From Akinnodi Francis, Ondo
Ogun festival is an annual festival observed by the people of Ondo City in honour of Ogun, a warrior and god of iron believed to be the first god to arrive on earth. Indigenes of the city, at home and in diaspora on Monday trooped out in their large number to celebrate the festival in the community.
The festival which began nine days ago, started with the opening ceremony known as “Idijo Odun Ogun” followed by “Mimu Ogun boko” and Ogun Ale” in Ondo local parlance.
The celebration which continued the next day which is called “Ogun Owuro” is however celebrated with more frenzy as indigenes of the community from various quarters and different occupational groups such as artisans, blacksmiths, hunters, market women, traditional worshippers, drivers, Okada riders and other associations filed out in their large numbers in beautiful attires to participate in the annual festival.
When The Hope went round the town in places such as Ododibo, Okedasa, Okeotunba, Odotu, Oreretu, Igelemaroko, Odojomu, Sora, Legiri, Ogbontitun and Okeayadi to mention a few, the celebrants, particularly the adherents of Ogun were seen adorning different traditional dresses and costumes with various designs, dancing and singing.
Some were also noticed with the praising Ogun in Ondo dialect as traditional drummers beat to the admiration of the spectators who responded by pasting money of different denominations on their foreheads, while others responded by waving their hands and shouting of “Ogun yee” as the funfare went on
In a chat with a community leader, Chief Abraham Akinnola Ajisafe, who is the Odolo of Ondo kingdom, he described the celebration of the annual festival as very interesting.
He noted that the celebration of the age-long festival is improving yearly as a result of increased awareness created by different groups before the festival, making it interesting and attractive to the people.
He described Ogun festival as very important to the people of the ancient town, noting that because of its relevance to the culture and tradition of the people, it is usually accorded prominence in the area and celebrated by all including the traditional chiefs.
He lauded the Osemawe of Ondo kingdom, Oba Dr. Victor Kiladejo for his contribution towards the successful celebration and re-awakening of the consciousness of the people of the city towards the celebration of the festival.
The chief also appreciated the government for its commitment to the promotion and development of the state cultural heritage .
Similarly, several celebrators of the festival who spoke with The Hope described the festival as a celebration of culture. They however, stressed the need for the government and all the people of the community to identify with the festival which they said could be packaged as a tourist attraction.
According to someone with indepth knowlegde about the festival, Mr. Akinyemi Taye, “Many myths and legends exist as to the origin of Ogun. Much of the knowledge of the deity is based on the fact that he was one of the earliest divinities. He loved hunting and was referred to as “Osin-Imole”, that is, the chief among the divinities.
“The Ogun cleared the ‘thick impenetrable way with his iron, implements for other the divinities when he was coming from heaven to possess the earth. Being a ruthless deity, he lived in seclusion at the top of the hill where he went about hunting. Tired of secluded life, he decided to go for a settled life, which he had rejected earlier on.
“He came down from the hilltop in a garment of fire and blood and could not find an abode in any community. So he borrowed fronds from the palm-tree and headed for Ire where he was made king. Hence, the name Ogun Onire (Ogun, the Lord of Ire) was given to him”.
The Ogun festival is celebrated in Ondo between the months of August and September every year. According to information regarding the festival the preparation for it commences seventeen days before the actual Ogun day at the appearance of the new moon.
At an early morning ceremony in the house of “Ayadi”, the ritual specialist of Ogun public worship, the “upe” (a traditional trumpet made from a long gourd) is sounded to notify the people of the on-coming festival. The sound of upe then becomes a common feature throughout the period of the festival, which lasts seven days.
The sound of the “upe” is very significant because it carries messages which are sometimes complimentary and at other times abusive from one youth to the other. Many activities are usually carried out in preparation for the festival, among which is the communal clearing of paths and the repairing of bridges and other footpaths.
There are usually three parts to the ceremony –”aisun ogun” (night vigil), “ogun ale” (night ogun) and “ogun owuo” (morning ogun celebration).
Meanwhile, security personnel which include, mobile and regular policemen, men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), officials of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) and men of the Department of State Security Services (DSSS) are always on ground to ensure security during the festival.