Between August 17 and 26, the ancient town of Oyo played host to a good number of Yoruba culture enthusiasts and promoters including researchers from around the world. The event was the World Sango Festival, an annual event repackaged in 2017. TUNDE BUSARI reports.
Soon after it was formally flagged off on August 17, a variety of events showcasing Yoruba culture and tradition characterised the 2017 edition of the World Sango Festival held in the ancient town of Oyo.
Indeed, the palace of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Olayiwola Adeyemi was a place to be where those events took place, drawing lovers of culture to the expansive field near the main entrance of the palace.
A delegate from Brazil attended the festival with Brazil national flag to formalize their presence. There were also devotees of Sango from other countries who also expressed their delight to have returned to their root, the home of Sango.
Appearing in different Yoruba attires, the foreigners undoubtedly connected well with the events as they sang and dance to the rhythm of traditional music played by drummers, especially during cultural performances.
A Brazillian, Fernando Ferraz, a Sango devotee, Fernando Ferraz, said he and his group had arrived Oyo in the past two weeks and witnessed the beginning of the festival on August 17 to underscore their commitment to their faith in Sango, otherwise called god of thunder.
“We are here to join our people to celebrate our cultural heritage and tradition, besides, we have also been able to reconnect to the spirit of Sango, and learn more about African tradition which we practice over there. Back in our country, we don’t joke with our traditional belief because we believe it is our essence of existence,” he noted.
Therefore, the first beneficiaries of the show were hotels where those foreigners and local guests from Lagos and Ibadan had lodged throughout the week-long event.
Retailers of traditional items such as all kinds of beads also explored the occasion to display and sell their wares to the attendees of the festivals from different destinations. Same goes to artists who mass produced T-shirts, caps, including commemorative calendars and other souvenirs and made good fortunes.
The grand finale on August 26 rounded off the festival and lived up to its status for recording a large gathering of eminent personalities from far and near to Oyo.
Nigerian Tribune gathered that Sango was the third Alaafin of Oyo whose reign was marked by tremendous success in expanding the frontier of Oyo Empire owing to his unrivalled strength in the art of war.
Sango succeeded his elder brother, Ajaka, the second Alaafin and was reputed for effortlessly emitting fire from mouth and smoke from his nostril, an unprecedented attribute that set him apart and accorded him a special chapter in the history of Oyo traditional rulers.
The current Alaafin, Oba Adeyemi (III) recalled that Sango was the first physicist to have emerged from the black race; also known for his double-edged axe, representing his propensity for justice among his chiefs and subjects.
Oba Adeyemi affirmed that the life of Alaafin Sango was a life of justice and fair play in his domain and beyond. That attribute, the monarch stressed, had earned Sango more respect such that the fear of him was the beginning of wisdom.
“Alaafin Sango was a gift to Yoruba nay Africa because he was the greatest physician that has ever lived. He was blessed with the capacity to draw energy from lighting and use that power to protect his subjects. When Ajaka became Alaafin the tradition was that Alaafin would go to war every three years. That was called war of expansion. The Alaafin must expand Oyo territory beyond how he met it with a view to spreading Yoruba culture, influence the Ghana. During his reign, more territories fell under Oyo Empire.
“He was also a great benevolence of mankind and also an unbiased judge. All these and his many great exploits gave us the confidence that he is one of the ancestors that deserved to be appreciated through this type of celebration. This festival is a reminder of the need to emulate his good deeds to promote a just and fair society that is devoid of crisis and manipulations. The Alaafin Sango’s no-nonsense life was a source of strength for Oyo during and after his reign,” he said.
Although a variety of activities including live performances were witnessed at the grand finale, a cultural troupe from Kwara State left a lasting impression with its scintillating live performance of the legendary Sango and is acts.
Foreign culture enthusiasts who attended the event
The showing which was appreciated by wild ovation, did not miss the sight of Oba Adeyemi, who could not but rise from his seat to throw some Naira notes at the man who relived the physical and spiritual composition of Sango.
Their dance drama betrayed their North-Central geo-political zone regarded as part of Northern Nigeria habited by the non-Yoruba ethnic groups. While reviewing the performance, the Alaafin told the audience that the troupe had asserted their culture as true sons and daughters of Yoruba.
The performance, Oba Adeyemi stated, showed the power of Sango as a strong character, adding that the Governor of Kwara State, AbdulFatai Ahmed deserved applause for promoting Yoruba culture in a cultural diversified state as Kwara.
“Governor Ahmed has impressed me in this regard and I pray for him to achieve more success. I enjoyed the performance of the cultural troupe. That was why I left my seat to appreciate the man who acted Sango with naira notes. It was a beautiful performance. They call Kwara state of harmony and it reflects in what we saw in the cultural troupe. No ethnic group disturbs another in the state. Each goes about its culture as it pleases them. That is how it should be when we want peaceful co-existence devoid of one attempting to impose its culture over others,” he said.
The Kwara State troupe, however, did not totally outshine other Sango performers from Ede, Saki, Ogbomosho and even Oyo. Each of the troupes also gave a good account for itself in different styles of presentation which offered the audience varieties and further established the richness of Yoruba cultural heritage. The gelede dancers from Oke-Ogun treated the crowd with their dramatic dances which appeared like mockery of real life situation.
All the performances were preceded by paying of homage to the Alaafin by different groups and individuals who went down on their chests and kneels before the monarch in the traditional greeting of the Yorubas. Oba Adeyemi responded with prayer for them and their families and Oyo town as a whole.
While the regular security operatives like the Police and Department of State Security (DSS) took charge of the arena, local vigilante group also provided complimentary service apparently because of their familiarity to the nooks and crannies of the premises. Their combination yielded desired result as no case of crime was reported before our reporter left the venue after the Alaafin had led his guests out of the stage.
“I am not surprised that no criminal was arrested. It is only a criminal under a spell would come to this place to steal anything. The Alaafin’s palace is not an ordinary place anybody can just visit. Even despite the crowd, there are some measures in place that would not allow criminals to succeed here. That has always been the tradition,” one Yisa Adio, an indigene of Oyo said.
Aside the impregnable security arrangement, the presence of the National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), OtunbaGani Adams, who sat beside the Alaafin, brought a pocket of OPC members to the venue, a development which made crime a misadventure at the occasion.
Accompanied to Oyo by a group of associates including Chief Femi Davies, the Nollywood star, YomiFash-Lanso, Adams in his usual white flowing agbada, applauded Oba Adeyemi for the repackaged Sango Festival, promising his continued respect for the traditional ruler.
Also the chief promoter of Olokun Festival Foundation (OFF), Adams played up the economic importance of the festival to the people of the host town insisting that the government had no choice than to develop more tourism potentials with a view to increasing the internally generated revenue.
‘I am also calling on our royal fathers to borrow a leaf from the Iku Baba Yeye and also take cultural festivals in their domain more serious because it is high time the Yoruba nation impressed it upon the world that we can live without oil. It is high time we told them that we are not lazy. It is high time we showed that we have more than enough cultural heritages that can bring in foreign exchange to further develop Yoruba nation,” he said.
A member of the House of Representatives, Hakeem Adeyemi, disclosed that the legislative is collaborating with the executive to develop culture as tourism potentials.
“I am sure with time we shall get there, we have started and gradually we will get into a stage where millions of Dollars will be generated through cultural promotion and tourism,’ he said.
A Yoruba Culture Promoter, MrSayoAlagbe said celebrating Sango festival in Oyo is more than a cultural carnival. It is, he said, a reconnection with the history of the town on account of the status of Sango as the Alaafin of Oyo.
Alagbe also awarded excellent mark for Oba Adeyemi for repackaging the festival to a tourism product being patronized by foreigners, reminding the Yorubas on the need to take their rightful place in cultural reawakening of their people noted for having rich heritage.
“I have said it everywhere I go that there is no ethnic group that is as blessed as Yoruba in terms of cultural values. Unfortunately, we are losing these values for the imported ones, some of which insult our sensibilities. I am working on two books as my own contribution to bring out these values of Yoruba.
He said that the festival had nothing to do with rituals and sacrifice but a celebration and get-together of the people who share the same belief system.
The coordinator of the festival who doubles as the cultural Ambassador to the Alaafin Paula Gomez promised another big festival in the next edition in 2018. The Portuguese said the place of traditional religion on her heart is large, adding that series of researches she had conducted had shown she was on the right track.
While commending the attendees at the festival, she urged traditional religion worshippers to align with the palace template to package traditional religion well to earn the respect of foreign devotees.
According to her, the essence of formally registering the Traditional Religion Worshippers Association on July 11, 2014 at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) under the number RC 70064, was to that effect.
Headquartered in the palace, the association is said to be funded by the Alaafin to unite all the traditional orisa communities under one umbrella.
“The aims are to preserve the traditional Yoruba religion in its essence, maintain the values, ethics and respect as well as to rescue the pride of the traditional community project and revitalize the heritage in order to transfer knowledge from generation to generation,” she explained.
Oba Adeyemi said he would stop at nothing to draw the attention of global audience to the sanctity of Oyo as the home of Yoruba modern civilization as demonstrated by Sango. He therefore called on the like minds to work together in ensuring his vision is achieved in his lifetime.
“Sango is our own and we must do everything possible to make the festival an attraction to more foreigners. I am assuring you that the success recorded this year will further market it to more foreigners,” he said.