Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
“Ijakadi loro Offa” is a popular phrase in Yoruba land. Translated, loosely it means “Wrestling is an Offa game.”
This age-old phrase was brought to life during the cultural wrestling ceremony at the Offa Township Stadium on December 23, 2019. Celebrated as an uncommon festival, this year’s edition was no less as exciting as it was billed to be. It attracted home sons and daughters of the land from different states. For the first time also, the ceremony was graced by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.
The event featured traditional drummers, singers and different traditional dance troupes, including a hunting display, all of which added to its glamour and colour. Other events included a parade of the five districts of Offa in their dazzling colours, the Arewa Offa Beauty Pageant, which celebrated the traditional Offa woman, food expo, which showcased different dishes of sweet potatoes, Offa’s main food crop, district heads who paid homage to the Oloffa, presentation of trophies, accompanied with cash awards to the participating districts.
The climax was a mock wrestling bout between the Oloffa and the Essa, the second in command in the ranking of Offa traditional leadership. The symbolic victory of the Oloffa is a constant reminder of his indisputable authority over the people of the town, while the Essa, as is required by tradition, ended up with excuses for his loss. All his excuses were greeted with resonance of “Kabiyesi o” from the crowd.
The Oloffa, Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Okikiola, EsuWoye II, affirmed his desire to renew the rich cultural heritage. He indicated plans, through the hosting of the ceremony, to open up Offa to a world of visitors and investors alike as well as to enhance the prospect of tourism in the town and in the state at large.
He revealed that arrangements were already in top gear to enlarge the scope of the festival and make it more attractive to potential tourists. He acknowledged that AbdulRazaq had made history as the first governor to attend the ceremony since it was revived some eight years ago. For this, he conferred on him the traditional title of Soludero on the governor:
“This event is about our love for equity, justice and fairness. We have always shown the way not only in Kwara, but in Nigeria. We are always helping our community. The festival emanated from our cultural history of two brothers who wrestled at the bank of a river, on account of one piece of lost yam on their way back home from the farm.
“The scenario resulted in a scuffle and argument as to who shall bear the pain of the lost yam. The king had to adjudicate on the matter and resolved the matter equitably.
“The king shared the yams in equal proportion of two and a half yams each. The cognomen of Laare! Buure!! Ikan ogbodo jukan nile Olalomi, rent the air. From that moment onwards, this slogan became a reference point for Offa people.
“The historical antecedent and moral lesson of the ceremony is that ‘Justice and Equity’ is embedded in the spirit of sharing. Today, the lesson of the festival is to spur our people, particularly our teeming youths to expand their horizon to face the challenges of our society, compete and excel with the spirit of equity, fairness, and justice.”
The governor acknowledged the self-driven development initiatives and resilience of the Offa people and how their support for him during the polls had been very decisive in the Kwara’s political struggle:
“The Ijakadi Offa festival typifies your resilience and ingenuity as a people and this has continued to make you critical stakeholders in the socioeconomic and political space of Kwara State.
“I urge you to never relent in this regard because healthy competition, devoid of destructive jealousy, is key to development. The 2020 budget contains provisions to promote our cultural heritage as Kwarans as well as project our festivals to the world as part of our efforts to making tourism a major revenue earner for the state.”
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, represented by Mr Olusegun Adeyemi, the state Director of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), said: “What we have come here to celebrate is a history that dates back to the 14th Century. I want to congratulate Kabiyesi that after almost a hiatus of 30 years, when there was no festival, the festival was reborn in 2012 and every new year, it has been getting bigger and bigger.”
He said the festival was significant because it is not just about the history of the people of Offa, but a celebration of their virtues of “equity, justice and wisdom”, including their strength and determination.