Ogidi Yam Festival as catalyst for development

Ologidi of Ogidi, Oba Rabiu Oladimeji Sule (middle) cutting the yam and offering prayers during Ogidi Yam Festival, while Chief Nike Okundaye of Nike Art Gallery (left) looks on

Ogidi, a rocky, sleepy community in Ijumu Local Government Council of Kogi State came alive last month when it celebrated the sixth Ogidi Day Cultural and Yam Festival in glitz and glamour. Beyond the yam festival, Ogidi people used the yearly celebration to map out ways to develop the community.

The two-day event climaxed with free medical care for the people, expedition to the Oroke Oda mountain and burn fire, cultural performances, presentation of new yams, chieftaincy investitures and awards. It was a moment to showcase the tourism potentials abundant in the area.

Indeed, the community could do with improved infrastructure like good roads that lead to the rocky plains. In essence, government’s presence is grossly lacking. For the leadership of the community, the festival is an opportunity to rejuvenate their educational capacity, empower the women and the youths. A few years back, Ripples Foundation, based in the U.K., was attracted to the community and through its community development efforts; it deployed state-of-the-art medical equipment for the cottage hospital in the community. The foundation directed its energy towards the renovation of the community’s secondary school that has been neglected over the years.

A prominent daughter of the town, Chief Nike Okundaye of Nike Art Gallery, came with a powerful delegation, including the Executive Chairman, Eurostar Group, Ghana, Chief Oscar Yao Doe, and other expatriates resident in Lagos.

The Ologidi of Ogidi, Oba Rabiu Oladimeji Sule and his subjects were fully prepared for the big feast. His main objective was to galvanise the people to promote socio-economic development in the community, especially education.

The excitement of visitors, guests and the indigenes was ignited by the colourful and ceremonious royal entry of the Ologidi to the venue, accompanied by a cultural group, Eith masquerade, and the singing of traditional songs. The glamorous cultural festival commenced as different groups paid homage and pledged loyalty to the king in their own unique dances and styles, which elicited applauses from the excited crowd. At intervals, several gunshots broke the rhythms of cultural troupes’ drumbeats that resonate in a community hemmed in by several hills.

National President, Ogidi Development Union (ODU), Mr. Kayode Eniolorunda, expressed hope that Ogidi Day Festival would soon be placed on the world map, saying the people would continue to work hard for its fame and glamour to go beyond the shores of Nigeria to fetch foreign exchange for the country.

Working with a United Kingdom based charity, Ripples Foundation, Eniolorunda said the community would develop specific programmes to empower women and youths, adding that the cottage hospital, which Ripples Foundation supplied with all the medical consumables would also be expanded.

He appealed to the state government and kind-hearted individuals to help the community actualise its dream so that the newly constituted governing council of the hospital could start work.

Director General, Kogi State Bureau of Information Services and Sensitisation, Abdulkareem Abdulmalik, said the festival is one of the many areas of interest for the state government.

“The promotion of culture and tourism is germane to the government of Yahaya Bello and he is doing everything possible to achieve that,” he said. “It is one of the reasons the state is waging war against terrorism.”

Guests were buffeted with exciting and fanciful display of dances, songs, and music by many groups, including those based in Ogidi and those from outside the state such as cultural troupes from Effik and Ibibio, Edo State, Osun Oshogbo, Benue State, Epa from Iyah Gbedde and others.

The climax of the festival was the symbolic presentation of a tuber of yam by the Yeye Oba Ogidi, Chief Nike Okuntade, to the Oba Sule to mark the traditional ceremony. Then a roasted yam with palm oil in a plate was brought to the oba, who then sliced the yam and distributed to all present. After that, he blessed the people and prayed for God’s protection till another festival.

According to the traditional ruler, the secret behind the Yam festival started with their forefathers, who he said believed that yam is something miraculous.

In appreciation for their contributions, the community bestowed chieftaincy titles on Chief Oscar Yao Doe, as Obatoyinbo; Special Adviser to Governor Yahaya Bello on Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs, Abubakar Ohiere as Bamigboye, while Victor Adewale Omofaye, the State House of Assembly member representing Ijumu Constituency, as the Alara. Community service award went to Professor Rotimi Sadiku, while life achievement award was bestowed on Captain John Orenibi and Mrs. Olufunke Owonubi.

Other recipients were the friends of Ogidi, which were bestowed on Arc. Salman Idris, Mr. Samuel Idowu Omole and Mr. Kayode Fagbemi. Th gallantry in service award, bestowed on Major Funsho O. Abioye, set the tone for the day’s event with a soulful and dramatic presentation, which was followed by homage to the Ologidi.

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