Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
The Omu-Aran New Yam Festival in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State, has come and gone. However, its memory will remain in the minds of the people.
It is noteworthy that before the conclusion of the festival, no member of the community was allowed to take a tuber of yam for sale in any of the designated markets talk less of consuming it. This shows the uniqueness and importance attached to the festival. It was a worthwhile experience in June of every year at the climax of the rainy season.
Omu-Aran is home to many cultural festivals including Egungun, Alata and Iyan-Oko of the Ora-Ayoka Descendants of Omu-Aran. Having two festivals, New Yam and Iyan-Oko festivals, meaning yam prepared in the bush – attached to celebrating planting, selling and consumption of yam may not be accidental. It is a unique way of showing love for the commodity as their preferred staple food.
Chief Festus Fade Awoniyi, Petu Tayero of Omu-Aran, is take yams to various markets to pave way for the selling and consumption of new yam: “We inherit our prowess and preference for yam planting and consumption from our forefathers.
“An average Igbomina man regards yam as his best food for consumption, either at home or to serve guests during events and occasions. We don’t joke with anything that has to do with planting and consumption of yam in our daily lives.
“These facts actually gave birth to the festivals associated with yam, most importantly the annual new yam festival being celebrated every June.”
He said the new yam festival has been modernised with added side attractions to showcase the cultural potential of the people. The festival has continued to gain ground and acceptance among both the indigenes and non-indigenes alike.
Awoniyi is the Baba-Oja (market chief.) He said: “The festival is always heralded by the traditional consumption of boiled yam known as ‘Piye’ by the people of Raba’s Compound, three days to the event proper. The same tradition would be followed by Osi’s Compound a day to the festival. The two events always come after the festival date and activities might have been officially communicated to the Olomu-in-Council, headed by the Olomu of Omu-Aran, Oba Abdulraheem Oladele Adeoti.
“The date for the yam festival must first of all be officially communicated to the Olomu-in-Council few days to its commencement. As the Petu, it is a taboo for me to go inside the market on any market days despite being the market chief, such obligation is part of the exigencies of the Petu title.
“Apart from duly informing the Olomu-in-Council, some tubers of yams will be send to the Olomu’s palace to be boil and consume by the Olomu and his immediate family after I might have officially flag off the process through consumption of some boil yams at my family compound in the presence of other traditional chiefs on the day of festival.
“It was a rare privilege for me as the man in-charge after the demise of Oba Ibitoye to have successfully installed four vacant traditional titles namely; Olukose, Asanlu-Aran, Oluju, Eesa of Omu-Aran and later capped it with the successful selection and installation of a new Olomu in person of Oba Abdulraheem Oladele Adeoti. The most interesting aspect is that the installation of these title holders were done in the most peaceful atmosphere devoid of any violence or any court interference. So this new yam festival coming up at this period it is a good omen for the people.
“I really feel fulfilled and always give thanks to God for making such rare feat possible during my short administration of the council and to that I will continue to sing God’s praises.”
As early as 9am on the day of the festival, Chief Adeboye Elemaso from Olasankale’s Compound, led other Elemanso, the Ologun (warriors), the Omo-Osu (some married Omu-Aran daughters) accompanied by some security personnel to the Omu-Aran Central Market, along Omu-Aran-Ilofa highway, for the morning festival rites, prayers and cleansing. The display of some tubers of yams brought in by the Omo-Osu during the procession signified the right to commence the selling of yams in the various markets.
The cleansing and prayers led by Adeboye was performed in the presence of the council’s Iyaloja (market leader) and her team, as well as leaders of other market unions. Prayers were offered for the growth and development of the inhabitants and the community. The team later moved round the market to intimate the traders of the new yam festival.
The train moved to the Olasankale family compound of Awoniyi where inter-religious prayers were offered to seek God’s favour toward the development of the community with some members of Omu-Aran traditional council of chiefs led by the Eesa of Omu-Aran, Chief Jide Adebayo, in attendance.
Pastor Kolawole Idowu, in his sermon called on the inhabitants, both indigenes and non- indigenes, to imbibe, unity, tolerance and peaceful co-existence: “No development can be achieved in an atmosphere of acrimony and rancour. Leaders should exhibit exemplary leadership qualities to attract the confidence of their followers.
“We are all created for a purpose and whether rich or poor everyone of us will accomplish our task and purpose of such creation. It is therefore by tolerating one another and co-habiting in unity and togetherness that we can achieve our desired aims and objectives in life.”
Alhaji Ayinla Imam, Deputy Chief Imam of Omu-Aran, admonished the wealthy individuals to always extend their hands of assistance to the needy and the less privilege in the community. He urged the inhabitants to regard the festival as a veritable platform to reflect on God’s faithfulness in their lives and give thanks accordingly: “We shall one day give account of our deeds, either good or bad and that is why we should be righteous in all our undertakings.”
Chief Jide Adebayo, Eesa of Omu-Aran, in his contribution, said the festival would continue to build friendship, togetherness and engender the desired development across the community. He called on Omu-Aran indigenes, especially those in the Diaspora not to relent in contributing their quota toward the growth, progress and development of the community.
Chief (Mrs) Mogbonjubola Adeniyi, Iyakoja (market leader) in Irepodun LG, thanked the community leaders for being at the forefront of promoting unit and peaceful co- existence among the people.
Awoniyi later hosted the traditional chiefs, invited guests from far and near including members of the community at his Alakaka Motel to a taste of yam delicacies.