“The Olua festival has been celebrated since this town was founded… This festival is our own Christmas and New Year celebration…”
Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti
Something quite audacious is happening in Ekiti State. It is the celebration of a certain deity called Olua. It is synonymous with the Almighty. It is a short coinage of “Oluwa,” which translates to the Almighty.
In Osi-Ekiti, Igbole and Iropora in Ido Osi Local Government Area and Awo in Ifelodun/Irepodun LGA, Olua is celebrated between February and September of every year. It usually kicks off with priests and priestesses carrying out some rituals in appeasement of the Almighty.
They are joined by youths, men and women of the community who carry long sticks burning with fire. At the centre of the town, usually in front of the palace of the monarch, just a few metres to the shrine of Olua, the deity, bonfires are mounted with some fetish items placed at the spot.
The custodians of the festival would gather round the fetish items and prevent any outsider or visitor from going near the spot. You are not allowed to take pictures of the fetish objects or sacrifices as it were. If you dare, you could end up being mercilessly beaten up by tough looking, hugely built young men.
This attitude, according to Oba Agunbiade Ladiran, the monarch of Osi-Ekiti, where Daily Sun witnessed this year’s festival, is to protect the myth surrounding Olua: “In every society in Yorubaland, there are inherited traditional cultures that contain myths that constitute the festivals of such society. Any attempt to dare the myth and the secrecy, will be resisted by our people. The power of the festival lies in the inherited myth.
“Olua is our cultural festival. The God Almighty created the heaven and earth. This is our belief. Olua is my people’s translation of Oluwa, meaning our God, the Almighty. So, the festival of Olua is the festival of God Almighty.
“Our history began from Ile-Ife, Osun State. At the time of the dispersal of the sons of Oduduwa, the Olusi was one of the sons he took from Ife via a town called Osisoko, near Ife. He settled a bit there before coming to Ekiti. Isondu is another town near Otu here in Ekiti where Olusi settled for awhile before eventually coming down here to settle with his people as first settlers of this land. We brought Olua festival from Ile-Ife it is as old as our existence.
“I urge my people to be hardworking and show love to one another. They should train their children to secure their future. They should also ensure that they contribute to the growth and development of Osi town.”
A few hours after the people of the town sang praises of the Olua, and carried burning sticks across the town, they gathered at the shrine of Olua, a secluded place located almost in front of the monarch’s palace. They were expecting some strange creatures, which eventually appeared like dwarfs dressed in palm fronds.
The little creatures danced around the shrine also decorated with palm fronds. As they danced and made some strange noises with guttural voices, hundreds of the participants present began to offer prayers for themselves and their relations. They asked the Olua to bless them, give them jobs, children, wealth and breakthrough.
This dramatic scenario played out until daylight morphed into a darkening evening. The strange palm fronds clothed creatures danced into some groove, far off into the bush and disappeared into the thin air!
A more shocking occurrence took place just before the creatures disappeared. They grew unusually tall like some huge tree and then off they went and the devotees raised their voices in high octave to the deity of Olua. With this kind of exit, the people believed the gods have visited for the last time in the year and would return same time in the coming year.
Representative of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi Adeyeye, Adeleke Omotayo Idowu, said: “We are here to felicitate with the Kabiyesi on this occasion of Olua festival. The indigenes of this town know who the Olua is and can tell so much about his good deeds in their lives.
“Today, l learnt that there are 131 towns in Ekiti land and they are all from Ife. I urge the people of Osi community to keep this up and continue to celebrate the Olua festival. In this part of the world, we have very rich culture, many of which the white men have stolen to their lands. Now we are making efforts to revive our rich cultural heritage.”
Princess Bunmi Agunbiade Omosola, daughter of the monarch of Osi-Ekiti, said: “Olua festival is the most important festival in this town. It is such a wonderful festival because many people come from all over the world. The Olua itself is like god, he is even god because if you come to him and ask for anything, he gives you, breakthrough, children.
“If you need children, and you come to the god and he tells you a date you would give birth, it will happen exactly as he has said. Also, if the Olua says that you will have a job at a particular date, that day it will happen.
“The Olua festival has been celebrated since this town was founded. Olua can bring the freedom to those who are bound by life’s problems and challenges. This festival is our own Christmas and New Year celebration. It is a time all Osi indigenes come home to celebrate but they don’t even come home during the New Year or the Christmas.
“I want to urge our people to support our culture and not allow it to perish. I have bought cow and many drinks for people to celebrate this festival and I do this every year.”
Chief Akin Ojo, Atayese of Oduduwa, said: “My role is to celebrate and promote our culture. We love our traditions and we don’t want our culture to die. Our culture is our identity and when we preserve it our race will not go into extinction. Our future will be preserved.
“We are here to celebrate our culture. We know that since the creation of the world wherever prayers are being offered, they are also answered. Our duty is to go to everywhere our culture is being celebrated and celebrate our own gods.
“In this festival, many miracles happen, those without jobs get it, the barren give birth afterwards. In fact, the festival has assured us that there is nothing God cannot do. You can see hundreds of people in this town who want one thing or the other from the deity.
“Olua is God’s work and no one can claim to know its origin. It began with our origin as a people. We must be proud of our culture. It is being celebrated two times in a year. Olua is as old as our existence as a people. We must be proud of our culture and show off with it anywhere we find ourselves.”
Another prominent son of the town, Chief Femi Robinson, also spoke: “Before Christianity came, our forefathers had their own calendar with which they ordered their lives. In this town, we have our festivals, which mark our calendar for the year. There is the festival of masquerades with which we are celebrating the dawn of a new year. There is also the festival to adore our king and then this festival of Olua. There are other festivals being observed in this town.
“This deity that has appeared to everyone in broad day light has been with us from time immemorial. The festival will last for a week and climax with the eating of a new yam on the last day. God has created the whole heaven and the earth and he gave each people their own Messiah. He gave Jesus to the Jews, Mohammad to the Arab and gave us this Olua as our own Messiah.
“My great grandfather who died at about 126 years of age told me that when he asked from his great grandfather about the Olua festival, his great grandfather told him that he met the festival the way it is being celebrated till today.
“Many of our children from across the world have come home to participate in this festival.
“My own son came from the United Kingdom to be part of this. This is because they have all found out that whenever they come for the festival, they experience great achievement and breakthrough in their lives.
“Imagine a man having to buy a big cow to show gratitude to the deity for giving him breakthrough in his business and life. Once the deity instructs you to take a certain step to get something, if you do it, the results will be overwhelming
“Even a reverend father had come to witness this festival. He told us that he was awed by the mammoth crowd who come seasonally to be part of this festival and wished to see what happens here. The father said what he observed is that everyone who came to seek the help of the deity have always been praying and that he was pleased with such development.”