MID WEEK ARTS: Obokun Festival… Using heritage to boost tourism, create jobs
Obokun festival is one of the traditional festivals being celebrated among the Yoruba people, but peculiar to the people of Ibokun, the headquaters of Obokun Local Government Council Area of Osun State.
It is widely believed among the people of the ancient town that the celebration was in remembrance of its founding father, “Obokun” who was considered a brave warrior and hero having fought a war and liberated the town from external forces. The festive period was also considered a period of appeasement to the goddess.
The 2015 edition of the traditional festival, celebrated last June 13, was not different, but was considered one of the best so far, considering the influx of tourists to the town.
According to Obaloro of Ibokun, High Chief Fadeyibi Olaseinde who was considered the custodian of deities in the town, ‘Ajibogun” was the real name of “Obokun” and he was one of the direct descendants of Oduduwa, saying, “when his father was blind, oracle was consulted and it was said that he could only be cured with water from ‘Okun River.
Based on this Ajibogun went out to get the water, but before his return, his elder brothers had shared the inheritance of their father and went away.
“His father was impressed and he said “se wipe o le Bu Okun” (meaning, so, you can fetch the sea). That was where the name “Obokun” comes in.
But when Oduduwa found out that there was nothing left to give Obokun, he saw his sword and gave it to him as an instrument to conquer any war that might face him.
“He subsequently went to Alaafin who was their senior brother, and he was with Alaafin for sometimes, but when Alaafin found out that he could no longer control him, he asked Obokun to go and establish himself and settle down in his own kingdom.
That was why he left Oyo, passed through Ipetu-Ile and settled down in Ibokun which was originally known as “Ilemure”. After Obokun conquered many war for Ilemure he finally changed the previous named to Ibokun. “When Obokun could not bear a son, oracle was consulted and he was asked to go to Ifon Orolu where his senior sister was, to bring “Obatala godess” and worship it, which he did.
But when he was leaving Ifon, the eldest son of his sister, who is called “Obaloro” and his younger brother “Lorioro” were asked to follow him. It was after then that Obokun gave birth to “Owa”.
“Obokun being a warrior in other to safe his son from revenge, he asked “Obaloro” to take “Owa” out of town and enthrone him in another village.
Owa was then taken to Ilekete, a village between Odo-Osun and Ilowa and that was where the first Owa was enthroned. After then, he went to Ilowa, from there to Ipole from where he finally settled down at Ilesa,” Obaloro recounted.
The high chief said the celebration had been in existed since after the death of Obokun who was believed to have fought for the survival of the ancient town in his honour.
Speaking at the festival, the lawmaker representing Obokun Constituency in the Osun House of Assembly, Honourable Olatunbosun Oyintiloye described the festival as unique and called on government to focus attention on it to serve as a source of income for the government.
He said investments in Culture and Tourism by the federal and state governments would boost job creation and the economy, saying, if proper attention is paid to the sector, it would not only serve as alternate source of income, but would also reinforce the fight against social vices and help address societal ills by instilling high moral standards, and cultural values.
Outlining areas of job creation in the sector to include tour guide, horticulture, food services, entertainment industry, craft and Arts productions, and waste recycling to mention a few, he maintained that it was the prerogative of Nigerians to tap into advantage of these opportunities in the tourism sector.
While lauding the state of Osun for developing tourism master plan which he said had a robust and global outlook, he maintained that the blueprint had the mindset of economy of scale as it focused on development of local content. He expressed strong hope that the Master plan which was meticulously and diligently developed by the State Tourism Board when fully implemented would set the pace for others to follow.
Oyintiloye cited example of Olumirin Water fall, saying through effective management by agency of the state government, over 50,000 were attracted as visitors in 2014.
The lawmaker who noted that Obokun cultural value and tourism potentials were enormous, called all stakeholders including sons and daughter of Ibokun at home and in Diaspora to contribute their quota towards its development.
Pointing out that strict supervision was necessary to explore the gains in the sector, he said, “it is not enough to allocate money for the sector, but we must guard our investment, to see it flourish and help develop our economy, because that is what some countries primarily depend on to survive”.
He also used the occasion to call for preservation and restoration of cultural and moral values, in order to restore Yoruba culture which was gradually fading away, adding that the positive impacts of culture preservation would not only include national integration but moral re-awakening.
Also speaking, the Oba Ibokun of Ibokun, Oba Festus Awogboro charged the government to encourage the Obokun festival and other such cultural events in the state, saying they are source of revenue generation for government. Describing Ibokun as the source of Ijesa people, the monarch called on sons and daughters of the town to also find ways of attracting development to the town.
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