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• Day Ooni led Ife indigenes to seek god’s nod for riches, prosperity
Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
ile-ife, Osun State, the cradle of Yoruba civilization, was agog recently for Aje Festival celebration. The celebration was in honour of Aje, the Yoruba deity of wealth and prosperity.
The annual event was held at the Afewonro Park in front of the Ile Oodua, the Ooni’s Palace, amid fanfare expcetedly with cultural displays and traditional rites. Indigenes of the ancient city within the country and in the Diaspora poured into to pay homage to Aje, the god of commercial activities and wealth.
Aje took its roots from Ile-Ife, being the traditional home of the Yoruba culture and tradition. Believed to be the custodian of economic activities, wealth and prosperity, came from the nooks and crannies of the country to celebrate the deity. The audience was diverse including market women, captains of industry, foreign tourists, academics, government officials, business magnates, politicians and palace chiefs.
Also in attendance were traditional rulers such as Ajero of Ijero-Ekiti, Oba Joseph Adewole; Elerinmo of Erinmo-Ijesa, Oba Michael Ajayi Odunayo; Onigbaye of Igbaye, Oba Joseph Moronfoye; Oniboro of Iboro in Ogun State and Oba Daniel Abayomi Salako. Traders from Lagos and the Republic of Benin also participated in the event.
On the first day, the festival climaxed with a party and entertainment which commenced by 6.00 pm and dovetailed into the early hours of the next day. It witnessed traditional rites and cultural displays. They sang praises of the deity, the gods of the land as well as the economic and cultural endowments of the town.
On the third day, the grand finale, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the custodian of the Yoruba culture and tradition, led the traditional proceedings in the company of the chief priest known as Oba Isoro. The Ooni-in-Council led the procession of a huge crowd of participants from the Ooni’s Palace to the Aje’s Shrine also known as Ile Aje.
The shrine is about half a kilometer away from the point where the Ooni and his chiefs offered prayers to Olodumare to bless Ile-Ife, the entire state and Nigeria. The prayers also centred on economic advancement, peaceful coexistence, violence-free forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states.
Aje’s relevance goes beyond Ile-Ife. Records show that it is a deity that influences every aspect of income generating activities across the globe. The deity is believed to give a very strong support to anybody involved in profit-making ventures.
It is against this background that people always come from different parts of the world to join the Ooni who is believed to be the head of all the 401 deities and the representative of Oduduwa to celebrate the festival. Aje was one of the 401 deities sent to the earth by the Almighty God (Olodumare) to form the world’s first society called Ife Oodaye, while Ogun, Oranfe (Sango) and Oduduwa were deities of iron, fire and prayers respectively.
According to Yoruba mythology, Aje is the founder of the world’s oldest market known as Ejigbomekun located in Ile-Ife. He was and still remains the custodian of the market. The significance of Aje to the people of Ile-Ife is that the deity was their kinsman who lived in the town where his shrine is domiciled till date.
Director of Media Affairs, Ooni’s Palace, Moses Olafare, told Daily Sun that during last year’s edition of the festival, the Ooni prayed fervently for economic emancipation and growth in Nigeria. He added that the prayers centered on the recession that was biting very hard for Aje, the deity of wealth, to intervene:
“At the festival, the Ooni also recalled that last year, naira exchanged for about N500 to a dollar, but a week later, after the festival, it came down to N350 to a dollar, seen as part of the solution to the recession. Also, the international price of crude oil improved significantly.”
An Ife indigene, Adekunle Idowu, quoted a palace chief as saying that since Aje Festival came to limelight, industries had started springing up, small and medium scale businesses had started improving. He enthused that hotels and other hospitality businesses had witnessed a huge patronage, thereby boosting the economy of the town and the state:
“The Ife Grand Resorts and Conference Centre built by our monarch, the Ooni, is a major improvement in the hospitality sector in Ife. Petty traders are making more sales motivated by the surging human traffic to the festival. This is due to the cultural tourism revolution and other developmental programmes that our Kabiyesi has put in place. He repackaged the Aje festival. What we are witnessing in the reign of Ooni Ogunwusi is a redefinition of monarchy.”
In a remark, Oba Ogunwusi believed that Africa’s survival rested heavily on the sustainability of the culture and tradition of the people. He called on the people and the government to collectively cherish and develop the culture and tradition for economic advancement.
He added that Nigeria was abundantly blessed with a rich culture and tourism potentials capable of turning the country’s economy around. He called on the people to maximize the potentialities:
“As Christians or Muslims, we all need to respect our cultural heritage. In 2017, we prayed during the Aje Festival and we centered our prayers on the economic recession. Within one week, we surprisingly experienced dollar crash from about N480 to N350. This year, we have prayed again and very soon, the economy will improve tremendously.
“Aje is the spirit of market profitability. That is why its festival is very important to all humanity because nobody can survive without it. If we do business, profit is expected. If you work you expect stipends.” He urged the youths to be industrious to fulfill their destinies and not to take short-cut route to success that would not last.
Oba Ogunwusi who is the co-chairman of National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN), also called on youths to be agents of peace and should never engage in brigandage during the forthcoming governorship election in the state. He prayed for the peace and progress of Ile-Ife, the state, Nigeria, Africa and the world over:
“Don’t let politicians use you for thuggery or election violence as you too can be in their positions if you discover your potentials and remain focused. As we are gathered here today to celebrate Aje Festival of wealth, the Almighty Olodumare (God) will answer our prayers. He would give us abundant peace and economic progress in Ile-Ife, the State of Osun, the entire Nigeria, Africa and the world at large:”
Iyalaje of Apapa, Lagos, and the chief promoter of the festival, Princess Toyin Kolade, noted that Yoruba culture was too rich to be ignored. She enjoined Nigerians to value their cultural heritage rather than ignoring it in preference for foreign culture and religion.
Veteran Yoruba actress, Mrs. Idowu Philips aka Mama Rainbow who led other Nollywood actors and actresses to the festival, eulogised the Ooni for his strides, especially in peace initiatives and cultural tourism revolution. She urged traditional rulers in Yoruba land to emulate the Ooni’s virtues in cultural, traditional and economic development.