The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed says that the “Ijakadi” Festival in Offa, Kwara State will be included in the National Festival Calendar in 2018.
The Minister stated this at the grand finale of the 2017 celebration of Ijakadi (traditional wrestling) festival in Offa near Ilorin in Kwara.
The festival was also attended by the Minister of Communication Adebayo Shittu, among other prominent dignitaries.
Mohammed who was a guest of honour at the event said Ijakadi festival had come to stay and grown from strength to strength in celebration of rich Offa culture.
He said that the significance of the festival was not just about the history of the people, rather a celebration of the virtues of “equity, justice and wisdom”.
The Minister said that the festival also showcased the affinity between the Offa and Ile-Ife, and how Moremi Ajasoro, the daughter of Offa rescued the Ife Kingdom from the `Igbo’ marauder.
“The festival is significant to our culture because it tells us that we are people with very rich cultural background and strong morals.
“What we have come here to celebrate is history that dated back to 14th century.
“We have an MoU with the British Council through which every year, we train festival managers all over the country.
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“I want to assure you that the Ijakadi festival will benefit from this training.
“This kind of festival is one of the reasons why this government has placed so much emphasis on our culture being encouraged and we are going to put Offa in the world map.”
The minister said that the government would assist to put the festival on the world records to attract people from across the globe.
The traditional ruler of Offa, Oba Mufutau Okikiola thanked the two ministers and other dignitaries for attending the festival.
He said the annual event was an opportunity to bring the Offa indigenes home and abroad together to celebrate the rich heritage and culture of the ancient town and its tourism industry potential.
The Oba called on the Federal government to give traditional institution the opportunity to contribute to national development.
Also speaking, the National President of Offa Descendant Union, Alhaji Najeem Yasin said the festival had come to stay.
Yasin, who is the National President of National Union of Road Transport Workers, urged the government to include the festival in national Calendar to attract tourists in and outside the country.
The festival started with a traditional processions and performances by districts, family houses as well as traditional gun shots.
Prayers were offered by leaders of the five districts that constituted Offa for the Oba, the town, the state and the nation.
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Tracing the history of the Ijakadi festival through a dramatic performance, the traditional dramatists depicted the story of two brothers who went to a farm and harvested three yams each.
Coming from the farm, they got to a river to take their birth and one of them lost a tuber of yam in the river.
Because none of the two brothers wanted to return home with two tubers, an argument ensued which resulted in a fierce fight between them.
While the fight was going on, an elderly man, a hunter, stepped in, stopped the fight and requested to know the cause.
The two brothers narrated the cause of the fight both claiming ownership to three of the five yams.
In resolving the case, the elderly man appreciated the loss of the yam and wanted the two brothers to return home happily.
He took one of five yams, covered his eyes sliced it into two equal sizes and shared the contentious yams two and half equally between the two brothers.
He explained that the act depicted the principle of equity, justice and fairness, which governed the traditional Ofa Kingdom.
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There was also a symbolic slicing of a yam into two equal sizes as a reenactment of how the quarrel was settled between the two brothers.
The Festival also witnessed traditional wrestling bouts among representatives of the five Offa districts in different categories.
The climax of the festival was the traditional wresting bout between the traditional ruler, Olofa of Offa and a First Class traditional Chief of the town, the Eesa of Offa Land.
Matching to the wrestling pitch, the families of the Oba as well as the Eesa were singing war songs to the effect that it is their respective leader that will win the bout.
Twice the symbolic fight took place, the Olofa defeated the Eesa who at each time gave excuses that he was slipped.
It was however explained that the Olofa must win the bout annually to reassert his supremacy over the land, the chiefs and the indigene.
There was also a horse raising competition among the five Offa districts while a raffle draw concluded the event.
The star prize for the draw was a motor bike while the first and second Runner up for draw went home with a generator and a flat screen television respectively.