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Glitz, glamour as Ogidi celebrates New Yam festival

The rocky, sleepy community of Ogidi in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State recently came alives as it celebrated the 5th edition of the…

The rocky, sleepy community of Ogidi in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State recently came alives as it celebrated the 5th edition of the Ogidi-Ela Day cultural/yam festival with glitz and glamour.
The Ogidi Day cultural festival was a week-long event which climaxed with cultural performances, presentation of new yam, chieftaincy investitures and awards, amongst others.
Other activities that also featured include free medical outreach, novelty match, Jumat service, expedition to the Oroke Oda mountain and a bonfire.
The cultural fiesta, which is adjudged to be Nigeria’s biggest cultural event in the month of June, no doubt attracted a large turnout of illustrious sons and daughters of Ogidi both at home and in Diaspora; members of the diplomatic corps, tourists, high profile personalities and cultural enthusiasts.
There was no dull moment for guests and cultural enthusiasts, as an array of troupes from Edo, Ekiti, Osun, Lagos and other home based cultural groups were on ground to add colour to the celebration.
As early as 8am, the cultural celebration mood was switched on as young boys and girls, men and women groups, the elderly, traditional rulers, cultural enthusiasts and youth groups mostly attired in colourful cultural outfits, began to file out to the Ogidi community Ground, venue of the fiesta.
Prior to the formal commencement of the festival, the entire community was already agog in celebration, as various cultural groups in ecstatic mood moved round the streets dancing to the tunes of their local drums and gongs, to the admiration of the people.
While the dancing and music performances were going on in the community, sounds of traditional gunshots intermittently rented the air to add more glamour to the event.
In the meantime, more guests and dignitaries from within and outside the shores of Kogi State continued to troop to the venue of the event in droves.
The cultural event commenced proper, when the chief celebrant, the paramount ruler of Ogidi, Ologidi of Ogidi land, Oba Rabiu Oladimeji Sule, arrived the venue of the cultural fiesta amidst rousing ovation and ululations from the mammoth crowd.
The first group to pay homage to the Oba was the Olokoro/Olu-Otun group and followed by the Orotas.
These groups, which were colourfully attired, sang and danced in a procession to the point where the Oba was seated and prostrated before him as a mark of allegiance and honour.
After these groups were done, various women and men groups in the community, the Ebira community in Ogidi, Iyamoye group and others took their turns to pay homage to the Oba.
In the same vein, all the traditional chiefs, titled women of Ogidi, farmers, hunters and the Elegbejegbe groups amongst others, took their turns to pay homage to the paramount ruler.
While on their procession to pay homage to the Oba, the hunters who were all armed with guns and other hunting weapons, demonstrated their hunting prowess and shot intermittently into the air as a mark of honour for the Oba.
The various cultural troupes from Edo, Ekiti, Osun and Lagos also took their turns to pay homage.
The Nefretiti cultural troupe from Lagos first took the stage and held the guests spellbound with their thrilling cultural display and dances.
In the same vein, the cultural troupes from Edo, Ekiti and Osun as well as the Iyamoye group, Nike group, Iya Epa dancers and Ebira group all took their turns to showcase the best of cultural dances and performances.
The Oba on the occasion prayed for blessing, peace, progress and development of Ogidi land. He called on illustrious sons and daughters of the land to continue to give their quota for the overall development of Ogidi.
Prominent amongst those that were conferred with chieftaincy titles at the event was an expatriate, Mrs Diana Chan, who is the CEO of CIG Motors Nig. Ltd. She was bestowed with the title of ‘Yeye Gbeluro of Ogidi’.
Also, chief amongst those that were recognized and given awards at the festival, was the immediate past National President of Ogidi Development Union (ODU), Mr Tunde Ipinmisho.
Mr Ipinmisho, a one-time Editor of The Sunday Times and Fellow, Nigerian Guild of Editors (FNGE), was conferred with an award  for his ‘selfless and meritorious community service’.
The awardee, who piloted the affairs of the union for nine years, was said to have brought a lot of development and progress to the community.
Responding to his award, Mr Ipinmisho thanked the community for the honour, assuring them that he would be available to render more services to the community at any time.
He commended Mrs Nike Okundaye for being a great source of inspiration to the community, adding that she has showcased Ogidi on the world map.
Speaking on the background of the Ogidi Day/Yam festival celebration, Mr Ipinmisho said it was an annual event usually  held to thank God for a good harvest and to also give people of the community the opportunity to renew their allegiance and loyalty to the oba.
“The Ogidi festival is about two things, one, it is about our new yam; the period we celebrate the Ogidi festival is our new yam day. June 15 of every year is our new yam festival. So we now decided that if June 15 falls on a Saturday, we hold the Ogidi Day on that date but if not, we hold it the following Saturday.
“The essence of the new yam festival is to offer thanksgiving to God who gives increase. It is God who gives the yield. In those days, what our people were doing was to bring their farming implements, their hoes and cutlasses and put in a corner of a room and then they cook food and keep it there.
“They were of the belief that the hoes and cutlasses too should eat. That practice is archaic now because we know that there is only one God and it is that God that brings the increase.
“That is why you can see that the programme was an elaborate one beginning from church service and prayers in the mosques, just to say God, we are grateful. I must say that the farming population is aging and as such, new yams are not as plenty as they used to be before, but at least, we still mark it every year.
“Also number two, it is about our Oba, the Oba is the symbol of our oneness as a community so we use the occasion to renew our allegiance.
“Not many people come here except they have something doing. So, we felt we could use the festival to bring attention to Ogidi. The French Ambassador who was at the festival would ordinarily not have come to Ogidi; we had a bus load of about 22 Europeans and Americans who came in for this year’s festival.
“In fact, we had to get an escort to lead them here. These are people who throughout their lives would not have visited Ogidi. So we are trying to bring in people to create awareness about our existence and about the challenges we face.
“When we renewed the Ogidi Day in 2012, this was what was on our minds. We thank God for how far he has helped us,” he said.
He told Daily Trust on Sunday that the cultural fiesta also served as an avenue of enhancing unity and understanding amongst the diverse cultures in Nigeria and beyond.
“The whole of humanity is one and the easiest way to prove it is to cut someone with blade, and you will see that there is no white blood, it is the same blood that flows in us all. We want to emphasize our common humanity. We want to emphasize that we are all Nigerians and that there is no need for division.
“We want to show that we really are one; that is why we brought in the Edo cultural troupes, we brought cultural troupes from Ekiti, Osun and Lagos states to demonstrate that God intended humanity to be one and really, we are one.”
He said Ogidi is blessed with many fascinating tourists’ sites and attractions which government could develop for revenue generation.
“We will like the state government to take tourism seriously. For the first time this year, we printed tickets for the people who wanted to take part in mountain expedition and you will be surprised at the number of those that bought the tickets at the cost of N1,000 each,” he said.
In his address at the festival, the incumbent National President of Ogidi Development Union, Mr Eniolorunda Kayode Ralph, urged people of Ogidi land to join hands to engender more development in the community.
Also speaking, the Yeye-Oba of Ogidi Land, Mrs Nike Okundaye, expressed happiness with the turnout of personalities and the various cultural performances at this year’s event.
On his part, the Ambassador of France to Nigeria, Denys Gauer, said he was impressed by the display of Nigeria’s rich culture.
“I was told it is the most important cultural festival in the month of June. I recently met Mrs Okundaye in Lagos and she told me you must be in Ogidi in the month of June. You cannot avoid that. And you know that she can be so convincing. And that is why I have come here. I want to thank you for the warm welcome,” he said.
On her part, the Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Belgium, Mrs Paulette Gondry-Van Trier, lauded the cultural festival and thanked the people of Ogidi for the  chieftaincy title of ‘Yeye-Iyalode of Ogidi land’ conferred on her over 10 years ago.

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