Source: Guardian Newspapers – Saturday September 1, 2012, page 41 (the link is no longer active)
SEATED on a huge armchair made of damask, the Orangun of Oke-Ila, Oba Abolarin Adedokun Aroyinkeye I, nodded constantly and waved his horsetail in acknowledgement of the greetings from his chiefs and the people of the ancient town who came to celebrate Isinro Festival with him.
Atop his head is the most ancient crown adorned with beads of many colours.
The beads cascaded down his face, making it difficult for onlookers to study the king’s countenance.
But occasional flash of white teeth behind the dropping beads showed that the Orangun was happy. More distinct is Orangun’s carriage that is every inch of a quintessential royalty.
Likewise, small smile radiates on the face of his wife, Olori Solape who, seated next to the Orangun, was observing the dancing town folks with keen interest.
Sitting on bare floor right in front of the king are the wives from the royal dynasty consisting of Mowa, Arojo and Obasolo families. The women adorned their heads with conical hairstyle, singing Orangun’s praises intermittently in their rich Igbomina dialect. Here, to paraphrase William Shakespeare, were the women whose bosoms have lodged kings and princes. Drawing on the quote of a British writer, Lawrence Durrell, Kabiyesi described the women as women to be loved and suffered for, or to be turned into literature.
This kind of cultural outing by the Orangun and his subjects happens only during Isinro Festival. The festival heralds the New Year in Oke-Ila, the headquarters of Ifedayo local government in the State of Osun, one of those local councils created in 1991 during the regime of President Ibrahim Babangida.
Legend has it that the present Òkè-Ìlá Òràngún formerly existed alongside Ìlá Òràngún as a united kingdom known as Ìlá-Yàrà, a city-state founded by Òràngún, the fourth son of Oduduwa, the Yoruba progenitor.
The kingdom became divided over a disagreement on a choice of relocation site. The two princes Àpàkíìmò’s and his brother, Arútú Olúòkun who were at the centre of the dispute led their supporters to different sites today known as Òkè-Ìlá Òràngún and Ìlá Òràngún.
In the ancient town, the New Year begins in Osu Ogun (August) two days after the Isinro Festival. Like Osun Festival in Osogbo, Isinro or Odun Oro holds at every August. The New Year customarily coincides with the commencement of the eating of the New Yam. For ages, the peasants of Oke-Ila have been coming home after several months of hard work in the farm to celebrate the harvest of New Yam
The thirteen-day feast, according to Orangun, is a re-creation of the thoughts and the memory of the past. It is the time of the year when sons and daughters of the agrarian community troop out in large numbers to offer prayers to the gods of the land and the spirits of the ancestors. The Orangun likened the Festival to the Christian’s Christmas celebrated in December 25, or the American’s Thanksgiving celebrated in July or the Jewish’s Hanukkah Day celebrated in November or December.
Being a festival of dance also, each family house and the chief gathered at Odode’s compound to greet and dance before the king. After the dance session, the king himself rose to his feet, followed by the Oba-in –Council, and offered prayers to the gods. Constituted by Iwarefa (the Oba –in-council), Logun (the warriors), the Ikegbe and Ojuwa, these are the men and women who strengthen the administration of Orangun,
Then the procession began to the Obanla house where the king paid homage to the people. The procession, led by Orangun himself, began to dance like a paddleboat sailing on the creek as the drumbeat of iya’lu, the talking drum and emele, the small drum changed to slow rhythm. “Regal dance is measured in slow steps”, says one of the natives.
The king drummers, and the chroniclers of oke-Ila history escorted the throng to Obanla compound. The high chief who received the king on behalf of the people was the aged Obanla of Oke-Ila, High Chief D.C.A. Olowolagba. Traditionally, Obanla is the second in command to the king. He is also the head of the Iwarefa, the high chiefs who double as the kingmakers in Oke-Ila. Tradition requires that the king dances seven times to meet Obanla where he is seated. But unlike Obanla who must prostrate in
At the end of this ritual, the king is presented with kola nut as a gift from the people. This practice is symbolic of the social contract that exists between the people and the monarch. “Though the king is the custodian of the power, but sovereignty lies with the people”, says Oba Adedokun who is also a political scientist and a lawyer.
This year festival, according to the natives, was better organized than those festivals of yester years because of the many more visitors who attended the festival this year. One of those visitors was Prof Gbemisola Adeoti, the director of the Institute of Cultural Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
The Professor who attended the festival on the invitation of the king explored options on how the festival can be made grander in the years ahead. He spoke about introducing the entertaining aspect to the festival in order to make it more appealing to all and sundry in Yorubaland and to those from abroad. “We could introduce artists performances, and entertainment of various kinds to enrich the social and religious dimensions of the festival”, he told The Guardian. “We could also invite corporate organizations to participate so that it can be a festival to be enjoyed by all.” He added.
Hon. Olorunjuwon Abatan , the scribe of Ifedayo Local Government and a member of Olori Awo family said the collective effort of both the people of Oke-Ila and Ila Orangun can bring about cultural renaissance needed to transform the community. Truth is Oke-Ila lay in wait of modernity. The town could use a few more infrastructures to boost the economy of the agrarian community. And the reigning Orangun is not unaware of the limitation of his community. This is the reason he is mobilizing his subjects home and abroad to rise up and work for the progress of Oke-Ila. As a tested administrator, Orangun shared the vision of the State government led by Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola that Osun can become a cultural haven for tourists from every part of the world. “We could make the month of August a cultural season in Osun that would attract tourists to the state.”
In spite of the infrastructure challenge in Oke-Ila, Hon. Abtan said Oke –ila remains one of the few places in Nigeria where the crime rate is low. This is not unconnected to the institutional practice in Oke-Ila where, at the turn of every year, people are reminded of their civic duty to keep the town safe. Two days after Isinro festival is Ofin Odun. The custom requires people of Oke-Ila to converge in the frontage of Orangun’s palace where the laws are reviewed. It is also at this occasion that the monarch is reminded of his social contract with the people. On no account should the king abuse his power.