We want to make Okota festival UNESCO world heritage – Gani Adams
from BAMIGBOLA GBOLAGUNTE, Akure
Arigidi-Akoko in Akoko North East Local Government Area of Ondo State is with rich cultural values with many prominent spiritualists. It is the hometown of the founder of the Synagogue Church of all Nations, Prophet Temitope Joshua and the National Co-ordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams.
One major thing that stands it out is that no woman is allowed to see masquerades. Any woman who ventures to see such, according to the tradition, will die instantly.
In Arigidi-Akoko, hardly is there any day that the people do not celebrate a traditional festival. According to Prince Adekunle Olanipekun, the people came from Ile-Ife and settled in Benin. But they moved from Benin and settled in the present day Arigidi town in 1819.
There were festivals celebrated by the people before Christianity and Islam were introduced. Among the festivals was Agbogbo, usually celebrated after the harvest of yam. It was also used as calendar for other traditional occasions.
Another festival celebrated with pump is Aborogi masquerade. It is used to entertain during Agbogbo festival. It was the Aborogi that would open the floor before others could follow suit. It would would proceed to the Oba’s palace before moving to the chiefs’ homes.
As the masquerade moves around, it is a taboo for woman set eye on it. Oral tradition insists that the consequence for such a woman is instant death. Olanipekun listed other masquerades to include Ele, Egun Ede, Koromomo, Awooye, Adifa, Peleke, Aromusewa and Takotabo. They also worship idols such as Illiben, Omoradiye, Iyorobi, Okota and Ediyo.
Over the years, the new yam festival metamorphosed into what is known today as the Arigidi Day. There is also the Okota annual festival. Adams said at this year’s festival that Okota is a river goddess with several attributes comparable to the Osun goddess, another powerful and benevolent river goddess:
“Let me use this opportunity to educate those of us who are still in the dark about the essence and significance of Okota festival and its relevance to national development. The festival was inspired by the highly benevolent Okota goddess, who generations of Arigidi-Akoko and faithful from near and distant places regard as harbinger of goodwill, as well as a major source of refuge during the pre-colonial era.
“Okota goddess is a highly revered deity among credited with potent supernatural powers. Oral tradition has it that while barren women were provided with fruits of the womb, afflicted persons received healing after drinking the water from Okota River.”
Adams said though the Okota Festival has not reached its destination yet: “But I am happy to inform you that there are indications that we are on the right path and that we are beginning to triumph over all the challenges as we remain focused on taking Okota Festival to higher places.
“I have no doubt in my mind that the benefits that can be derived from cultural festival, especially in the area of national development and unity can not be quantified.
“Since we started Okota Festival, Arigidi-Akoko and indeed, Ondo State, has witnessed a huge turnout of tourists, from both local and foreign places, who come to witness a truly cultural festival.
“It has also provided a veritable platform for us as sons and daughters of this great town and our friends from across Yoruba land to showcase our cultural values and traditional heritages.”
He assured the people that efforts are on to ensure that Okota Festival is listed by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), as a world heritage centre:
“Let me also call on the Government of Ondo State to join hands with us in this onerous task of cultural evangelism to draw the attention of the world to our state and make it tourists’ number one destination. I believe Okota festival has all it takes to create the necessary awareness about the tourist potential of Ondo State.”