Ooni of Ile-Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, has described Nigeria’s cultural heritage as a huge export potential capable of igniting economic transformation.
The monarch said this at the joint celebration of Alafere, Oya and Ijugbe festivals, on Sunday, in Ile-Ife.
The festival attracted a huge crowd of participants from within and outside Ile-Ife, especially, the Bariba and Nupe people in Niger and Kwara States of Nigeria.
Ogunwusi said that people had stopped celebrating cultural festivals and heritage, adding that these had been affecting the growth of local festivals and culture in the country.
He also said that foreigners were beginning to appreciate the African culture and festivals than indigenes of the continent.
“Our heritage is so strong; all the things that we are celebrating may be strange to many people living in Nigeria and Yoruba land.
“I just returned from the UK where I met with the British Royal Family and visited the British museum, they (Western World) don’t joke with our culture.
“All these things are so important to them. They displayed African cultural heritage in their libraries and museums.’’
He said that they believed in the potency and power of all these festivals saying, “ It is about time for us (Africans) to nurture and promote what we have.
“We should celebrate what nature has given to us. Our culture is a very huge export potential and tourism is one of the biggest trades in the world.
“It is bigger than a lot of investments that you can think of because it involves a lot of movements by people from diverse backgrounds and cultural orientations.
“With tourism, people are able to establish a common heritage and ancestral background,’’ he said.
The Ooni, however, called on government at all levels to improve the level of infrastructure, noting that government needed to support any project that would drive the Yoruba culture to the world.
“It is about time for us to focus on tourism by improving our infrastructure and package our entire heritage. Most of the heritage and festivals are very timely and yield benefits.
“Government should pay serious attention to our heritage because our tourist centres and attractions are natural and that is why we need to display them.
“We don’t need to create any form of artificial tourism. We hope that our government will appreciate us.’’
Also, the Obalejugbe of Ife, High Chief Abiodun Akinrefon, said that worshiping Ijugbe (god of rain) in Ile-Ife would boost the economy of the community.
He commended the Ooni for resuscitating the abandoned deities in Ile-Ife, saying that Ijugbe was the custodian of rainfall for mankind.
Similarly, High Chief Oyarekun Oyaro, the Balogun of Famia, who doubled as Oya priest, attributed the rainfall pattern in the land to the spiritual efficacy of Oya festival in Ile-Ife.
Oyaro said that the town invoked the god of rain to mark the beginning of planting and a plenteous harvest.
He, however, admonished the citizenry to value their tradition and culture, adding that they all had important roles to play in the life of mankind.
The Oya- Igunnuko/Alafere/Ijugbe festival is a transition festival to herald the raining season as well as the natural phenomena associated with the season – rain, wind, and thunderstorm.
The festival is to show the workings of “Olodumare’’, the creator of the world in Yoruba mythology, and how to make the season be of high benefit to mankind.
It is a season to bless the soil for fertility and for the season not to become a calamity for the people.
The festival witnessed a downpour accompanied by wind and thunderstorms.