Ijakadi: Offa stands still for royal wrestling bout

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History of Offa, Offa Local Government Area of Kwara State would be incomplete without a mention of Ijakadi festival, which had since turned a rallying point for Offa indigenes. The ancient town was agog last Saturday when all and sundry converged for the eight edition of the annual festival. AHMED ‘LATEEF was there.

When Olofa of Offa, Oba Mufutau Okikiola Muhammed Gbadamosi Esuwoye II engaged  Eesa of Offa, High Chief Yunus Wale Bukoye, in a mock wrestling bout at the eight edition of Ijakadi festival, it was reminiscent of the historical antecedents that spawned the wresting in the first instance.

The battle royal began with a warring song from the supporters of Eesa, the second in command to Olofa in hierarchical order, who vowed to deal with Olofa in the contest. The song was accompanied with drumming and orchestra, which apparently prompted Eesa to the contest ground, who warned Olofa to be ready for his imminent defeat.

As if that was not enough, Eesa challenged the monarch to a fight with a stern warning to give the latter a good run for whatever resources he intended to deploy provided he could come out to the arena carved out for the contest.

Olofa stunned the audience when he asked the drummers, who hitherto drummed for his opponent to distance themselves from him since they seemed to have supported him while he was challenging to the wrestling bout.

While the contest was about to commence, Olofa sounded a note of warning to Eesa to either capitulate or announce voluntary withdrawal from the bout. Oba Gbadamosi said “It had never happened in the history where the back of a cat touches the ground”.

Apparently not ready to surrender, the monarch subsequently engaged the Eesa in the battle royal until the high chief legs slipped and around 12:42pm, the Olofa was pronounced winner of the mock wrestling.

The contest was of the numerous scenes in the festival, which attracted large number of Offa indigenes to the ancient town on one hand and the Olofa township stadium where the ceremony took place on another hand.

Taking into account series of attempts to rewrite or distort history of different ancient communities in Africa, the people of Offa unanimously posited that 14th century Ijakadi festival was revived to promote and preserve the genuineness of their culture for economic gains.

Historically, the mock wrestling bout between Olofa and Eesa is a reenactment of the age long story of two brothers, who engaged each other in a prolonged wrestling duel as a result of their disagreement over a missing tuber of yam. Both had gone to the farm and excavated three tubers of yam apiece.

An account has it that on their way home, the brothers stopped at a fast flowing river to wash the yams and also take their bath. At the end of the exercise, one tuber of yam was missing, perhaps washed off by the river current.

Argument ensued between the brothers as to whose tuber of yam was missing; this further led to a wrestling duel, which lasted for long until an old man came around and took the two before Olofa.

In his regal wisdom, the then monarch invited his marksman to cut the fifth yam into equal halves while being blindfolded to ensure equity. Olofa thereafter asked the feuding brothers whether the tuber of yam was shared equally and to which they responded that it was shared equally.

The word equity loosely translated as ‘Laare’ in Yoruba has since become the moral compass for all indigenes of Offa in their various undertakings and wherever they may find themselves.

Consequently, the symbolic victory of Olofa against Eesa during the bout is said to be a constant reminder of the former authority of the town while the latter would always advance excuses for his defeat.

The festival, held annually in December, is a meeting point for indigenes from all walks of life and coincides with the eating of the new yam characterised by the cutting of the yam into two halves, which is referred to as equity.

The Ijakadi, which reinforces a tradition that abhors laziness and docility but encourages strength and determination and thus, showcasing a culture that projects equality among the indigenes and between Olofa and his subjects.

However, what would remain evergreen in the minds of Offa indigenes was the physical presence of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State described as first of its kind in the history of the festival.

The attendance of the Governor in the communal festival was also historic with his early arrival even before the commencement of the ceremony.

Olofa of Offa acknowledged the punctuality of the Governor when he told the gathering that he had to start making phone calls to High Chiefs and other stakeholders of Offa that the Governor had arrived at the venue while awaiting the arrival of others.

Not only that, the revered monarch said the festival being the eight edition, Governor AbdulRazaq was the first Governor to honour the people of Offa with his presence in the history of Ijakadi festival.

He informed that the aims of the festival, amongst others, were to reposition the cultural heritage of the people of Offa, which had been abandoned for many years.

Olofa stressed the need for youth to resuscitate and imbibe the culture of equity and justice inherited from the forefathers of Offa for the purpose of appreciating the norm of survival of the fittest as they grow up in their various fields of endeavour.

“The culture of equity and justice as passed down by our forefathers needed to be resuscitated and imbibed by our teeming youth for the purpose of appreciating the norm of survival of the fittest as they grow up in their various fields of endeavour.

“A more important point is to foster peaceful coexistence in Offa community in particular and its environs as a whole. There is no gainsaying that an event of this nature is not only for the building of rapport and reinforcing bonds between the citizenry, reflecting on contemporary values but also for the promotion of economic activities within the community during festive period.

“These we have gradually and consistently showcased within the last eight years of the festival. We have been able to attract national attention, corporate bodies as well as government at all levels, and the event has been shortlisted among the national events in Nigeria. However, we will continue to build on our efforts until the best is achieved for our community”, Oba Gbadamosi said.

In his welcome remarks, the National President, Offa Descendants Union (ODU), Dr Funsho Rabiu Oladipo, said the festival resonates the resilience of Offa community for fairness, justice and equity.

“The festival is very significant in the sense that it reminds us, once again, who we are. We are very resilient for fairness, justice and equity; we want things done in a fair way. We want justice. We are not a people, who want to cheat on others and we don’t want others also to cheat us.

“The significant of the festival is to once again lift that God given gift that is within us, that we people of Offa are resilient in pursuing fairness, justice and equity.

“The plan to make the festival one of the ranked festivals in Nigeria is a work in progress. If you looked back in the previous years, the festival is not as well organized as it is today. Apart from our resources as people of Offa, we have strived to make sure that machineries are put in place to lift this occasion to a higher level. We are talking with the state and federal governments to bring back the lost glory of Offa”, Oladipo said.

Also speaking, the National General Secretary (ODU), Mr Muideen Adebayo Ibrahim, informed that the festival was significant to the people of Offa because it serves as an avenue for reunion for all indigenes of the ancient town.

He said, “Ijakadi festival is so important to us, because we used it to remember our heroes and heroines but only that, we used it for economic and cultural revival as well. It is also a rallying point with a lot of our people coming from far and near to witness Ijakadi.

“Some people come once in a year and some come often. But during the festive period, everybody comes around to have fun and to also network. It is also and avenue to see old friends that one had seen long time ago. So, the importance of Ijakadi festival to an average Offa person, cannot be overemphasized”.

The state Commissioner for Communication, Alhaji Muritala Olanrewaju, who was also at the festival, said his ministry had put in place big plans to promote culture and tourism in the state.

He noted that Ijakadi showcased the cultural heritage of the people of Offa and commended the community for preserving its pride.

“Th event is fantastic; it actually showcases the cultural heritage of Offa people, and it is commendable. I wish them more of it in the nearest future.

“There are a lot of arrangements in my Ministry for promotion of culture and tourism in the state, and very soon, the whole package will be opened for every Kwaran to see. Let me say again that we have a very big plan towards the promotion of culture and tourism in Kwara State.

“Our Governor, who believes so much in the culture of our people, has assured us that he would leave no stone unturned towards that project”, the commissioner said.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who was represented by Kwara State Director of NOA, Mr Olusegun Adeyemi, at the ceremony, lauded the people of Offa for sustaining Ijakadi Festival, declaring that it can compete favourably with others in the world if properly harnessed.

He challenged stakeholders to come together and design a new approach in promoting indigenous festivals.

Speaking the festival, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq reiterated that his administration would continue to promote culture due to its relevance to the 21st century economy.

He said the present administration in the state was also poised to grow economy with the development of enterprises, adding that the people of the state were reputed for their entrepreneurial spirit.

The Governor applauded the people of Offa for standing tall during what he called “dark years” and as well as the overwhelming support he received from them in the election that ushered in his government.

“Offa is second to none. This is evident in the level of development in the ancient town. I urge you to never relent in this regard, because healthy competition is good for the society, a key to development of Offa and Kwara in general.

“Our administration has repeatedly expressed our interest in promoting culture, because it is relevant to our economy in the 21st century. The 2020 budget contains provision to promote culture in Kwara State. The Kwara we used to know is a Kwara of people of entrepreneurship spirit and people will not always depend on handout from any government and the challenges we know, are enormous.

“I’m proud to say that the people of Offa stood tall during the dark years, and I must thank you for that. Going forward, this administration will promote qualitative and inclusive education and sustainable development with all seriousness. The 2020 budget points in that direction”.

The Governor informed that Offa Grammar School in the ancient town had been approved for renovation while water works supplying water to the community was also receiving government attention.

He regretted the deplorable condition of the school, saying that his administration was committed to rebuilding its infrastructure and restore its lost glory.

The Governor said the restoration of the school glory would enable it to be where it supposed to be in the forefront of education development.

“One of the coming projects is the renovation of Offa Grammar School. We have seen how the place has emaciated. We need to bring it back, rebuild the infrastructure and put it back where it supposed to be in the forefront of education development.

“We have awarded contract for the construction of Tipper Garage/Amuyo/Adesoye College Road at the cost of almost N500million. We count on your community support and we thank Offa for the overwhelming support this administration got in the last election. It was second to none. Offa community, we are grateful”, AbdulRazaq said.

The Olofa of Offa, Oba Muftau Gbadamosi, who acknowledged AbdulRazaq for being the first Governor to attend Ijakadi festival since it began, named him the Soludero of Offa land.

He stated that the decision to confer the chieftaincy title on the Governor was ratified at Olofa traditional council meeting.

The Ijakadi festival featured certain activities including cultural parade, the Arewa Offa Beauty Pageant, the maiden dance, food exhibition and traditional wrestling competition among others.

Kwara State Governor Mallam Abdulrazaq (left) exchanging pleasantries with Olofa of Offa Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Esuwoye
Another scene at the event
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