Text of an address by Otunba Gani Adams at the grand finale of 2015 Olokun Festival held at Suntan Beach, Seme-Badagry Expressway, Lagos.
Permit me to begin this address as tradition demands of us as Yoruba people to give due respect and acknowledgement at all occasions and at all times.
The reason for this is the belief that those who fail to pay due respect to those they met must necessarily forfeit being welcomed.
In order of acknowledgement, none deserve being respected and worshipped first and foremost than OLODUMARE, the omnipotent, omnipresence, our creator and everlasting God. Following OLODUMARE, we acknowledge the over two hundred gods and goddess (Okanlelugba Irunmole) appointed by HIM to administer the entire universe.
We also remember the akoda and the aseda. Permit us to also pay due respect to the manifestations of all spirits (both benevolent and malevolent) and the representatives of other unseen forces that dwell on earth in different forms and influence human conducts. We have done paid these homages to court their blessings and avert their annoyance. On behalf of the Olokun Festival Foundation, I also pay homage to all our royal fathers and chiefs that have come from far and near to dignify us with their presence and be part of the 2015 Obatala Festival. Without diminishing the values of the presence of all our guests, I welcome everyone to the grand finale of this year’s Olokun festival.
Our Royal Majesties, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the culture of religious observances and traditional festival celebrations hold a pride of place and are held sacrosanct by Yoruba people. Among our people, the respect for deities anchored on the belief in their importance permeates all facets of the religious rites of the Yoruba. Likewise the veneration of these deities through festival celebrations calls our attention to their significance in sustaining unity, peace and prosperity in our communities.
In Yoruba religious belief, the Orishas are next to OLODUMARE, the Almighty God. They act as ministers and assist the Omnipotent, Omniscience and Omnipresence superintend over the earth and the activities of human beings. As a result of this pride of place they occupy in our cosmos, they are venerated, respected and celebrated. We do this to court their blessings and avert their annoyance.
Our Royal Majesties Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the word Olokun is derived from oni-okun (meaning the owner the sea). Olokun is the sea-god or “Lord of the Sea”. Olokun is the chief god of not only fishermen and everyone whose livelihood is eked from the sea; he is the principal deity of everyone that lives close to the sea. He is the Orisha entrusted with the care of the sea which is major source of water and economic survival for mankind.
Olokun Festival is the flagship of all the programmes organized by the Olokun Festival Foundation.
This however is not to say that we pay less attention and premium to other festival celebrations organized by us.
To us, all traditional festivals are important. As part of activities for today’s grand celebration, only last night, we had the Olosa night in celebration of the importance of Olosa (the goddess of the lagoon).
Several reasons informed the choice of Olokun Festival and its grand finale in particular as the flagship of all traditional festivities organized by us. Part of the reasons we celebrate this festival is the name Olokun itself. The word Olokun is its universal. In Edo language, Olokun is Olokun. In Urhoboland, particularly in Okpe, Olokun is Olukun. Among the Igbo, Olokun is Mmuo Mmili or Eze nwaanyi Mmili. Olokun is known as Ndem Mmo among the Efik and the Ibibio. In Gaa language in Ghana, Olokun is Farr Ingmo. Beyond Africa, Olokun and its festival is celebrated in the Diaspora. Olokun is among the belief treasures of the Yoruba that survived among the descendants of enslaved Africans in the Americas.
Like in these places, Olokun is widely held as the deity in charge of the seas and oceans. You would therefore agree with me that irrespective of the location or clime, Okun and Olokun are concepts that pervade and unify the entire globe. You would also agree with me that no deity or festivity linked the Yoruba to its Diaspora particularly in the Americas as the Olokun festival. Consequently, our decision to foster the global visibility of Yoruba culture is another important reason for our investment in Olokun festival. On the whole, the celebration of Olokun festival represent our people’s way of giving thanks for its benevolence, seeking forgiveness for our sins in past years, and praying for favour and blessings of the goddess.
Our decision to promote Olokun festival through its celebration is further informed by the growing need to call attention to the development of the numerous water bodies and the benefits they can confer on our quests for socio-economic development. Olokun festival has the huge potential of promoting global peace, unity and economic prosperity. Festivity of this nature provides an atmosphere for socio-cultural and business interaction.
As you can see and would agree with me, this festival has drawn people from different parts of the world. The presence of this mammoth crowd is good for the development of tourism as an alternative revenue earner for our country. The presence of people from different countries here today is a magnet that can attract the anticipated foreign investment that continues to dominate our desire for national economic growth and development.
Based on these reasons and the advantages the celebration of Olokun Festival could confer, the Foundation carefully chose “Traditional Festival and the Prospect of Cultural Dividend” as the theme of this year’s festival. Our careful choice of this theme also informs the choice of Professor Muyiwa Falaiye, the current Dean Faculty of Arts at the University of Lagos to address it.
Our Royal Majesties Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, several reasons drive our choice of theme for this year’s celebration. We are encouraged to choose this theme based on the realization that cultural and religious tourism can augment and provide alternative revenue source for our ailing economy. As you all know, our country, Nigeria is blessed with abundant resources. Part of these resources is our religious and cultural festivals. They are capable of drawing tourists which in turn would translate to attracting the foreign exchange required for economic growth, development and wealth. Organization of festivals and cultural activities would bring more financial gain to communities and the country at large.
Our traditional festivals can also be a used tool of cultural Diplomacy. In a world that is fast appreciating and showing preference for the use of soft and persuasive power rather than futile resort to strong arm tactics and gun boat diplomacy, our religious and cultural festivals given their wide acceptance and practice in the Americas are capable of improving Nigeria respect and influence in the world. They represent positive aspects of the Nigerian story that can improve our image. Our religious and cultural festivals can serve as a good medium to change negative mindsets against our people and about our environment.
Our Royal Majesties Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, our plans to develop our economy through cultural tourism must accommodate promoting our traditional festivals. This is because our traditional festivals represents and encompass those arts, culture and historical heritages that can attract and promote cultural tourism.
Our Royal Majesties Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, without preempting the submission of our distinguished lecturer today, it is my hope that at the end of this lecture, we would be attracted to the limitless opportunities our traditional festivals offers our quest for growth and development. This lecture, I am sure, will help identify and illuminate those opportunities.
Permit me to end this address by thanking our royal majesties, government officials and distinguished guest lecturer for your presence at the grand finale of this year’s Olokun Festival. I acknowledge the support of our partners, all of whom in one way or the other contributed to the success of today’s programme. We thank you all for your support and material contributions. We are indeed humbled by your responses to our clarion call.
I thank everyone especially our friends of the fourth estate of the realm for creating time to be here in order to give wide coverage to this event. We feel highly honoured by your distinguished presence.
Our Royal fathers, distinguished ladies, gentlemen, I sincerely welcome you all to this occasion.
Otunba (Dr) Gani Adams
National Coordinator, Oodua People’s Congress
Chief Promoter, Olokun Festival Foundation,
Chairman, Gani Adams Foundation,
Convener, Oodua Progressive Union