festival in Ijebu-Ode now being celebrated over 126 years as pioneered by Balogun Kuku.
It is important to state that Ojude Oba Festival is usually led by the reigning Balogun of Ijebu-Ode as it signifies his dexterity as as a warlord ready to protect the Awujale in case of war against his constituted authority. For example, Balogun Kuku was nicknamed “Timitimi Awujale, Olugbeja Oba Ode” for the role he played in safeguarding the throne of Awujale despite the pressure placed on him by the British Authority to ascend the throne in other to dethrone the reigning Awujale Oba Olasimbo Aboki Tunwase after the defeat of Ijebu Army in 1892. It is on record that Balogun Kuku declined to participate in the war because he had earlier been sent on exile to Ibadan from where he was recalled on the eve of the war as the Balogun of Ijebuland to lead the war against the British. Despite the devastating war of destruction, rampaging and burning with superior fireworks, canons and other sophisticated weapons, it is documented that some of valiant survivors of the war included but not limited to Pa Abass Odejayi, Pa Adeyemi Sarunmi and Pa Asani Sote, the popular “Asotemaru omo Towobola, akesolubon, apere ija maye, eso dudu ibon e dudu, omo t’ori ogun wa s’aiye, omo t’ori ogun darungbon si, tiyomi tiyomi oko Segilola” all of blessed melody.
In Ibadan, despite being in exile, Balogun Kuku’s wealth, fame, social and political influence loomed large to the anger, envy and amazement of his detractors in Ijebu-Ode. He settled in an area now known as Isale Ijebu and built a magnificent house near Madam Efundunkun’s compound at Idi Arere in Isale Ijebu. It was speculated that some of his offsprings, over the generations, became Chiefs and Bales and even the Olubadan of Ibadanland. Maybe, the Onidi Arere of Idi Arere. (..?), one of the 21 newly beaded and crowned Obas with staffs of office installed by the Executive Governor of Oyo State, HE, Governor Isiaka Ajimobi is even one of the gifts, mementos and relics of Balogun Kuku to Ibadanland, who knows..?
On his return to Ijebu Ode, both Islam and Christianity blossomed especially with the recognition the British Authority gave Balogun Kuku by signing the Peace and Treaty Agreement along with the Awujale Aboki Tunwase on August 8, 1892 while Governor Carter and Captain Bower singed for the British Authority.
Perhaps, due to the role he played in the propagation of Islam and other community services to Ijebu-Ode, the nature canonised him as a Saint because his corpse remained fresh in the sparkling white shroud in the vault without decomposing even 20 years after the death in November 12,1907..!
Past Balogun Of Ijebuland
1.Balogun Onafowokan Otubu -1890
2.Balogun Odeyungbo Bello Kuku 1890 – 1907
3.Balogun Abass Odejayi 1908 – 1915
4.Balogun Adeyemi Sarunmi 1916 – 1925
5.Balogun S.F Adesoye 1951 – 1961
6.Balogun J.A Alatishe 1962 – 1995
7.Balogun M.O Shote 1996 – 2001
8.Balogun J.A.B Odunuga 2002 – 2016
9.Balogun Agboola Alusa The current Balogun 2017
Otunba Alade Shote
The current Otun Balogun
The Osi Balogun
The underlisted Balogun and notable families are the recognised figures that ride horses to Ojude-Oba Carnival and each of the families exhibit atp least 15 horses in their entourage displaying good horsemanship amidst pomp and pageantry to entertain the over 500,000 dignitaries and visitors from various countries around the world. In fact, Ojude Oba Festival has become an international festival that attracts visitors from all over the world to Ijebu-Ode
11.Shote Towobola Family
12.Gamu Gaza Family
13.Kasali Moyegeso Family
14. Aregbe Family
15.Odedina Family.. amongst others
Furthermore, the beauty of Ojude Oba is not complete without the presence and role of the Regberegbe Age Groups. In the present circumstance, Ojude Oba has witnessed a tremendous transformation under the present Awujale and the the Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland, Oba S.K Adetona, JP, CFR Ogbagba ll. The festival haven witnessed a lot of innovations beyond the imagination of the forbearers now attracts a lot of goodwill in form of endorsement, support and sponsorship from Globacom, FCMB, Rites Food, Nigerian Distilleries, Council of Otunba, Ijebu Heritage, Age Groups, Clubs, high-networth sons & daughters at home & diaspora and other corporate organizations as part of their corporate social responsibilities (CSR) to the annual celebration of excellence.
However, with modernisation, the over 33 Regberegbe Age Groups with an average of 100 members each now add colours, pomp and pageantry to the celebration while showcasing the best and latest fashionsence as their inborn traditional and cultural heritage of excellence at the Palace Parvilion to receive traditional blessings from the Awujale. There is no gainsaying the fact that Kabiyesi’s motivation and encouragement has indeed turned the Regberegbe into a formidable vanguard for socio-economic development and advancement of Ijebuland. Moreover,
their active involvement and participation has indeed become a unifying factor that creates an avenue for enduring peaceful, irrespective of the religious faith and social status of the members. Certainly, the spirit of tolerance, friendliness and accommodation generated by the annual Ojude Oba Carnival has contributed to the unity and peaceful co-existence among Ijebus in general.
In summary, there is no gainsaying the fact that, Ojude Oba Carnival has become a tradition and custom of the Ijebus as it now defines their identity, heritage, values and social behaviors. Infact, it is a unique carnival that has a cultural significance promoting the divine authority of the Awujale passed from generation to the other as a social inheritance of the Ijebus. Perhaps, one may add that the fashionsence as displayed by the Regberegbes is second to none in Yorubaland nay the nation at large reinforcing the general notion that: “If dressing well is wrong, the Ijebu man and woman can be right…”
End of discussion
2. The Ijebu: Their Origin and Salient Features