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Reinventing tourism potential of Ogidi’s New Yam Festival

Ogidi women celebrate at the festival

Recently, Ogidi community in Kogi State was agog in festivities, as the village hosted this year’s New Yam Festival. Held amidst drama, spectacle and fanfare, it was an event that many wouldn’t forget in a hurry.

The weeklong event is celebrated yearly with cultural performances, presentation of new yam, chieftaincy investitures and awards. Other activities include, free medical outreach, novelty match, Jumat Service, expedition to the Oroke Oda Mountain and a bonfire.

Eminent personalities including, Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly, Matthew Kolawole; National Publicity Secretary of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kola Ologbondiyan, who was special guest; and the immediate past Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olusola Enikanolaye; all came for the festival that has held consistently for seven years.

As early as 7.00am of June 15, 2018, sound from gunshots boomed intermittently in the town to invite everybody for the cultural festival.

At the palace of Ologidi of Ogidi, Alhaji Rabiu Oladimeji Sule, different cultural troupes were everywhere singing and dancing.

A feeling that equally resonated at the residence of Yeye Oba of Ogidi and curator of Nike Art Gallery, Chief (Mrs.) Nike Okundaye.

Ologidi’s arrival to the performance arena signalled commencement of festivities, with the monarch in a regal dance, as he went round to greet everybody present.

This was followed by performance from cultural troupes across the country present.

It was indeed a display of the country’s rich heritage, as groups from Tivland, Giri Troupe from Kabba/Bunu, Ondo and Bini troupes and Egungun Monure gave good account of themselves.

In his speech, President General, Ogidi Development Union (ODU), Chief Eniolorunda Ralph, appealed to government to include the festival in its yearly tourism calendar.

He also solicited the support of government towards ensuring that the festival is re-packaged to attract foreign participation.

According to him: “It is the only cultural festival celebrated in June throughout Nigeria.

It is our own new yam festival, which is likened to human regeneration. It’s a celebration of life.”

He noted that the advancement of any society would remain a mirage if development programmes were not infused into the agenda of the society’s socio-cultural system.

Ralph further revealed that the N250 million-endowment fund was aimed at completing ongoing projects in the community and commencement of new ones.

“We are not going to wait for government before taking initiative to help our community. Very soon, our hospital would come on stream.

It is in partnership with St John Catholic Hospital for the use of our town and other neighbouring communities,” he said.

He continued, ODU, which is the organiser of the festival, added another traditional Yoruba feature called ‘Oriki’ to this edition to “spice up the experience” of guests.

Chairman of the occasion, Chief Tunde Thani, in his speech, described the event as a cultural festival that had witnessed tremendous transformation.

To this end, he called on individuals and corporate organisations to support the fund raising.

Father of the day, Chief Abiodun Ehindero, said the day is built round new yam, which he noted, had existed for long.

He, therefore, called on youths to embrace agriculture in order to have a source of sustenance.

The main event and grand finale held at Ogidi Community Hall ground, where there were lots of cultural display and dance.

In fact, the arrival of Ologidi and his entourage to the venue started the day’s proceedings.

A moment of prayer was observed, and thereafter, the sound of ‘Ogidigbo’ (a local wooden instrument) went on in earnest.

Speaking on the significance of Ogidi Day, Director General of this year’s event, Mr. Tunde Ipinmisho, who was president of ODU from 2006-2015, said the community had just emerged from a bitter dispute over succession to the Ologidi stool, following the late Oba Adeyemi Are Jegede’s demise.

He said the dispute created a wrong impression about the community, adding that the cultural fiesta aimed at drawing attention to positive attributes of the town such as, its vast arable land, rich culture, people’s accommodating nature and achievements of its sons and daughters in all fields of human endeavour.

According to him, Ogidi has produced a lot of successful sons and daughters that any town could be proud of, among whom are the renowned artist Okundaye, Commissioner of Police for Yobe State, Mr. Sumonu Adeyemi; the nation’s Deputy Commissioner of Insurance, Mr. Olorundare Thomas; retired Executive Director, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Chief Gabriel Mesaiyete; Mr. Gabriel Obando, a General Manager with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Director, Technical Services, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Mr. Femi Oloruntoba and others.

Ipinmisho said the story of Ogidi Day was that of ‘a humble beginning’, which has now become an international event known world over.

Explaining the essence of Ogidi Day, Ipinmisho said, “the festival is about two things: our new yam and our Oba.

The festival is celebrated on New Yam Day. June 15 of every year is our New Yam Festival.

So, we now decided if June 15 falls on a Saturday, we hold the Day on that date, but if not, it would be the following Saturday.

“The essence of the New Yam Festival is to offer thanksgiving to the Almighty who gives increase.

In those days, what our people did was to bring their farming implements, their hoes and cutlasses, and put them in a corner of a room, where cooked food were equally kept.

“They were of the belief that the hoes and cutlasses too should eat.

That practice is archaic now, because we know that there is only one God and it is the Almighty that brings the increase.

“Also, it is about our Oba. The Oba is symbol of our oneness as a community; so, we use the occasion to renew our allegiance to him.

Not many people come here except they have something doing.

So, we felt we could use the festival to bring attention to our town.”

After the speeches, various cultural troupes and groups, colourfully attired, sang and danced in a procession to where the Ologidi sat on the podium, and

prostrated before him as a sign of allegiance and honour.

The cultural troupes from Edo and Ondo, the Eyo Masquerades from Lagos State and artistes from Nike Cultural Centre from Lagos also took turns to pay homage to the Ologidi.

After they were done, it was the turn of female and male groups from the community, the Tiv community in Ogidi, the Kiri Cultural Troupe from Kabba, the Sango Troupe, Egungun Monure and Omolere group.

In the same vein, all the traditional chiefs, titled women of Ogidi, farmers, hunters and the Orotas, amongst others, paid homage.

While on their procession to the Oba, the group of hunters, who were all armed with Dane guns and other hunting weapons, demonstrated their hunting skills, shooting intermittently into the air as a mark of honour for the Oba.

The high point was presentation of new yam to Ologidi by Yeye Oba Ologidi, Chief (Mrs.) Nike Okundaye. The Ologidi, afterward, prayed for peace, progress and development of Ogidiland.

He also called on illustrious sons and daughters of the land and friends to continue to make their contributions for overall development of the land.

With the good packaging and attempts to reach out to government for proper programming, organisers of Ogidi Day Cultural/Yam Festival may have begun exploring possibilities of securing its designation as an ‘intangible cultural heritage practice’ in line with the selection criteria set out by the United Nations Educational and Scientific Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) 2005 convention.

The organisers believe the event will meet the criteria, and by so doing, they can access UNESCO’s World Heritage Fund.

This is expedient, considering that the recent 61st United Nations World Tourism Organisation Conference in Abuja, which attracted participants from all over the world, stressed the need to make cultural tourism an area that should be tapped by government, because of its huge potential.

In this article:
Kogi StateOgidiYam festival
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