By Sadiq Lawal
His Imperial Majesty, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi Ojaja II, has described Nigeria’s cultural heritage as a huge export potential capable of igniting economic rejuvenation.
Ooni said this in Ile-Ife during the joint celebration of Alafere, Oya and Ijugbe festivals which attracted participants from within and outside Ile-Ife, especially the Bariba and Nupe people in Niger and Kwara states of Nigeria.
The African foremost monarch explained that the celebration the three deities is to give glory to God Almighty who he described in Yoruba language as “Oba ti a ko ri, ti a n ri ise owo e”(the unseen God but whose impact is being felt always).
The Ooni wondered why Yoruba cultural festivals are not getting necessary attention from citizens of the country, saying this has been affecting the growth of the local festivals and Yoruba culture.
He expressed displeasure that foreigners have begun to appreciate the African culture, mysteries and festivals than indigenes of the continents.
“Our heritage is so strong. All the things that we are celebrating may be strange to a lot of people living in Nigeria and Yoruba land but in the western world, I just returned from the UK where I met with the British royal family and visited the British museum, they don’t joke with our culture. All these things are so important to them.
“ They traced the origin of mankind to Africa and all these facts are displayed in their libraries and museums. They believe in the potency and power of all these festivals. It is about time for us (Africans) to nurture what we have.
“We should celebrate what nature has given to us. Our culture is a very huge export potential and tourism is one of the biggest trades in the world. It is bigger than a lot of investments that you can think of because it has a lot of people’s movement. With tourism, people are able to establish a common heritage and ancestral background.” Ooni said.
He called on government at all levels to improve the level of infrastructure, noting that governments need to support drive to project the Yoruba culture to the world.
“It is about time for us to focus on tourism by improving our infrastructure and for us to package these entire heritages. Most of the heritage and festivals are very timely and yield benefits.
“Government should pay serious attention to our heritage. We are blessed here because our tourist centres and attractions are natural. We don’t need to create any form of artificial tourism. They are very natural tourism potentials and that is why we need to display them. We hope that at one point, government will appreciate us.” He added.
The Obalejugbe of Ile- Ife, High Chief Abiodun Akinrefon, declared that worshipping Ijugbe god of rain in Ile-Ife would boost the economy of the community.
He acknowledged the efforts of Ooni in resusitating the ignored deities in Ile-Ife which the foreigners cherish so much, saying that Obarese (Ijugbe) is the custodian of rain for mankind.
According to him, as the priests went to make sacrifice to Obarese at Idi-Aje shrine, rain that refused to fall for long in the ancient city started falling with immediate effect.
The Obalejugbe ascertained that Ijugbe festival led to heavy rainfall in Ile-Ife and failure to celebrate the deity annually causes scarcity of rain which led to famine on the land, while small pox may be rampant and cause death in the town.
Also, High Chief Oyarekun Oyaro, the Balogun of Famia who doubles as Oya priest attributed the rain that poured to the spiritual potency of Oya festival in Ile-Ife.
Oyaro said that the invoked rainfall gave a landmark for the beginning of planting and plenteous harvest.
He admonished the citizenry to value their tradition and culture, adding that they all have important roles to play in the life of mankind
Oya- Igunnuko/Alafere/Ijugbe festival is a transition festival to welcome raining season and all the nature associated with raining season – rain, wind, and thunderstorm.
The festival is basically to show the workings of Olodumare and to make the season to be of high benefit to mankind. to bless the soil for multiple achievement during the season, and for the season not to become a calamity for the people.
The festival witnessed a heavy downpour with wind blowing and thunderstorm which lasted for two hours to signal the commencement of the celebration.
While Ijugbe also known as Obarese is the deity of rainfall, Oya(Igunnuko) and Alafere are the co-deities of wind. They are all of Oranfe(Sango)’s family and were among the Yoruba’s 401 deities that started the mankind.