The ancient Igbomina town, Omu-Aran, headquarters of Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State, reverberated its rich socio-cultural milieu penultimate weekend when it staged the third Odun Omu-Aran, a.k.a. Festival of Clubs.
From far and near, indigenes of the community thronged the town in their thousands, in obeisance of the clarion call of their paramount ruler, Oba Oladele Ibitoye, Adogbajale bi Ileke II, the Olomu of Omu-Aran, to lend a helping hand for greater development of the town.
Not even those in the diaspora would be left behind as the affairs of the day was directed by Prof. Kola Oyedepo, an eminent medical expert and entrepreneur, who came from the U.S. to chair the festival. The Co-Chairman was a prominent Lagos businessman and the Aromu of Omu-Aran, Chief Abraham Olabanji.
‘’I feel highly honoured to be made the chairman of this great occasion,” a visibly elated Prof. Oyedepo said in his speech, amid thunderous ovation.
As early as 10.00 am, the open field of Government Secondary School, Omu-Aran, had been filled to capacity by gaily dressed people of no age barriers. The various clubs and societies which formed the kernel of the festival came in different colourful attires (aso ebi) to underscore their distinct identities and classes.
They were ushered to their stands by talking drummers, praise singers, cultural dancers and acrobats who added so much life to the occasion.
Highlights of cultural displays were the ‘’Alata Festival” and stage performances by students of Ogbo Grammar School, Ofe-Aran Commercial College, Omu-Aran High School and Aperan Comprehensive College.
The roll call of participating clubs included The Club Concordia, OMAR Patriots’ Society, The Omu-Aran Social Club, Aperan Harmony Club, Merit Club, Ladies Elites Club, OMLAC, Reliance Ladies Club (RELACO), Prestige Club, Unik Klub, Club Executive and Youth Forum.
In his address of welcome, the President of Omu-Aran Development Association (ODA), Chief Peter Oyinloye, expressed joy at the large turnout of people at the festival, which he described, as a unique rallying point for the unity and progress of the town.
“Odun Omu-Aran is a special forum for interaction among members of the community and even the non-indigenes under a relaxed atmosphere and festive mood,” he explained.
Chief Oyinloye, a retired permanent secretary in the state’s civil service, said that the festival has become an annual platform for conviviality and fund-raising, through the various clubs and vocational unions/associations as pillars, for the community’s development projects.
Through the two previous editions of the festival, he said that N5.9 million was realised. Chief Oyinloye explained that the money was spent on repair of the community’s damaged water works’ pumps, electricity poles, rehabilitation of some buildings in the four community colleges and assistance to some government agencies and departments.
Perhaps the greatest tiding for the community at the occasion was the news of the imminent re-opening of the Omu-Aran Branch of First Bank PLC which had been shut since the May 14, 2013 violent robbery on three banks in the town which claimed three lives, including two bank staff.
Chief Oyinloye’s assurances on the re-opening of the bank was corroborated by the Business Development Manager of the bank in Kwara State, Mr. Festus Egbodofo, in his goodwill message to the community on the occasion.
In his own speech, Olomu Ibitoye thanked the organisers of the festival for a wonderful job and expressed the hope that the spirit of love and unity which propelled the idea would be sustained.
The monarch expressed the hope that Ecobank and Union Bank, which also shut their branches as a result of the said armed robbery attacks, will follow the footstep of First Bank very soon.
He said that the security situation in the town had greatly improved with the provision of two new police patrol vehicles and three additional police posts in strategic locations by the community.
Oba Ibitoye commended the efforts of the state Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and state Commissioner of Police in ensuring better security of lives and property in the town and pledged continued loyalty and cooperation of his people.
The Olomu, nonetheless, appealed to the governor for rehabilitation of Omu-Aran township roads which, he lamented, were largely dilapidated.
Among dignitaries at the festival were the Asiwaju of Omu-Aran, Chief Samuel Adeniyi; former military administrator of Bauchi and Osun states, Col. Theophilus Bamigboye (Rtd); former Nigerian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ambassador Oluwole Idowu, the Registrar of Bida
Federal Polytechnic, Chief Bisi Adeyemi; former ECOMOG Sector Commander, retired Maj.-Gen. Yemi Abidoye and the immediate past chairman of Irepodun LGA, Alhaji Lukman Owolewa.
The first military governor of the State and Asiwaju of Igbomina/Ekiti, Kwara State, retired Brig.-Gen. David Bamigboye, was represented by the 2nd Vice-President of ODA, Mr. Bayo Abioye.
The Chairman of the Organising Committee, Mr. Kayode Awotunde, lauded the contributions of the various clubs, which he noted, made the festival a success.