By: Oluwatosin Adesola
The famous Igogo festival in Owo, Owo local government area of Ondo state is to be repackaged and transformed into a global standard after 800years of its celebration.
The Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye III, announced this in his palace while unveiling new activities injected into the igogo festival starting from the 2024 edition.
Addressing newsmen at his palace, Oba Ogunoye explained that oronsen beauty pageant, festival market and ogwha lopo events had now been infused into Igogo festival towards attracting tourists and bringing economic fortunes into Owo town.
He pointed out that the repackaged 17- day annual festival, would also attract investors, thereby boosting the local economy.
The First Class monarch disclosed that the festival is being repacked to attract the young generation in the kingdom and tourists during the celebration.
Oba Ogunoye, who gave the historical background of the over 800 years old festival, stated that the Igogo provided an opportunity for the people to exhibit their culture and customs during the celebration.
Disclosing the new events injected into the festival, Oba Ogunoye said there would be the Oronsen Beauty pageant, where Queen Oronsen would emerge, festival market(trade fair) and Ogwha Lopo.
He explained that Ogwha Loop would hold two days after the Igogo festival during which there would be drumming and dancing, unlike Igogo when there would be no drumming but only Gong.
“The Igogo, a 17- day annual festival, was birthed during the reign of Olowo Renrengenjen, the 13th Olowo of Owo Kingdom, whose reign was between 1340-1346 AD. The core cause of the Igogo Festival was palace rivalry, which pitched all other queens of Oba Rerengenjen against his most favoured queen, Oronsen.
“The other queens connived, out of jealousy, to usurp Queen Oroshen’s most coveted place of being the most beloved queen in the Palace. The plot went on without rest; and after much effort, they were able to brake Oroshen’s taboos, involuntarily released by Olowo Renrengenjen, and this led to her fleeing the palace and the Kingdom.
“After, several efforts of searching, the organised search party send after Oroshen by Oba Reregenjen to bring her back to the palace was able to catch up with her but she refused to return to the Palace saying that her taboo had been broken.
“She, however, requested for an annual festival, with specifications for its processes, in her honour, with a promise to always be with the Kingdom in the spirit to enhance growth and fruitfulness..
“Thus, the Igogo festival – a festival of the love life of the Olowo Renrengenjen and his Queen, Oroshen, formerly known as Queen Uwa, a heroine, paragon of beauty who in all sense was another human/spiritual being – was born. The festival commenced with Ologho Renrengenjen and it has so been, till date.
“The time table for the Year 2023 Igogo festival is as circulated. As you are aware, Igogo Festival is the most celebrated in Owo Kingdom. Annually, its celebration comes with pumps and pageantry. Through the festival, therefore, we want to see this ancient town transformed into a hive of colourful activities that will attract tourists and bring economic fortunes into our domain.
“Our ultimate goal is to galvanise the festival to produce an economic impact of one billion dollars yearly. We are dead serious about its effect and target. Talks are on with our Diaspora sons and daughters to explore the low hanging commercial fruit and advantages which the festival portends for economic boom of our people.
“Even though, there is no single manufacturing industry in Owo, the Igogo festival will be exploited by attracting huge visitors to pour in and spend their money, thereby boosting the local economy. When this happens, happiness will permeate the society, tourism will grow and the economy will improve, thus providing job opportunities for the youth.
“Expectedly, the entertainment industry will also showcase the diverse cultural heritage of the Kingdom and lighten up her social activities. I am using this medium to invite private and corporate sponsors to partner with us in this laudable project.
“In summary, the Igogo Festival will open wealth creation avenues, upscale our small-scale businesses of cloth weaving and artistries and promote general uplift of the socio-economic development of Owo Kingdom.
Under my watch, the Igogo Festival is to witness a rebirth in content and package to attract over 500,000 people yearly at its peak. We intend to build it gradually and aggressively to attract foreign visitors, Nigerians and Owo sons and daughters in diaspora. This year in particular, there will be the reenactment of the Udan dancers in beads. These are maidens who, in the olden days, usually form part of the train during the Igogo Olowo procession.
“Also, it is my desire to give the Igogo Festival a 21st Century outlook by making its processes and activities richer. To this end, some complimentary events will be added to the year 2024 Igogo Festival celebrations.
“The major events to be added to Igogo festival, starting from the Year 2024 edition, are: the Oroshen Beauty Pageant, which will herald the festival and throw up the Oroshen Icon that will reign for a year; the Festival Market that will take place during the festival where assorted goods and services will be exhibited; and the Oghwa Lopo. ceremony, which will bring the Igogo festival to a close, yearly.
“During the Ogwa Lopo ceremony, His Imperial Majesty, the Olowo of Owo will be seated in his full royalty to relate with his subjects, visitors, tourists and well-wishers in an open place. The occasion affords him the opportunity to bless the people of Owo Kingdom and thank all for participating in the festival.
“I am, therefore, using this medium to invite tourist all over the world to the largest and oldest cultural festival in the history of the Sub-Sahara Africa to feel and enjoy the hospitality of the Owo people as this season of love promises to be a period of funfair for all. The security of all and sundry during this celebration is assured through the continued cooperation of the various security outfits put in place by the government.
“As I welcome everybody to this year (2023) Igogo Festival, which incidentally is the 4th since I ascended the throne of my forebears, I enjoin all to embrace the spiritual intent of the Igogo as a festival of love. It is my great desire that the celebration of this festival will foster peace and love among the sociocultural and religious propensities of the Kingdom for industrial and economic emancipation of our dear people.”
Oba Ogunoye also expressed delight with the return of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu from his medical vacation.
Olowo said, “we want to specifically appreciate God’s kindness for the safe return of our Son and the Executive Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu from his medical trip abroad.
“We are indeed happy to have our dear son back home in our midst; and we pray that the good Lord shall continue to be with him as he resumes to continue his good work, so visible across Ondo State.”
In an address, the Secretary of the Owo Cultural Heritage Organisation and Chairman of the OWOCHO management committee, Dr (Mrs) Yemi Mahmud, promised that the mandate of the organisation to showcase the cultural heritage of Owo Kingdom is being pursued and it would be achieved for the greatness of the kingdom.
Dr Mahmud called on stakeholders including sons and daughters of Owo kingdom to work together in unity so that Igogo festival could meet the 21st Century standard that thereby make it attractive to stakeholders all over the world.
She said, “the ultimate goal of the organisation is to showcase the cultural heritage of Owo Kingdom, so numerous to mention: the Igogo Festival, Owo drums and dances, Owo music, Owo cuisine, Owo clothes among others to the world.
“The mandate of the organization is to identify these diverse activities, evaluate them and improve on them to meet the 21st Century standard that will make them attractive to relevant stakeholders in and outside Owo Kingdom and beyond the shores of Nigeria.
The importance of the media in this onerous assignment of positioning the Owo Cultural Heritage as state above cannot be over emphasized.
“I thank distinguished members of the Board of Trustee of the Owo Cultural Heritage Organisation for making it easy for me to run errands for them – special thanks the Chairman Board of Trustee, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye III (Chairman) and Chief Akin Aruwajoye, OON, Sir Tayo Aisida and Barrister Ijalana who are members of the Board of Trustee with me as the secretary, and an errand girl.
“I equally want to thank members of the Management Committee of the Owo Cultural Heritage Organisation for their dedication in interpreting and performing the scripts of the Owo Cultural Heritage Organisation. I particularly want to thank the Media Sub Committee led by Sir Ademola Adetula MFR for putting (the) program together.
“I will not end my welcome address without thanking and welcome specially, Prince Rotimi Awelewa, the CEO of RAVICOM CONCEPT who is the Marketing Consultant for Igogo Festival for adding value to the activities of the OwoCho,” Dr Yemi Mahmud concluded.