The 2023 edition of Igogo Festival which began on September 7 with an Upeli procession ended on October 2 with the beating of the Olusorope drum at an event called Ugbiyaloke, signifying the end of the annual festival which means people can start to beat their own drums. During the celebration of the festival, there was no beating of drums in the entire Owo kingdom. Absence However, for the first time in the history of the 800-year festival, the Ojomoluda of Ijebu Owo did not participate in the festival, raising fears among the citizens of the ancient town. Ijebu-Owo is one of the quarters that forms the Owo kingdom, and the king of the town known as Ojomoluda is the head of the Senior Omoolowos, whose role is to select the Olowo of Owo whenever the stool becomes vacant. Other quarters in the ancient town include Iloro, Ehinogbe, Igboroko and Isaipen.
Visitors to Owo, the headquarters of Owo Local Government would not be able to identify one quarter from other as there were no natural barriers amongst them. The annual Igogo festival is usually celebrated in the quarters with the Olowo dancing around town through dedicated routes which extends from the East wing through the Oja-Oba to Iloro quarter, Ijebu quarter and back to the palace through Igboroko quarter. Trajectory of Igogo Festival The Igogo Festival is an annual event held in Owo in September to honour Olori Orosen (a queen of Olowo Rerengejen, 1350-1356). During the festival, Oba Ogunoye III and high chiefs of the kingdom dress like women wearing coral beads, beaded gowns and plaited hair. The festival usually lasts 17days and features a number of ceremonies, including the blessing and introduction of new yams. The festival is in commemoration of the king’s wife who turned into a tree while being pursued by the king’s slaves to return to the palace after her rival violated her taboos in her presence.
During the period of celebration, drums are banned in Owo and metal gongs are used instead; this is where “Igogo” was derived. Genesis The 17- day Igogo Festival was birthed during the reign of Olowo Rerengejen, the 13th Olowo of Owo Kingdom, whose reign was between 1340-1346 AD. The core cause of the Igogo Festival was palace rivalry, which pitted all other queens of Oba Rerengejen against his most favoured queen, Orosen. The other queens connived, out of jealousy, to usurp Queen Oroshen’s most coveted place of being the most beloved queen in the palace. The plot went on without rest; and after much effort, they were able to break Oroshen’s taboos, involuntarily released by Olowo Rerengejen, and this led to her fleeing the palace and the Kingdom. After several efforts of looking for her, the organised search party sent after Oroshen by Oba Rerengejen to bring her back to the palace was able to catch up with her but she refused to return to the palace saying that her taboo had been broken. She, however, requested for an annual festival, with specifications for its processes, in her honour, with a promise to always be with the Kingdom in the spirit to enhance growth and fruitfulness.
Thus, the Igogo Festival – a fiesta of the love life of the Olowo Rerengejen and his Queen, Oroshen, formerly known as Queen Uwa, a heroine, paragon of beauty who in all sense was another human/spiritual being – was born. The festival commenced with Ologho Rerengejen and it has been so till date. Olowo’s ambition Although the event had been celebrated for over 800 years, the first class monarch rolled out programmes to make the festival appeal to the youths, residents and citizens of Owo in Diaspora. According to him, Igogo Festival, which is celebrated in five quarters that make up Owo Kingdom including Ijebu-Owo, Iloro, Ehinogbe, Igboroko and Isaipen Olowo, is the most celebrated in the Owo Kingdom. Through the festival, the monarch said the community wants to see the ancient town transformed into a hive of colourful activities that would attract tourists and bring economic fortunes into our domain. His words: “Our ultimate goal is to galvanise the festival to produce an economic impact of one billion dollars yearly.
We are dead serious about its effect and target. Talks are on with our Diaspora sons and daughters to explore the low hanging commercial fruit and advantages which the festival portends for the economic boom of our people. “Even though there is no single manufacturing industry in Owo, the Igogo Festival will be exploited by attracting huge visitors to pour in and spend their money, thereby boosting the local economy. When this happens, happiness will permeate the society, tourism will grow and the economy will improve, thus providing job opportunities for the youth. Expectedly, the entertainment industry will also showcase the diverse cultural heritage of the kingdom and lighten up her social activities.” While inviting private and corporate sponsors to partner with the palace in this laudable project, the Olowo said the festival would open wealth creation avenues, upscale the small-scale businesses of cloth weaving and artistries and promote general uplift of the socio-economic development of Owo Kingdom.
Olowo said: “Under my watch, the Igogo Festival is to witness a rebirth in content and package to attract over 500,000 people yearly at its peak. We intend to build it gradually and aggressively to attract foreign visitors, Nigerians and Owo sons and daughters in diaspora. This year in particular, there will be the re-enactment of the Udan dancers in beads. These are maidens who, in the olden days, usually form part of the train during the Igogo Olowo procession.
Also, it is my desire to give the Igogo Festival a 21st century outlook by making its processes and activities richer.” As from next year, the monarch said some complementary events would be added including the Oroshen Beauty Pageant, which would herald the festival and throw up the Oroshen Icon that will reign for a year; the Festival Market that will take place during the festival where assorted goods and services will be exhibited; and the Oghwa Lopo ceremony, which will bring the Igogo festival to a close. He said during the Ogwa Lopo ceremony, the Olowo of Owo will be seated in his full royalty to relate with his subjects, visitors, tourists and well-wishers in an open place. He said the occasion would afford him the opportunity to bless the people of Owo Kingdom and thank all for participating in the festival. Ojomoluda shuns event However, for the first time in the history of the Igogo Festival, the monarch of IjebuOwo, a quarter within the kingdom and the Head of Senior Omoolowos, did not participate in the celebration.
The Ojomo Luda, Oba Kofoworola Oladoyinbo Ojomo and youths of the community had written to the governor and security agencies that the Olowo of Owo should not extend the festival to their community. The content of the letters according to a statement was to alert the state government and the security agencies of the looming security breaches that could happen on the alleged insistence of taking the Igogo celebration to the Ijebu kingdom. The statement stated that such insistence could spark unhealthy situations if not nip in the bud by relevant stakeholders that have been contacted ahead of the date earlier announced by the organisers of the Igogo Festival who included Olijebu of IjebuOwo, Oba Kofoworola Olatunbosun Oladoyinbo Ojomo Aruliwo III in their lined up activities without consultation.
The statement insisted that Oba Ojomoluda remained resolute and maintained that IjebuOwo, through Ojomo in Council, had resolved to exonerate the community from participating in the festival in the interest of peaceful coexistence. The statement reads: “Ijebu-Owo is an autonomous community and one of the nine towns that make up the present day Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State and the Prescribed Authority over Ijebu-Owo is Oba Major General Olatunbosun Kofoworola Oladoyinbo (rtd), the Aruliwo III, the Ojomo Oluda of Ijebu–Owo. “It is cogent to inform you that Igogo Festival is not alien to Ijebu-Owo but it is not mandatory for Ijebu-Owo town to partake in the celebration of Igogo festival as the traditional rites are limited to Owo town. The activity of Ijebu-Owo people in the celebration of Igogo festival is that of solidarity and friendship as the main traditional festival in Ijebu-Owo is Ogun festival from time immemorial.” The Ojomo in Council, Ijebu-Owo youths and stakeholders in the kingdom expressed confidence in the timely intervention by the state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, and other security agencies already contacted.
The statement emphasised the resolve of the people of IjebuOwo in sustaining the existing peace in Owo Local Government Area and Ondo State in general. Cultural heritage The Chairman of Owo Cultural Heritage, Dr Yemi Mahmud, congratulated the Olowo of Owo for his desire to add value to Owo Kingdom through his resolve to showcase the Kingdom’s cultural heritage to the world. She said the ultimate goal of the organisation is to showcase the cultural heritage of Owo Kingdom including the Igogo Festival, Owo drums and dances, Owo music, Owo cuisine, Owo clothes among others to the world. Her words “The mandate of the organisation is to identify these diverse activities, evaluate them and improve on them to meet the 21st Century standard that will make them attractive to relevant stakeholders in and outside Owo Kingdom and beyond the shores of Nigeria.” She added that Owo Cultural Heritage in line with the mandate of Olowo of Owo is to facilitate a robust relationship between Owo Cultural Heritage Organisation, the Palace, Owo people in general, and the world.