For five days recently, Akure, the capital of Ondo State, was agog as hundreds of people literally besieged the city from all parts of the world when the Oodua Progressive Union (OPU) held its fifth World Congress in the community.
The OPU was founded by Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Abiodun Adams, to promote the values of Yorubaland outside the shores of the country. The group comprises Yoruba men and women in the disapora, and it currently exists in about 84 countries across all continents.
At least 1,000 delegates from different countries participated in the meeting, even as some members of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) also converged on the venue to show solidarity with the OPU members.
The programme commenced with a courtesy call on the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade. The convener of the OPU, Iba Gani Adams, led the large entourage comprising hundreds of members of the OPU and OPC to the palace of the first-class monarch on Thursday, January 24.
He told the monarch that it was an annual tradition for members of the OPU to visit royal fathers for royal blessings during their congress. He explained that the intention of the group of Yoruba sons and daughters in the Diaspora was promote the cultural identity of Yoruba race and help develop a socio-economic roadmap for the future.
He recalled that the first world congress of the OPU was held in Ikeja in 2015. “Then the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi was our host in Ile Ife in 2016; Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi was our host in Oyo in 2017; Alake of Egbaland, Oba Aremu Gbadebo was our host in Abeokuta in 2018, and this year, we are in Ondo State, my state, and here you are, Kabiyesi, as our royal host. That is why it is important that we visit the palace,” said Aare Adams.
Oba Ogunlade said the visit was timely and informative, adding that the group had a prominent role to play in making Nigeria great.
He charged the OPU members to be good ambassadors of the Yoruba race in their respective abodes.
The group later visited historical places within the palace.
The public lecture was subsequently held at Jojein Hotels and Resort, Akure. A number of dignitaries were in attendance, including Oba Ogunlade, the guest speaker, Evangelist Adesanya Haastrup, North American coordinator and chairman planning committee, Shola Agboola, Zaki of Arigidi-Akoko, Oba Yisa Olanipekun,Oosula Erusu Akoko, Oba Sunday Mogaji, Oluyani Iyani Akoko, Oba Joel Sunday Daodu, Akapinsa of Ipinsa, Oba Dr. Omoniyi Olufunmilayo JP, Olu of Ipo, Ayeka Okitipupa, Oba Oyewole Oluwasegun, Waheed Oyediran, Dr.Kashimana Tyorenda, Chief Mrs. Christiana Bamishile, Dr. Adeyanju, Hon. Bola Bamigbola and many others.
While welcoming the guests, Aare Adams explained what the group was all about. “OPU is a social and economic organisation, comprising prominent Yoruba indigenes in the Diaspora. We are a self-dependent organisation formed in 2011, and our objective is to promote our cultural identity and foster unity among the Yoruba race.
“Since its inception in 2011, OPU has been at the centre of projecting Yoruba cultural heritage and identity abroad. It is through OPU that we are able to cover 84 countries. It is through OPU that we are able to assist ourselves and assert our roles for national calling and development.”
He charged the group to continue to be good ambassadors of their race.
In his lecture, Adesanya Haastrup urged members of the group to instil in themselves the attributes of a selfless leader. He reaffirmed his belief in the leadership qualities of Aare Adams, saying the Yoruba leader had paid the price for the position through series of sacrifices and selfless services. “I want to appeal to all members of the group to see themselves as one family,” he noted.
Zaki of Arigidi, Oba Olanipekun, urged the OPU members to support their leader. He said the platform was to help transform the group to be the rallying point of Yoruba the race.
The North American coordinator, Shola Agboola said the success of the OPU congress had sent a strong signal to the world that the group was ready to make remarkable impact.
The following day, the group embarked on sight-seeing to the mysterious Ikogosi warm and cold springs in Ikogosi-Ekiti and the Arinta Waterfalls, Ipole Iloro, both in the neighbouring Ekiti State.
In Ikogosi, Aare Adams charged the Ekiti State government to restore the lost glory of the place.
“The state government should urgently transform Ikogosi. It has a history of being one of the leading tourist’s destinations in Nigeria. There should be various facilities like a police station to ensure effective security, a mall, an accessible road leading to the site. Ikogosi has the potential to bring huge revenue to the state,” he said.
The group also visited the historic Idanre Hills where they met with the Owa of Idanre, Oba Fredrick Adegunle Aroloye Gbolagunte. Members of the group later climbed the hills.
Aare Adams, described Idanre as a prominent town with a rich cultural history. He intimated the monarch with activities of OPU and OPC, and urged the community to resuscitate the Oke Idanre Festival, noting that it will enhance the development of the town.
In his response, Oba Gbolagunte said he was delighted to play host to the Generalissimo of Yorubaland. Idanre Hills has 670 steps. On the hills are several tourists’ attractions like the ancient Palace, community school built in 1896, community prison, Arun River, Ark of Noah, footprints and irremovable writings on the wall and several others.
General Manager, of the Idanre Hills Resort, Mr.Adee and two supervisors, Femi Ayotunde and John Cletus conducted the team round the sites.
The group later converged on Ile Ife for the 2019 edition of the Oodua Festival. Among the features was the Oodua Beauty Pageant which was won by Miss Lolade Lawal, a 22-year-old student of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife.
The following day, Aare Adams led the delegates to the Ooni’s Palace, as part of the activities for the annual event. Speaking on behalf of Ooni, Lowa Adimula of Ife, High Chief Adekola Adeyeye, said the visit was a pleasant homecoming for both the OPU and OPC.
Aare Adams said the annual festival was an effort by the Olokun Festival Foundation (OFF) to identify with Ife, the hometown of all Yoruba sons and daughters.
At the festival, Aare Adams canvassed for more unity among the Yoruba people. He said agriculture coul be used to drive the development of the South West.
“ I know that agriculture remains the best occupation that can guarantee equitable growth and development in the South-West. In Botswana, for example, a large number of the people in the country breed cows to boost the economy. The population of cows in the country is far higher than the population of the people. There, everybody is involved in full-scale agriculture, from the small scale to large and mechanised farming. Here in the South West, we can do the same,” he said.
He also charged the government to ensure free, fair and credible election, even as he insisted that Nigeria would not achieve its potential without restructuring.
Dignitaries at the event include the Obalufon of Ife, Oba Idowu Adediwura, Lowa Adimula of Ife, High Chief Adekola Adeyeye, Obadio of the Source, Oba Farotimi Faloba, and several prominent monarchs as well as delegates of OPU and OPC.