DESPITE the initial skirmishes, muscle flexing and apprehension of violence, which presaged this year’s annual Igogo festival in Owo, Ondo State, the 2023 stanza will go down in the annals of the cultural event as the most spectacular in cultural entertainment. All Owo sons, daughters and friends and visitors who thronged the ancient town between Thursday September 7 and Sunday September 24, 2023 must be proud of the success of the culture event which turned out to be a symbol of unification for Owo people.
THE festival according to the lores of Owo people is a celebration of the love life of Olowo Renrengenjen and the mythical Queen Oronsen, wife of Olowo Renrengenjen, the 13th Olowo of Owo, whose reign was between 1340 – 1346 AD and whose initiative the festival was birthed.
THE festival usually held in the month of September is heralded by the first Upeli procession of Iloro High Chiefs.
DURING the event which lasts for 17 days, wearing of caps, beating of drums and firing of guns are strictly outlawed while the Chief celebrant, the reigning Olowo of Owo and his Chiefs on the final day of the festival dress like women with coral beads and plaited hair dance round the town amidst dancing and singing.
THE Owo community deserves commendation for their cultural resilience and not allowing their prized asset to fade away or succumb to foreign pressures frenetic attempt to devalue the customs often portrayed as primitive and fetish only to turn around to exploit them for economic advantage. For over 800 years since Olowo Renrengenjen founded the festival, the community and the reigning Olowo had continually used the festival as a powerful tool to showcase African tradition as a dynamic institution and expose the younger generations and foreigners to appreciate our culture. Its survival up till now despite the vicissitudes of the season shows the gamesome and triumphant content of Owo culture.
IT is heartwarming that handlers of the festival have opened new frontiers to internationalise it for vast economic and tourism potential for the 2024 event.
AT a pre festival media parley, the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye hinted that the festival is being repackaged to include complementary activities like Igogo festival market, Oronsen Beauty Pageant and Ogwalopo to make it tourism compliant.
OBA Ogunoye further hinted that no fewer than 500,000 tourists are expected in the town come next year in a gradual and aggressive rebirth and renaissance of Igogo festival.
THE one billion dollar economic target being envisioned by Oba Ogunoye from the festival may appear ambitious but it is doable considering the over five billion dollars which the Rio de Janeiro carnival rakes in for the people of Brazil every year. The Brazilians carnival is similarly a cultural event that draws in tourists from around the world and creates jobs for the locals and serves as cultural expression for the Brazilians.
HANDLERS of the Igogo festival should liaise with necessary federal and state government agencies to make the 2024 project hugely successful and seamless.
FOR a community itching to rake in one billion dollars from a single cultural event meant to generate economic benefits, wealth creation, bigger and profitable ventures, foreign exchange earnings and influx of foreigners, necessary planning must be perfected.
IT is a common knowledge that our country is currently battling with insecurity, kidnappings, corruption and other unfriendly social problems capable of discouraging influx of tourists into the country, we enjoin the 2024 Igogo festival planners not to leave anything for granted to make the festival produce the economic goal being expected.
WE advocate for an upbeat of the festival’s current level of marketing nationally and globally if the one billion dollar target is to be achieved. Indigenes of Owo community in diaspora have a significant role to play in the marketing process by buying into the concept and helping to popularize it through their international links.
ALSO, the present hospitality industry base of the town appears too weak to support the grand dream of the festival planners who are expecting half a million tourists in the ancient town.
MODERN and first class hotels and eateries should be given priority attention to meet the international taste of tourists.
THE Hope shares in the ambitious goals of the Owo community to catapult its most cherished cultural renaissance into a global event and make it the Mecca for tourism.