By Jimoh Ahmed
The ancient town of Owo, Owo Local Government area of Ondo State was agog as the Olowo and the community marked this year’s edition of the internationally acclaimed Igogo Festival.
Igogo is an annual Yoruba festival held in the ancient Owo Kingdom, the headquarters of Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State, Southwest of Nigeria. It is held annually in September to honour Queen Oroshen, a mythical wife of Renrengenjen, a legendary king of the kingdom. It is colourful because the incumbent Olowo of Owo and high chiefs dress like women coral beads and plaited hair. They celebrate and pay homage to Queen Oroshen at “Ugbolaja” and “Ugbo Oluwa” in appreciation of her protection.
During the festival, Olowo’s dress reflects that of Oroshen wealth and legend. The festival often lasts for seventeen days.
It reaches its climax on Tuesday as the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye III danced round the town.
Taking the royal step in a royal dance, the Olowo of Owo, Oba (Dr) Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye III, shows his and skill at dancing as Owo was set agog the world acclaimed Igogo Festival on Tuesday.
He was simply fantastic and exhibited a very sophisticated command of traditional Owo dance steps, there was no drumming except for the clanging of metal gongs called agogo in local parlance, yet, Oba Ogunoye satisfied the soul and curiosity of those who came to feed their eyes.
Clothed in his traditional Igogo regalia made of ewu-okun, a beaded attire, made of a woven cloth, which is a replica of a woman’s blouse on a big skirt with the Urere Oken ( four white feathers) attached to his plaited hair, the monarch stepped out of the Ugha Ila (Court) into the waiting mamoth crowd. With a joyous smile, Oba Ogunoye, in company of his retinue of chiefs, all dressed in Igogo regalia, and the crowd proceeded to the actual business of the day, dancing round the town.
The Olowo proceeded to Arigidi in Uloro quarter where he was received by the head of the quarter, the Akowaloja, Chief Sydney Ogunleye. While the dancing train was on, the monarch took time to pray for the peace and progress of Owo, Ondo State and Nigeria.
He later headed to Ijebu Owo before returning to the palace where he proceeded to the Ulede Market Square to perform another significant aspect of the annual festival.
Unknown to many the Olowo must dance in the market square during any Igogo Festival. Better still not so many know the reasons behind it. The market square royal dance is a very important feature of the festival.
Tracing the tradition handed out by his forbearers since the inception of Igogo, Oba Ogunoye did dance in the market square. The monarch, according to tradition, danced seven times and on each occasion, singing different songs.
Immediately after he came out of the market square, Oba Ogunoye retired to the inner chambers of the palace, signifying the end of the Igogo Olowo.
Explaining why the Olowo had to dance in the market square, for seven times and singing different songs on each dance period, the Akowa of Iloro, Chief Sydney Ogunleye, who also lead the Iloro chiefs in the process said it is no fetish activity.
Chief Sydney said it is one of the beautiful leg of the festival.
According to him, the songs are to add value to the celebration. He however disclosed that the importance of the market square dance is for the Olowo to offer prayers to God for the peace and progress of Owo and the sons and daughters.
The major highlight of this year’s celebration was the Hairdo contest brought in to add flavour and celebration by the Movie Makers Association of Nigeria and coordinated by a cultural ambassador, Olumuyiwa Olawolu and Bola Famakinwa.
The event which took place at the palton Monday attracted hair dressers and general members of the public and cultural enthusiats.
At the end of the competition, the winners went home with N15,000, First runner up -N10,000 while Second Runner Up got N5000.
Speaking with The Hope, Olumuyiwa Olawolu said the hairdo competition was introduced to add value to the festival and also get the women folk to participate more in cultural activities.
Olawolu said the competition will be an annual event as sponsors have shown interest in it.
In the same vein, the traditional wrestling competition, popularly called Ujagbama in Owo also took place.
At the end of the exercise, Adekolu Tosin won in the men’s category while Adebusayo Iyanu emerged winner in the women’s category.
Adekolu went home with a brand new motorcycle while Adebusayo won a brand new sewing machine.
Excited Olowo applauded the initiators and appreciated the donor
The competition was sponsored by the Ajipe Democratic Movement.
Similarly, there was the Ayo Olopon competition.
Speaking with The Hope Oba Ogunoye stated that the basis of the festival is love.
The monarch who said the rationale behind the festival is the love Olowo had for his wife.
He therefore admonished Nigerians to love one another, irrespective of the height and position, tribe or ethnicity, sex or religious inclination.
Oba Ogunoye who said Igogo remained highly place festival among the people of Owo said his resolve to make the festival a cynosure of all eyes is still on cours
The Olowo said the festival which he promised to make tourist attraction is gradually attaining that position.
He therefore charged Owo sons and daughters, both at home and in diaspora to join hands in promoting the festival to attain its right place in the cultural realm.
Similarly Oba Ogunoye called on both the Ondo State and Federal governments to exploit the many opportunities of the festival to generate the much needed foreign exchange by keying into the tourism economic potentials of the festival.
Speaking on the Festival, the Akowa of Iloro Quarters,Chief Sydney Ogunleye said Igogo being a tourist delight has the potential of making money for the government if properly packaged.
Chief Ogunleye who said the festival has further brought unity to Owo appealed to indigenes to take the festival with all seriousness.
According to him, Igogo is not about religion or fetish said it highlights the rich cultural value of Owo.
In the same vein, a cultural enthusiat, Tunde Onibode described Igogo as a unique festival that has brought fame and relevance to Owo as a place.
Onibode therefore called on all sons and daughters of the town to come out to promote the festival.
Igogo Festival called festival of the maiden or love has been in existence for over 700 years.
It began during the reign of Olowo Renrengenjen in 1340 AD in honor of one his wife, Uwa later known as Oroshen who fled the palace in anger after her co-wives broke her taboos.
Oroshen who was in anger disappeared into the Ulaja forest and sent message to the Olowo that some sacrifices must be made to atone for peace annually.
Olowo Renrengenjen out of his love for Oroshen ordered the yam festival which Owo was known for then should be overtaken by Igogo for the fact that the drumming for which the yam festival was known for cancelled and metal gongs should be used in place.