Friday, 19 April 2013 00:00
Residential buildings, some of them, built over a hundred years ago, lined the lone road that snakes through the ancient city.
Old men and women, some holding walking sticks taller than their frail, bending, physique and some accosted by their siblings, formed a sight of the crowd that besieged Adeniran Museum and Gallery, home of the Adenirans, christened “Ile Olowoye”, in Iresi, Osun State where Oyeladeniran Foundation for Community Development held its annual Iresi Socio-Cultural Festival. The three day event which kicked off with a musical night climaxed with a night out the second day to usher participants as well as the entire community into the New Year.
The OFCOD was established to celebrate Late Pa and Mrs Adeniran Awoniyi who were said to have been role models in the communities where they lived in the course of their sojourn on earth. The sole aim of the foundation, according to the festival coordinator, Debo Adeniran, is therefore to reawaken the socio-cultural heritage of the Adeniran family, Iresi community as well as that of the Yoruba nation which is believed to have propelled their forebears to utilize the value of self worth to engage in self help that galvanized them to became self reliant without resorting to fraudulent practices and corruption that is now endemic and controls the sensibilities of the teeming youths. Debo is the Executive Chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL).
Created 812 years ago, a visit into the ancient town of Iresi reveals that it is a community that has suffered untold neglect in the past. Almost all the houses that dominated the community are ramshackle. Their rusty roof assaults the face as you move round the rocky town where teenagers and adolescents exhibits wanton disregard to decorum. No one needs any conviction that this is a community where culture is already bidding farewell to a teeming youths that have no place for it. And it is as a result of this that OFCOD presents itself as a timely voice to salvage a race that is fast declining in the lane of the rich culture that once formed the symbol of the community.
“This town was founded in 1200 AD and ever since then; we have been living peacefully together. In the area of culture, Iresi is known to be strict observer of laid down law and order. We have how we do our things and we have been following this until civilization crept in to erode many things.
This has not been a good experience because things are no longer working the way it used to be. I am particularly happy and my hope is raised with the concept being brought forward by the Oyeladeniran Foundation for Community Development to revisit our culture with a view to aligning it with modern realities,” says His Royal Majesty, Oba Sikiru Ibiloye, the Oluresi of Iresi.
According to him, though it is true that the community has witnessed a dose of neglect in the past, hope abounds that there are better days ahead with the positive gesture towards development by some indigenes as well as the incumbent government of Osun State, led by Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. These better days will not be completed without the king having a befitting palace to go with his title. Currently, the king dwells in an ancient palace with space not enough to contain the traditional artifacts expected in the abode of a renowned Oba like the Oluresi. Though, the town has taken the initiative to build an ultra-modern palace for the king, development on the building is intermittently being stunted by lack of fund, making the completion of the palace fast becoming a mirage.
However, the dull atmosphere that enveloped the ancient community came alive on the eve of the OFCOD event when local musicians were given the opportunity to display their talents by the organizers at the Olowoye compound. It was a night of fun as the youthful Fuji musicians took turn to display their talents.
Children and teenagers gathered on the lone road to listen to the lyrics as well as applaud their favorites in a show that also featured some superiority context amongst a handful of others who used their songs to assert their assumed class and even went ahead to condemn those they feel is challenging their status. The show had to be concluded early enough to give time for relaxation for the kick off of the major event the following morning.
The kick off day was a carnival of sort. The entire youth in the sprawling community of Iresi defied church bells that were ringing at various points to gather at the Olowoye Compound for a combined jog to the take off point at Orita Igbajo where about 200 youths comprising male and female are to race to Oke-Ode, Iresi, a distant of about 6 kilometers. From the Olowoye compound, the crowd was a mish mash of the good, the bad and the ugly.
While some trimmed youths dressed smartly in sports dress with sneakers to suit the athletic exercise, some men, almost approaching fifty don various shades of flabby dresses and were bent on participating in the event even when they did not comply with the mandatory free registration that preceded the contest. Okanlawon, 43, clad in Ankara sewn into a “buba and sokoto” is one of this set of people who out of desperation to contest at the eleventh hour provided the needed comic relief for the hectic exercise.
Okanlawon, it was learnt, got wind that OFCOD would be going a step further in the2012 event to give cash reward to winners in the activities lined up for the festival as he was returning to bed. He looked at the time and it was 10:14 pm. This time in a place like Iresi is too late a time to go into any negotiation concerning a sporting event that is billed to kick off the following morning. He lied down uneasily waiting for the first cock to crow in the morning to see if he could still wriggle out a last minute registration.
Not minding the flabby dress he put on, he rushed out of his room that morning and headed straight for Olowoye compound where he approached Mrs Kehinde Adeniran-Adigun, family secretary, of his intention to participate in the contest. But because the number on hand had already surpassed what was anticipated by the organizers, Okanlawon’s desire could not be met.
For Mrs Adeniran-Adigun to have even granted such request is dangerous considering the age and physique of Okanlawon whose look tells of a man who is just recovering from the batters of alcohol and seemingly malnourished. “We are through with registration and I don’t think you can even be registered if there were chances considering your age and the fact that you don’t look like somebody that is prepared for the contest judging by your mode of dressing,” she had politely responded.
If Okanlawon would agree that his dressing did not conform to the ones adorned by other youths around him, he was certainly not going to accept that he was spent and could not compete with the youths. The opportunity to prove this presented itself as the ambulance and other vehicles to accost the racers proceeded from the Olowoye compound to the take off point at Orita Igbajo with the officials.
Knowing that the officials were already seated and were heading for the take off point which is a distance of about 4 kilometers, Okanlawon began a race with the vehicles in a show of prove that he was still agile and fit for the contest. He actually made it to the point ahead of the vehicles that conveyed the officials and the band that were to accost the athletes.
But fatigue set in at the end of the race. Okanlawon went dazed and fell down like a log of wood. It took the frantic effort of participants who were at the point ahead of the officials to revive him. At the take off time, he was still gasping for breath under a tree’s shade in bid to gain full recovery.
The Marathon race went well with no casualty.
At the end of the contest, Ismaila Oladapo came top while Bode Odewale and Akinrinade Michael came second and third respectively. It was Akinrinade Michael that came top in the mountaineering race. According to some of Oladapo’s peers who spoke to Nigerian Compass, he has been a rare talent in sports. From football to athletics, he was said to have carved a niche for himself.
The entire community spoke of him as an exemplary sportsman with natural talents. “You don’t need to push him before he put in his best when it comes to sporting activities. At the start of the Marathon race, any follower of Ismaila will know that he is going to come top because he has been engaging himself in tasks harder than this even when there is no competition in which anything would be won. This is just a past time to him,” says one of the competitors in the early morning Marathon race.
The sports events gave way for an inter-lineal cultural competition which commenced 5:00 pm and spanned to the night. At the cultural event, the Iresi people in their different lineage and groups displayed their interests, knowledge, talents and skills in dressing, music, dance, drama, poetry, speech making, trade, foods, arts and crafts. In all, eight groups featured in the display of oral poetry and dance. The local hunters group was first to take the stage and was followed by the ancient Agbe group, Ifelodun group, Ajegunle group, Solabomi group, Omolere group, Orebe group and Ogundele olusegun, an Ewi (Yoruba poetry) exponent took their turns thereafter.
The groups were in their best and the crowd in the Ebekun Town Hall where the event took place was spell bound throughout the sessions. At last, the Agbe group came top as a result of its unrivaled coordination and a unique dance steps to match their Agbe output. The group was followed by the Ajegunle Group which came second while the local hunters group came third.
The last day’s event was attended by the Osun State governor Rauf Aregbesola as is the tradition. A paper tagged “Reinventing socio-cultural practices as means of sustaining individual and communal economy,” delivered by Prof. Samuel Ayodele of the Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Ikeji-Arakeji, in Osun State was an eye opener for a people whose youths are already becoming oblivion of the rich and safeguarding customs that have been channeling the course of the community over the years.
If OFCOD’s aim is to impact discipline to the youths of Iresi and re-oxygenate the dying rich culture of the people, then it is achieving this faster than anticipated. Many of the youths who spoke to Nigerian Compass after the event could not hide their joy and satisfaction since the commencement of the festival in 2011. According to them, OFCOD has brought hope to them where they thought only despair exists.
Oladapo who won the Marathon race said it is now he knows that his talent can push him to limelight if more hard work is thrown into it. “Nobody ever think that a day will come when one of our indigenes will deem it fit to come and do talents search such as this. We shall for ever be grateful to Comrade Debo Adeniran for this initiative and shall for ever remain ardent supporters of OFCOD through which this landmark discovery is being unfolded.”
The event closed with a traditional night out where only traditional dresses are allowed.
Members of the community also came with lineal traditional food. They danced themselves to daylight in an event they wished should have a rewind. But since everything that has a beginning must surely end, the band stopped the music seized and the curtain for the 2012 Oyeladeniran socio-cultural festival was drawn. All eyes are again fixed for another edition, this year, when the youths will once again have the opportunity to gather together in love and at the same time have their talents propped up.