By Victor Akinkuolie
Lijebu festival in Ile-Oluji town, the administrative headquarters of Ile-Oluji/Okeigbo Local Government which is literally interpreted as “festival of the king” is among the over 19 traditional festivals which are usually celebrated annually in the town.
This year’s festival is said to be the second edition to be celebrated since Oba Julius Oluwole Adetimehin, Jimoko II, Jegun of Ile-Oluji, ascended the throne of his forefathers few years ago. This years edition of the celebration attracted indigenes of the community from all walks of life.
The annual festival which is usually celebrated in the first week of the month of September every year, is the climax of all organised community events and traditional festivals in the ancient town popularly referred to as the land of Oijefan.
The occasion of this year’s celebration brought out the best in the people of the ancient community as they came out in different traditional dresses of various styles and colours to join the traditional ruler and his Chiefs in celebrating the aged-long festival.
Many spectators who came from far and near to witness the celebration of the festival described this year’s edition as first of its kind in the history of the annual ceremony which serves as an avenue for re-union by the people.
While some inhabitants of the community attributed the glamour that was added to the ceremony to the decision of the people to go back to the basics and change the way it was celebrated in the olden days.
Apart from youth organisations, market men and women, socio-cultural organisations, many Ile-Oluji clubs, groups, traditional worshippers, students bodies, societies, politicians, Igbo and Calabar communities who fully participated in the celebration, other indigenes of the community who reside in other countries also participated in the celebration.
As part of the ceremony, members of a socio-cultural organisation in the town, the Ile-Oluji Assembly were on ground with trucks full of musical gadgets distributing free mosquito nets to the people and sensitizing them on the need to prevent the spread of malaria in the community.
The colourful celebration began at the palace of the monarch with a procession round the town at about 8:30 in the morning, the possession later terminated at Oke-Atiba area of the ancient town.
Oba Adetimehin who was accompanied by his wife, Chiefs and traditional drummers stop at intervals at each of the traditional spots while the possession was going on to perform traditional rites and prayers.
Similarly, a truck fitted with musical gadgets sponsored by the drivers Union in the town entertained the people with different musics, while the people waved hands and congratulated each other over the celebration.
The monarch who responded by waving his traditional horse tail people congratulated themselves over the celebration. The monarch responded by waving his traditional horse tail as people congratulated him over the celebration.
The well decorated truck was followed by gaily dressed individuals and groups who sang and danced as the traditional drummers, who were at their best, beat their drums to the delight of the people.
However, what could be described as the climax of the colourful celebration was when the monarch entered the traditional meeting spot within the palace popularly called “Ugha” in local parlance, the venue of the last step of the celebration where gifts and other items were presented to him.
At this stage of the celebration, the Kabiyesi accompanied by other High Chiefs in the town would perform a brief traditional rites where new yam would be broken by the him and prayers would also be offered at this stage for continued peace and wellbeing of the people of the town.
Another aspect of the ceremony which is always a delight to watch is when traditional heads and the Olojas from towns, villages and settlements within the jurisdiction of Ile-Oluji town would arrive at the venue of the ceremony.
Their arrival would be announced by their drummers as they would be ushered into the venue of the ceremony few minutes later with a tuber of yam in their hands amidst dancing and singing.
However, the cynosure of all eyes during the celebration was a specially manufactured Canoe-shaped masquerade with different colours, designed by the Calabar community domiciling in the town, as it moves in a motorcade ahead of each Oloja or village head that wants to gain entrance into the venue of the celebration, while gifts would be presented to the masquerade after a bit of threat.
After the Kabiyesi and his Chiefs have performed the traditional rites at Ugha, the event at the Ugha began with the singing of Ile-Oluji traditional son while activities of the celebration were followed with homage paying to the Kabiyesi, first by the High Chiefs, followed by the Elegbes, Ukunles, Ijama, Opoji, Iyalojas, non-indigenes, students associations, clubs, as well as groups and associations.
The Olojas and leaders of various communities and settlements also paid obeisance amidst dancing and singing and presented gifts to the king who responded by praying for them.
Addressing the tumultuous crowd at the Ugha venue of the celebration, Oba Julius Adetimehin, congratulated indigenes of the community over the celebration, he however called on Ondo State Government to complement the communal efforts of the people of the town by providing accessible roads network for economic activities to thrive in the area.
Describing Lijebu festival as an annual colourful occasion in the town, Oba Adetimehin explained that the celebration is significant as it marks the successful completion of the community’s calendar and the end of the celebration of all its traditional festivals.
On his own, a former member of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Hon. Chief Henry Akinsuroju, congratulated the traditional ruler and his subjects over the celebration which he described as a celebration of excellence and the systematic development of traditions and culture of the ancient community.
Akinsuroju, who is also the Yegengha of Ile-Oluji town, disclosed the plan by the indigenes of the community to repackage the annual Lijebu festival for international tourism, noting that the importance of culture and tradition cannot be downplayed in any society.
The former lawmaker explained that the cultural heritage of the people, if properly harnessed, could provide employment opportunities to unemployed youths in addition to boosting revenue generation of the government.
While attributing the success of the celebration of the festival to the purposeful leadership and profound affection of the monarch of the town, he however solicited for more supports of indigenes, saying that the move would promote relative peace and stability in the town.
Also speaking on the annual Lijebu festival, the traditional Prime Minister of the town, High Chief Johnson Fagbamiye, congratulated the monarch and other indigenes of the town over the celebration.
Fagbamiye, who is also the Lisa of Ile-Oluji town, described Lijebu as an aged-long and the most interesting traditional festival, in the town adding that the plan by the indigenes of the community to repackage it and other festivals being celebrated in the town was geared towards the preservation of the cultural heritage of the people and to make the festival one of the best that would attract local and international visitors to the community and Ondo State in general.
He lauded the contributions of the indigenes of the community at home and in the diaspora towards the successful celebration of the festival, stating that the support from all groups and associations as well as non-indigenes domiciling in the community has gone a long way in adding glamour to its celebration and ensuring its success.