Ogun is not worshipped as people egregiously misconstrued him to be in Ire-Ekiti but simply appreciated, remembered and celebrated. Ogun, ‘Alaka Aye, Oshin Imole’-the chief and the most fearful among the divinities was a human being of extraordinary significance, power and prestige. He was an engineer, a surveyor, a farmer, a hunter and a good road constructor. He was a fearless ‘no-nonsense’ leader, a field marshal of note who led his people to victory in times of war contributing to the avoidance of their capture.
Ogun was reputed to have been the first man to discover iron metal and thus called ‘Alagbede Akoko’ i.e. the first black and goldsmith and with this, he mastered the art of turning iron metal into many materials and household utensils e.g. guns, swords, cutlass, knives, hoes, chains, cooking pots, art and bronze metal works etc. (some of which were later carried and copied by Owo and Benin people) the usefulness transformed the socio-economic lives of his people. Ogun was also putative to have cleared the jungle and virgin forests and navigated many roads in Yorubaland whereby opened up and linked them with other parts of Nigeria. Ogun ‘Onile Kangun Kangun Ode Orun’ played many significant roles in transforming, appeasing and mediating among his people all over the world. It is because of these credentials that he is celebrated – not worshipped.
He has celebrated annually in Ire-Ekiti his home base, Ondo, Ijero Ekiti, Ikole and other West African countries of Togo, Benin Republic, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, as well as, Portugal, Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean nations where Yoruba blood and tradition has been carried. I, therefore, implore those who have little or no knowledge of Ogun to take a step back, revisit their history and update their knowledge. It is by doing this that one will be capable of joining us in celebrating and appreciating this global Yoruba icon and worthy son of Oduduwa.
If Ogun were to have been celebrated by Europeans and Americans, some of our people would not be as opposed to the Ogun festival as they are now. How unfortunate is it that many years after slavery and colonialism, some black people must look to the white man for his approval before loving, celebrating and appreciating themselves? It is in this same mental slavery syndrome that the Yoruba concept of Ifa was undermined before the Europeans sent their own students to the universities of Ibadan and Ile-Ife to study Ifa. Now they mastered Ifa, developed it and practice it to the extent that many Afro-Caribbean and including my Yoruba people whom God gave Ifa, now learn about Ifa from foreigners who value Ifa more.
Whilst in Brazil, I was challenged yet happy to see how Ogun is celebrated with palm leaves (Mariwo) and colourful attires drawing and attracting tourists all over the world. But today in ire, the home of Ogun, there are pro-Christianity, Islam and other religious groups who want a total ban on the Ogun festival. To them, Ogun was a murderer and war monger for fighting wars to save his people. We also have the camp of the hard-core traditionalists who advocates and support the traditional secrecy and vow that any attempt not to maintain the status quo, is tantamount to sacrilege hence vehemently opposing the reformation, transformation and modernisation agenda. They also repudiate the government’s involvement in the Ogun festival.
To me, there should be no religious war; instead, we should see it as an opportunity to effect a positive change regarding how we mark the Ogun festival. Part of rebranding the Ogun festival could mean we go a little to the right and a little to the left and meet in the middle to have a win-win solution. This is another crucial trying moment in the life of ire people. History will not forgive us if we fail this time around. Please, my ire people, let us broaden our visions and be positive-minded. When it comes to a possible involvement of UNESCO, let us be reading the same book, page and line because we cannot go wrong with it. Our churches and mosques have been busy praying for the development of Ire and should keep on these services. Let us pray and work and see these new changes as a golden opportunity as god’s answered prayers.
Ire Ekiti as a town is blessed with many natural advantages; the historical origin of Ogun and the burnt brick factory just to mention a few. Ire is also centrally located and surrounded by eight towns and thus, eight separate roads directly link ire with these towns. Even though no government has upgraded any of these feeder roads into standard and motorable roads, I think for ire town, this is a groundbreaking record! Let us not squander these opportunities by pulling ourselves down and refusing to cooperate and work towards meeting the required international standard.
Upon mention of Ogun in the Omo Ayiye Ire WhatsApp platform, the topic was received with distaste. Enough of this. What offence has Ogun committed to deserve this resentment and intolerance? If we cannot mention Ogun, who has through his iconic nature is providing a platform to catapult Ekiti into prosperity, then we need to reason and think again.
Within some circles, due to the attitudes of a very small minority, ire is seen as very difficult, argumentative and careless when it comes to the issue of progression of the town – let us change this false and enormous perception because you and I know that’s not who we are in Ire.
Let us prove wrong those who stereotypically believe the people of Ire to be stubborn and obstinate even at the expense of their own progress. We must open our eyes to the benefits of post-modernism which involvement of the Ekiti State Ministry of Culture and Tourism will contribute to the development of Ire Ekiti. Our IGR will surely increase tremendously, and funds allocated to Ire town will be justly redistributed for the development of Ire by our present God-given competent and accountable President of IDU. There will be job opportunities for our unemployed youths who are currently roaming the streets. Ire will have a facelift!
Having seen the wider world and having been exposed to the deceitful agenda o earlier imperialist and colonial powers in Africa, it has become imperatively clear that we must step up and dispel the myths and derogatory perception that exists regarding our cultural values and heritage. Sir Winston Churchill was referred to as the best British leader during the Second World War when he caged Adolf Hitler. Britain did not call him a murderer. Institutions were named after Ignatius Loyola, Thomas Aquinas, and St. Augustine was canonised. In the religious realm, the above names were prayed to and even worshipped by people whom they influenced.
When it comes to giving recognition and accolades to our past heroes in Africa, we suddenly cannot, instead, we display a ‘holier than thou attitude. That is why we help outsiders to demonise and denigrate our own leaders, warriors and heroes hence; the west sadly believes Africans have no heroes. Please do not let us surrender our history to foreign subjugation. Some nations worship elephants, trees and snakes. This is not the case in ire. In Ijebu Ode, Ile-Ife and Lagos, they celebrate Ojude Oba, Olojo and Eyo festivals respectively yet there is prosperity in these cities. Why then do we ascribe the lack of development in Ire to the observation of her traditions? It is the other way round and that is why it takes wisdom for Osogbo not to do without the Osun festival.
I am not writing this to create controversy or start a religious debate, nor is the aim to undermine any particular religion because this is not about religion. It’s more about our history, our past, our tradition, who we are and our collective social values.
Ogun, who has many sides, was a person who lived in flesh and blood. Some people call him a god of iron and thank God for that – he is not called the God of human beings, hence I cannot and will not worship him. But as my hero and forefather, I will celebrate him and let the whole world know that hero also comes from my lineage. Only God almighty in heaven is to be worshipped.
By – Honourable Olufemi Adefolaju, is the son of late Chief Joseph Alonge Adefolaju, the Elegemo of Ire-Ekiti.