By: Adeboye Ado
The Owa-Ale of Ikare-Akoko in Akoko North East Local Government Area of Ondo State, Oba Adeleke Adegbite-Adedoyin II, has charged government at various levels to assist traditional rulers in developing cultural heritage and tourist centres in their communities to accelerate rapid growth and economic prosperity in the rural and urban areas.
The first class Monarch gave the charge at the weekend during the 2023 annual Olokemeji Tako Tabo Festival where residents clad in white attires trooped out en masses to climbed the Olokemeji hill to celebrate the age-long festival.
Speaking at the historic event, Oba Adedoyin who stressed the need for royal fathers and government at all levels to preserve cultural heritage, specifically noted that he would do everything possible to ensure that values and cultures bequeathed by his progenitors do not go into extinction and rebranded to attract tourists and investors.
He lamented the rate at which cultures have been largely downplayed for civilization and religious sentiment, assuring that the stakeholders in the town would continue to add values the festival.
The Riyal father urged residents of the ancient town to always embrace peace and coalesce for the socio-economic development of the area.
Owa-Ale, therefore appreciated Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, for executing massive projects and living upto the expectations of the people of the Sunshine State, urging the people to continue to support the governor at this critical time.
Oba Adedoyin said, “Olokemeji Tako Tabo Hill is a place of interest that attracts tourists both locally and globally, typically due to its inherent or exhibited natural and cultural values, historical significance, natural or built beauty, and its offering of leisure, adventure, and amusement.
“This festival holds great importance as the people of Ikare are known as ‘Omo Olokemeji Tako Tabo’. From the ancient times, we had both male and female mountains here. In fact, we were told in history that during inter-tribal wars, our people relocated from the lower side to the hilltop, allowing them to repel the invaders.
“The festival is of significant importance, akin to the Ojudeoba festival (in Ijebu land). People come from as far as the US and the UK to participate in this our festival, leading to a two-week period where accommodations in the town are fully booked. It also serves as a source of income for hoteliers, as they contribute to local taxes and traders are also getting high patronage during this festival here and increase business activities.
“The issue we face in this country is that we have traded our heritage to the Western world in exchange for religions, which may not be entirely beneficial. By the grace of God, the State and Federal Ministries of Culture will be visiting next year, just as they did last year.
“Iba Gani Adams (Aare Onakankanfo of Yorubaland) also sent representatives to explore how we can utilize the festival for the development of Ikare. After we’ve developed in Ikare, Ondo State and the entire nation can benefit from it through attracting tourists,” Oba Adedoyin said.
Corroborating the words of the Monarch, the Amokele of Ikare land, Chief Babajide Babatunde, underscored the importance of the festival to the people of Ikare, noting that it provides a platform to pass down customs and stories to the next generations.
“The festival bring our people together. It provides an opportunity for community members to connect, strengthen social bonds, and build a sense of togetherness. This unity can enhance overall community well-being.
“It also stimulates local economies by attracting visitors who spend money on accommodations, food, souvenirs, clothes and more.
In her testimony, a middle-aged woman, Simon Kudi, said prior to the festival, she was suffering from a severed ailment. She further stated that she is now fine after climbing the mountain to pray and celebrate with Owa-Ale.
In the same vein, a trader, Idris Alaba explained that many barren women who celebrated the festival last year have received the fruit of the womb, adding that the festival can’t be de-emphasized due its spiritual Impact on the people and the town.
On the sidelines of the event, the Monarch went to strategic places on the Olokemeji mountain known for spirituality to pray for the people of Ikare, Ondo State and Nigeria.
The key Highlights of the festival celebrations that lasted for four days included the visitation of the Owa-Ale to strategic places in his domain especially to the aged, cultural exhibition, dancing and presentation of awards to some distinguished Nigerians at the monarch’s place.