From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
About 123 cultural groups and traditional worshippers gathered on Monday, April 12, 2021, for the maiden edition of Omituntun Cultural-Tourism Festival. It made its debut at the Cultural Centre, Ibadan, Oyo State. Participants were drawn from all the 33 local government areas as well as the 35 local council development areas of the state.
Tagged: “Asa Wa…Ipile Wa,” meaning, Our Culture…Our Foundation, the event showcased the rich culture and tradition of Ibadan, Oyo, Ibarapa, Oke-Ogun and Ogbomoso. The intent is to harness their tourist potential for economic growth and global recognition.
Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Dr Wasiu Olatubosun, said the festival was conceived to promote the uncommon cultural potential inherent in the Yoruba tradition: “With the array of cultural potential showcased at the event, Oyo State is poised to reap immensely from the culture concept as it will be a major contribution to the state’s revenue base.”
He said the motive was for the rejuvenation and promotion of culture, talent hunt through cultural competition: “It is also aimed at giving Yoruba culture the recognition it deserves worldwide. I realised that the last time they had any cultural festival was about 10 years before I came to office, which means throughout eight years of the last administration they didn’t do anything like this.
“I said that we should do something and we wanted to do it last year but unfortunately it was postponed because of COVID-19 concerns. This year, I said whatever would happen I must do it. This one is unique in the sense that this will be the first time that we are having a festival of culture and tourism in Oyo State.”
Chairman at the occasion and Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, noted that culture has to do with the clothes that people of a particular tribe wear, the language they speak, and so many things that are peculiar to a particular ethnic tribe, including the food they eat. He encouraged parents and guardians to make it a matter of duty to encourage their wards to speak Yoruba language at home and also greet elders in the known ways Yoruba people do, which is for girls to kneel and for boys to prostrate:
“Our culture is how we are. What the Oyo State Government is doing today is very unique, very significant to the progress, peace and tranquillity of the state. One of our problems in our society is that we neglect our culture and tradition. By the time you neglect your culture and tradition, there may be problems in that society. You will lose orderliness and cohesion.
“Promotion of culture is about projecting ecotourism, and cultural tourism. And by projecting eco and cultural tourism, you are projecting commerce and you are projecting visibility of the structure of that place that you are projecting its culture. You are projecting the visibility of Ibadan, and visibility of Oyo State.
“At the same time, you are giving the people of that place a pride that this my culture and this is my identity. We are fast losing touch with our identity. For our children, it is becoming difficult for them to speak Yoruba language. It is becoming difficult to identify with our culture. Instead of them to identify with our culture, they are following the Western culture.
“So, it is very dangerous if we don’t start working on the promotion of culture and turn it to tourism potential and upgrade our destination so that the generation that is coming can be proud of how God Almighty created them.
“Like we have English and Mathematics, Yoruba Language should be taught as a priority before you can gain admission to any university owned by state governments. But then, it will ginger our generation and the pupils to learn Yoruba right from primary school level up to secondary school, so that they can have admission to state universities. It is the key. It has to be inserted in the curriculum. Our curriculum must reflect Yoruba Language. The teachers and lecturers, teaching Yoruba must take the subject seriously.
“Our state governors should start recruiting Yoruba teachers to encourage our young products. As parents, we have a limited time with our children. Most of the characters that our children have, they imbibed them from the school and their friends.
“So, I appeal to the governors to make sure that it is compulsory for everyone that wants to gain admission to state universities within the next three years. It is not this year, because they have not prepared for it. Make it compulsory for everybody, at least a pass in the subject to get admission.”
Former Speaker, House of Assembly, Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, also called on parents to instil cultural values in the behaviours of their children. She noted that the celebration of Yoruba culture by the state government is an indication that the future of the Yoruba people is bright: “Nigeria needs leaders that are well ingrained in cultural values, which will transform to selfless leadership.”
Major events at the festival included various competitions among the 33 LGAs and the 35 LCDAs. They took part in Ayo Olopon, masquerades, drama, dance/music, chants and poetry rendition, special parade among others. The first position went to Oyo West LG, after emerging the best in different contests. Iseyin LG took the second position, having won the first position in dance/drama, second position in colourful retinue and third position in drama contests. The third position went to Saki West LG, while Araromi LCDA and Ibadan South-East LG with same scores took the fourth position.
Lovers of culture within the state and beyond turned out in their large numbers to witness the revival of culture and tradition with a view to optimising the tourism potential embedded across the state. The festival witnessed March past by the groups and traditional worshippers, as well as competitions on dancing, chanting of traditional Yoruba folklore among local governments and local council development areas in the state.
A section of the centre was also designated for exhibitions. At the exhibition stand, various food items associated with different parts of the state were on display, including traditional herbal medicines.
Other personalities in attendance included Director, French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA), Dr Vincent Hiribarren; Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Bayo Lawal; Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Development, Seun Ashamu; CEO, Ilaji Hotels and Sports Resort, Dotun Sanusi; Major Gen Abdullahi Muraina (retd) and Col. Adenike Akerele (retd).
Also present were Special Adviser to the Governor on Labour, Bayo Titilola-Sodo; Chairman, Board of Culture and Tourism, Elder Debo Adejumobi; Chairman, House of Assembly Committee on Culture and Tourism, Isiaka Tunde and governor, state branch of Association of Nigerian Theatre Practitioners (ANTP), Yeye Rose Odika.
The roll call also included Babaloja-General of the state, Alhaji Yekeen Abass; Babaloja of Bodija Market, Ibadan, Alhaji Sunmola Aderemi and Iyaloja of Oyo State, Chief (Mrs) Tina Ogundoyin.