The annual celebration of Oranyan in the ancient town of Oyo, no doubt had left sweet memories on the minds of Yoruba sons and daughters, who were excited to attend the week-long heritage festival being hosted by the late Alaafin of Oyo, Oba (Dr.) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi 111.
The annual event celebrates the culture and tradition of Oyo, especially its first Alaafin, Alaafin Oranyan.
It is noteworthy to laud and appreciate the late Alaafin for initiating the move to unite the Yoruba nation through the festival.
Historically, the life and political career of the legendary founder, Oranyan, provided a template for an effective political system or statecraft, empire building and mass political participation.
Oranyan was an astute political leader, who inspite of all odds, created a most enduring political system in the sub-Saharan Africa.
The archetypal monarchy embroidered with central authority was a product of the wizardry of Oranyan, who left the cradle of Yoruba consciousness to create a system of government whose effectiveness, creativity, relevance, suitability and appropriateness is not in doubt even in contemporary Nigeria.
What Oranyan did was to create a system and not personal autocracy, pointing out that if it was a structure built around him, it probably would have collapsed immediately after his death.
It was indeed, a structure built on a solid foundation of ideas and the best of Yoruba knowledge system, hence its capacity to endure the vicissitudes of time.
The festival was held annually to celebrate the leadership qualities of Oranyan, who established an enduring political structure for civil and military administration in Africa.
It is also to call attention to Yoruba contribution to civilisation as empire builders long before the dawn of political sophistication in other parts of the world.
It goes beyond mere celebration and veneration of our heroes past, but lubricating the tunnels of harmony, ignite the touch of unity and fester peace among the Yoruba race.
It is also to immortalise and showcase to the whole world the deeds and worth of an enigmatic Oranyan, one of the seven sons of Okanbi, the son of Oduduwa, who was the ”first Oba in Yoruba-land to establish an enduring empire, which spread beyond its dialectical region and lasted more than 600 uninterrupted years!”
According to the late Paramount Ruler, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi in an Exclusive chat, “while other great nations celebrate their heroes by showcasing their glorious past, Africans do not give much reference to theirs just because of the super-imposition of the two religions, Islam and Christianity and the etching of their sermons and creeds into the consciousness of Africans psyche, which have conditioned “our sense of appreciation and thinking, thereby making us see and read fetishism and primitiveness as the hallmark of our tradition and culture.
“It is within this prism that we used to picture our past heroes and great men of valour and virtues, who should be venerated, immortalised while their deeds, acts and wise sayings compiled, documented, reserved and preserved for generations yet unborn,” he said.
The late Monarch stressed the need for cultural tourism, which he said, is important in boosting the country’s economy and serve as a way of diversifying it from oil.
He said there is a strong need to shift focus from oil to tourism.
The Royal Father who called for more commitment to cultural promotion, urged Yoruba to eschew betrayal and join hands to promote its cultural heritage for economic advantage.
He admonished politicians to emulate the sterling qualities of Oranyan, which made him a successful builder of many states and originator of progressive ideas.
Also speaking on the importance of the festival, Vice–Chairman of the Festival Committee, Bishop Lawrence Ayo Ladigbolu said: “The Alaafin-in-Council and the entire Oyo Mesi have consecrated the festival week to all children of Oranyan, the first Alaafin of Oyo home and in the Diaspora to commune together in a convivial atmosphere and ambience of love, celebrate their past glory, rejuvenate their cultural inheritance and essence, as well as showcase their uniqueness of values.”
However right thinking Yoruba should feel concern about how Yoruba cultures are under threat, and in fact being pushed beyond their limits of tolerance in manners that suggest danger.
While Yoruba language gives the ability to think differently and retain the mentality, its total abandonment brings total dislocation and loss of identity.
Yoruba culture is not static, and at the same time,
every generation tries to preserve aspects of the indigenous tradition.
This effort is counterbalanced by the pragmatic
desire of the Yoruba to appropriate change in the garb of tradition.
According to the late IKu Baba Yeye,, culture as viable tool of development are under-estimated and not annexed even when the Americans and European Union (EU) are doing everything possible to annex their many cultures
for national and regional sustainable development drive.
Alafin was also of the conviction that language is a very key cultural identical, pointing out that this is why culture is sometime categorized along language groups.
Said he, ‘’all the ethnic and language groupings in the country have deep rooted traditional background and established oral traditions in proverbs. They communicate through proverbs when serious issues are to be discussed and meaning are to be made and instructions passed with non-controversial implications’’.
*Bode Durojaiye is the Director of Media and Publicity to the Alaafin of Oyo.