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Ogidi Day: Festival of Many Dances

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By: Jones Bamidele

Ogidi is a town of less than 20,000 people, a land of rolling hills with mystic waters.
It is located in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State and several miles away from Lokoja the state capital.
The name Ogidi connotes “untainted purity”, and so is the culture and tradition of these Yoruba descends whose language is dubbed “Okun”.
Over the years, Ogidi Day has become a festival of many dances beside the display of other Nigerian cultural heritages that have attracted tourists from home and abroad.
Ogidi Day Festival is the Nigerian cultural event in the month of June, akin to the Igbo New Yam Festival.
According to Mr Kayode Eniolorunda, a retired Assistant Comptroller General of Nigerian Immigration Service and National President of Ogidi Development Union, “Ogidi Day is anchored around the New Yam Festival, which holds June 15 every year. This is constant, so, the Saturday following the June 15 is Ogidi Day Festival celebrated every year.”
Among the frills and thrills of Ogidi Day Festival is the parade of different dancers selected from different communities and tribes.

According to Dr Salisu Usman, an Igala descend, Rector of Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja, and chairman of the Ogidi Day 2023, the convergence of different cultural dance groups performing during the festival is a unique feature of the event.
He said, “There is something for everyone to enjoy, no matter his status, taste, sex or tribe.”
Ogidi Day Festival is like an old wine getting sweeter every year.
In the words of Cythia Okorafor, a Nigerian-American who traveled a distance of about 5000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to attend the festival, “I wanted to touch the soil of home again. It had been quite some time since my last visit.
“I wonder if the air still smells the same, if the food taste just as sweet and the crickets sing the same tune that echoed through the night.

“Yes, Ogidi Day Festival did not disappoint. Not only did it not disappoint, not only did it exceed my expectations but it ignited the flames in my soul which were only glowing before.”
The Ogidi Day is usually filled with dances from beginning to the end. There are usually no dull moments at the Festival and all attendees have real value for their time and money.
According to Oba Solomon Owoniyi, The Obaro of Kabba and chairman of Okun Area Traditional Council, “Ogidi Day Festival stands out as the best (in Kogi West).
“The Festival has come of age; the efficiency with which the organizers put up the festival is great. I wish them well and advise they should keep it up.
“If you see the way people (tourists) visit the festival every year, it shows there is something special here that they are enjoying.
“It is a must attend cultural festival.
“They should continue to improve.
“As this year’s edition is better than last year’s, next year should be better than this edition.”
Mr Tunde Ipinmisho, a fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors and Director-General of Ogidi Day Festival simply gave all the glory to Almighty for the success the festival has so far attained.
He said, “The glory of God is becoming greater year after year. Ogidi Day Festival is becoming better every year. It is God, not us.”
Ologidi of Ogidi, Oba Rabiu Oladimeji Sule said the festival is renewed every year.
“This edition is different from last year’s. Last year was different from the year before.
“That is the work of God. I advise all Ogidi people to remain united to continue to uphold our community.
“We are planning a better outing next year by the grace of God.”
The arena has been gaily decorated, guests and locals are sited and soft music has filled the air.
Kabiyesi, the ologidi, his two queens Olori Abike Sule and Olori Iyabo Sule, the Father of the Day, Mr Ayo Afolabi Abudu and his amiable wife, many traditional rulers and very important guests were ushered into the arena by Olanga dancers and Agbo Olode masquerades with dances.
The Ologidi’s arrival at the festival arena marks the start of the celebration and it was magical. Soon, the air was filled with singing, dancing, laughter, throwing ofbanters and warmth.
Following the chanting of the Nigeria National Anthem, the Ogidi Anthem, opening prayers and sounding of the “Ogidigbo” (traditional music played by beating two hollowed wooden instrument with sticks), commenced the parade of troupes.
First on parade were the title chiefs (The Oloyes), then various groups and chapters, who danced from their canopies to the Kabiyesi’s pavilion paying homage to the monarch.
The native Olaga dancers comprising women and girls who ingeniously created a hairdo made of safety pins danced to the rhythm created by their leader as they went round the festival arena.
The Five Edo dancers gaily costumed stood straight up so their tall and intricately styled hairdo which wouldn’t tumble over as they sang and danced.
They appeared at different times during the celebration adorning different burgundy dresses that sparkled in the sunlight. Their performances were greeted with a lot of excitement and screams from the audience.
The Owo women and girls dance group from Ondo State put up a different costume, music and dance. They were slow and steady with dance steps that propel the body forward, backward and sideways but synchronized with the rhythm of their music, rendered in Owo dialect of Yoruba language.
The all-male and agile Igbo Atilogwu dancers were electrifying. Their dances and acrobatic displays were something else. They created human structures that stood tall to the sun.
The Yagba dance group of seven made up of three males and four females were clad in indigo tie and dye with red coral beads on their necks. They performed the farmer’s dance which was in line with the New Yam Festival an integral part of the larger Ogidi Day Festival.
Agbo Olode masquerades changed the atmosphere as they entered the arena. The three “ancestral spirits” were costumed in green straw and brown dry banana leaves shaped like anthills in the Savannah
They were accompanied by an all-men priests and assistants. At their sight, some children and women screamed and took cover.
The masquerades danced and would sometime stoop only to be appeased before they would proceed with their show.
Finally they arrived at the Ologidi’s pavilion and stooped in homage, rising and bowing to the monarch.
The Tiv dancers in their zebra black and white stripes costume performed the Swange dance characterized with body wringing and show of strength.
To cap it up, the Oba Asa Obalufon of Yoruba land, Yeyeoba of Ogidi and the Mother of the Day, Nike Okundaye, entertained with her dance steps.
The proprietress of Nike Art Gallery of fame in Lagos, Abuja and her native Ogidi, had a large entourage characterized of indigo dresses, large crested fabric head gear and abundance coral beads.
The gracious traditionalist whom the Kabiyesi described as both his mother and daughter brought the dances to climax during the presentation of the New Yam.
She danced with a big tuber of New Yam round the festival arena before finally presenting it to the Ologidi for his blessings.
So, the tribes danced for the Ologidi of Ogidi, Oba Rabiu Oladimeji Sule, other royal fathers, guests, tourists and the locals. The next Ogidi Day Festival beckons with more dances in June 2024.

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