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Ovia Osese: The Day of The Virgins in Ogoriland

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Many may ask- of what essence is virginity of young girls given the present level of civilization and modernization? With the moral decadence that abounds everywhere, how many young girls of nowadays can truly live a spartan life that can keep virginity for long. But some communities and people still attach importance to this and celebrate their maidens who keep themselves in check and maintain their honour and dignity till they get married. Ogori town in Ogori/Magongo Local Government Area of Kogi State is one of such communities. The town was agog last week Saturday as dignitaries from all walks of life gathered to celebrate the 2014 edition of Ovia Osese

Ovia Osese is an annual cultural festival in Ogoriland during which young girls are initiated into womanhood in readiness for marriage. Our Correspondent BAYO OYEWALE witnessed this year’s festival at the Civic Centre in Ogori and presents here his report…

Ovia Osese, the Culture of a People

Culture is total way of life, perhaps this explains why the people of Ogori strictly adhere to this cultural heritage where girls must not lose their virginity before getting married.
Despite the present day moral decadence, an average Ogori girl at home and abroad still observes the annual festival where girls of the same age grade would gather in Ogori to perform the necessary traditional rites before graduating to womanhood, mostly between the ages of 15 and 22 years.
For the parents of a female child, it is always a thing of joy that their child or children have not disappointed and disgraced their families in the community by keeping their virginity. After passing through all the traditional rites to confirm that their daughters have come of age without losing their pride, it would be the turn of the parents to celebrate their own age group. That would be in August this year.

Iyodina Alebi, The Custodian of Ovias

In Ogori, Ovia means maiden, a group of girls, who is about to be initiated. Prior to this time, Iyodina Alebi, who is the custodian of Ovias, must perform specific rites. The custodian is expected to educate them and take them through all the necessary rites. By her authority, she can discover those that have lost their virginity who would be sent back to their parents who would be sanctioned for presenting girls who have lost their pride.

Some Young girls at the event.
Some young girls at the event.

Ayedun: Virginity, Greatest Virtue of a Woman

While speaking to WESTERN POST, a Community Leader, Chief Vincent Ayedun, explained that the tradition is a must for a female child in Ogoriland every year and that is why age group is introduced so that parents with female children can have them to congregate together.
Ayedun stated that maidens are initiated into womanhood and this has been in existence for a very long time and it is a way of instilling discipline into female children in the community, noting that in those days ladies were growing up before celebrating Ovia Osese and from there they got married.
“This is one of the greatest virtues a woman can have. And parents are always proud to see their female children participate in the annual traditional festival. Parents are also happy to bring their children forward for the cultural festival. It is a big pride for them to bring out their daughters to the public and say proudly that they are virgins.”
He, however, stated that it was symbolic nowadays because most of these girls are now in higher institutions like the universities, polytechnics, adding that the people understand the current societal problems and modernization, some of which are in conflict with the tradition and culture of the community.
Ayedun noted that a lot still needs to be done in the area of moral rectitude, saying that parents should not relax and the family should not relent in its efforts to impart moral knowledge and one day things will surely change for the better.
A parent and former Commissioner for Information in the state, Mr. Bode Ogunmola, whose daughter was one of the Ovias in the 2014 edition, stated that this culture of the land was one in which every grown-up girls must participate.
Ogunmola explained that he was a proud father because his daughter had not disappointed the family by virtue of her moral upbringing. He, therefore, called on the parents to continue to impart morality in their children as they grow up.

Genesis of Ovia Osese

The former commissioner went down memory on the genesis of the annual Ovia Osese festival in Ogoriland. “In the community there lived a man who got married to two wives, the senior wife had seven female children, while the second wife had only one. But incidentally, the only girl of the second was kidnapped and taken away. While she was in agony and thinking what could have happened to her daughter, the first wife was mocking her that nobody can kidnap her own daughters. But as fate would have it the girl resurfaced to the consternation of everybody with the hope that the abductor could have defiled her. “The mother became apprehensive and very inquisitive about the status of her daughter who had been away for sometimes now. It was found out that the abducted girl still remained a virgin after all and this called for celebration and since then Ogori people have been celebrating the high level moral standard of their female children till date”.

‘I am a proud father, my daughter is a still virgin’

Ogunmola posited there was nothing as good as parents training their children to be morally upright in whatever they do. “I am a proud father, my daughter is a still virgin”.
Mrs. Reginal Adegbola on her part said that as a woman she was just a caretaker, adding that it is God that has power and control over all things in life and He has given me these children particularly my daughters and is leading them in the right path.
“As I am talking to you now, I can vouch that she is a virgin. And for this occasion, it is the initiation of young girls into womanhood. By the way you see her, you will see that she has grown enough for this status,” she said.
While comparing the present day with what obtained during the good old days, Adegbola, who is a senior civil servant in the state, pointed out that in those days before a girl is presented for initiation she must be a virgin because there were traditions, which she had to go through which have been dropped now because of Christianity.
“There were rituals a girl must pass through and once you are not a virgin, you have already dishonoured your family and the girl would be out of Ovia Osese. But now it is not the same. During my own time I did the initiation in absential. Most of us then could say we were actually virgins when we did Ovia Osese,”Adegbola noted.
She, however, explained that with present day moral decadence, the olden days were better, saying that “nowadays a child of 13 years is getting married and nine years old girls are already menstruating, so the difference is clear.

Ovia Osese, a Unifying Factor

The General Manager of Kogi Hotels and Tourism Board, Mr. Joseph Olowolayemo, in an interview commended the people of Ogori Community for keeping faith with the tradition, describing the Ovia Osese festival as a unifying factor in the land. Olowolayemo, however, said the Ogori Community did not involve the tourism board in the organization of Ovia Osese, stating that the community should always notify the board before the commencement of the week-long programme.
He said the state tourism board would officially write the community to take care of the tourism aspects of the programme, stressing that there are several tourist spots in Ogoriland, which visitors to the state for the Ovia Osese festival can also go round and see during the celebration.

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