By NBF News

Abeokuta agog as Egba, others mark Olumo fiesta
Thursday, March 11 , 2010

Olumo Rock is no stranger to the people owing to its historical appeal to tourists. But the crowd which gathered recently at the historical site for the yearly Olumo Festival was quite unprecedented. The monument again played hosted thousands of devotees and the people from Egbaland.

All the adjoining roads around Olumo Rock complex were a beehive of activities ranging from musical jamborees to hawking of souvenirs. While many made it to the peak of the mountain through the well-paved stairway or electrically powered accelerator, others who stopped mid-way were seen chatting with acquaintances. While some Olumo devotees were seen consulting priestesses, others simply took refuge at different spots on the rock to pray.

The festival is a major highlight of the Lisabi Day Celebrations organized by Gani Adams-led Olokun Foundation in collaboration with the Gateway Tourism Development Corporation. It is celebrated every second day of the week-long festivities. Like all events organised by Olokun Foundation, the rank and file of the Oodua People's Congress (OPC) from the South West formed a sizeable part of the audience. The OPC members were conspicuous in their traditional attires made from different fabrics such as Adire and Ankara.

Conventionally, the Alake of Egbaland, HRM Oba Micheal Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo (Okukenu IV) led the subjects in prayers on the mountain top to signal proceedings of the day. The Royal fathers on behalf of the Egba people took turns to pray for peace and prosperity within and outside the shores of the land.

To the Egba, Olumo rock is of cultural and historical significance. Standing about 137 metres high above sea level, the monument provided shelter and refuge for the Egba during the Yoruba inter-tribal wars many centuries ago. Abeokuta, the state capital, also derived its name from the high presence of rocks in the state. Literarily translated, 'Abeokuta' means shielded by a rock.'

According to Oba Gbadebo, 'Olumo is an abreviation of Olufimo (God has put an end to our troubles)'. The paramount ruler of Egbaland also commended Olokun Foundation before retreating to his palace with his chiefs.

The exit of the royal father paved the way for a special rites by Olokun Foundation which held at the base of the Rock. Anchored by popular Yoruba actor, Bolaji Amusan aka Mr Latin, the rites featured different cultural and mystical displays by different groups from within Abeokuta and the entire South West. Some of these include Ogun State Cultural Troupe, Odua Cultural Troupe, Igunu masquerades from Oke-Ogun, Egungun from Ilaro and Sango from Oyo State.

In his welcome address, OPC leader, Otunba Gani Adams, while commending the Alake for throwing his doors open to Olokun Foundation, observed a marked increase in the awareness of the yearly fiesta. He explained, 'In the past few years, we have noticed an appreciable increase in the level of our people's appreciation of our cultural heritage. This has given Olokun Foundation and the OPC encouragement to do more rather than relent on our efforts.

The interest rekindled in our once forsaken cultural practices is more noticeable in the field of music where we now have a revolution going on.

A major highpoint of the festival was the display of magic and mystical powers by a few of the performing groups. One of these was the fire-spitting Sango dancers from Oyo State. The performer drew applause and earned a few naira notes when he attacked delicate parts of his body such as his tongue and neck with sharp objects without bleeding or leaving scars.