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Why we changed Oyemekun Day to Ilefunta Festival —Adebisi Ifedayo

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AkurePrince Adebisi Ifedayo is the chairman of this year’s Ilefunta / Oyemekun Day in Akure, he speaks to Hakeem Gbadamosi on the committee’s plans to make the day a special one; the activities lined up for the festival and the effort of his committee to unite and bring unprecedented development to the town. Excerpts:


Why the innovation about Ilefunta and not Oyemekun Day?

It is part of innovation because if you look at the background of all these festivals, in the early 50s  you people were always coming together to contribute money and send their brilliant children in the community to school through communal effort and community service and when you hear of Akure Day, Ife Day or Ibadan Day and it gradually turned into festival and each of these communities used something that is peculiar to them and likewise we changed Akure Day to Oyemekun Festival because Akure is synonymous with Oyemekun. When you talk of festival, it has something to do with culture, but we noticed that there is no specific culture in Akure that is called Oyemekun. Akure people usually start their traditional festivals in February, like the Ogun festival and all other festivals, but all these festivals will end in October when the traditional ruler of the kingdom, the Deji of Akure, will go into seclusion which marks the end of all festivals and that festival is what we celebrate and call Ilefunta. For seven days the Kabiyesi will be away and during this period there will be no buying and selling, all markets within the town will be closed, there will be no music, no burial ceremony.

We now feel that if this period is unique to Akure, why don’t we celebrate that particular festival. This festival is a community festival with attachment to our traditional ruler; it is not a traditional festival, but a unique Akure festival, and has nothing to do with Christianity or Islam, but it is a festival specially designed to celebrate the Deji of Akure for coming out from seclusion.

What are the activities lined up for the festival this year?

We are starting the festival on October 3, when the Deji will be coming out from seclusion and we are starting those traditional and cultural shows which are solely for the traditional people where indigenes will come out to celebrate with Kabiyesi. The following day, October 4, will be for the final of the Deji’s football cup final which involves all secondary schools in Akure and its environs. Apart from that, we also have the youth carnival during which youths in their various groups will rejoice with Kabiyesi. Then on Friday, October 5, there will be a lecture in the morning which will be delivered by Bishop Matthew Kukah, at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, while a special jumat service will be held at the Akure Central Mosque.

We are going to have a break because of the political activities in the country, the final celebration will come up on October 19, where some signatories will be bestowed with chieftaincy titles. There will be a night with the Deji of Akure, and on October 20, a carnival involving all the people of the town will be held and wrapped up with a thanksgiving service on Sunday, October 21.


Do you see this Ilefunta festival bringing all Akure sons and daughters together to develop the town?

The festival was specifically designed to bring sons and daughters of Akure together and see what they can do to contribute to the development of Akure community and apart from this, it is also to ensure unity among our people. The festival will also help to bring the people of Akure together and cement the bond of brotherhood.


What are you doing to bring together all the people of Akure community, both home and abroad, in developing Akure with this festival?

We have embarked on sensitisation programme to make our people key into the development of the town, we have been talking to people both home and abroad. We have also established synergy with some organisations, including Nigerian Tribune, and we hope to give maximum publicity to celebrate this year’s Ilefunta festival. We are already talking to our people on the social media and from the responses from our people, I can tell you that this year’s celebration will be one of the best in the history of celebrating our culture and people. Our people appreciated this development and they are promising a lot of contributions to make the day a special one. We want to specifically appreciate the management of the Nigerian Tribune, Nigerian Breweries, and other sponsors who have shown interest to make the day one to remember in the history of Akure and I am assuring you that the Ilefunta festival will soon be ranked among the best in this part of the world.


Work on the new palace embarked upon by the late Deji seems to have stopped and what are Akure people doing to have a befitting town hall?

This is the one of the reasons we are coming together with this festival. You remember I told you that part of the activities lined up for the festival this year is “A Night with the Deji of Akure.” After the demise of Oba Adesida, this is the second festival that will bring all sons and daughters of Akure together. What we did last year was to raise some money, but not as expected because we did not give it the real touch, but this year, we are reaching out to so many people. The Deji of Akure will meet with all the sons and daughters of the land and he is going to appeal to them in assisting and contributing towards the development of the Akure kingdom, because we cannot continue to leave the development of Akure in the hands of the government completely. The government will do its own while individuals also should be ready to contribute their own quota and we should also be ready as Akure people to collectively complete the new palace and a befitting hall.  The lawmaker representing Akure South / North in the House of Representatives, Honourable Afe Olowookere, has already got an approval for the building of a civic centre for Akure. Our major plan now is to complete that palace and renovate our town hall which was put in place through community.


The establishment of a teaching hospital in Akure by the Ondo State government, what’s the take of the Akure community on this?

It is really a controversial issue because if you look at the history of Ondo State, we have about five divisions in the past and if you look at it, Akure has been relegated to the background except the state capital status and it is only the people of Akure that have been fighting for themselves. Ondo State was created in 1976 and Akure is the only state capital that does not have a teaching hospital and we are still using the old colonial general hospital and when people are sick they are usually referred to the Medical Centre in Owo, or Ibadan or Ile-Ife. This is one of the reasons Akure people came together that we must have a teaching hospital and they started the struggle from the Federal Government because the only higher institution in Akure today belongs to the Federal Government which is FUTA. The state does not have any higher institution here, so Akure indigenes put heads together and demanded for a teaching hospital and the only way we can achieve this is to align it with FUTA. FUTA was granted the permission to commence a medical school and once they start a medical school, they would need a teaching hospital, but because of paucity of fund they are unable to develop the project. When the state government established its medical school in Ondo and they chose to site the Teaching Hospital for the Ondo Medical School, we rejected it and this is not because we are saying the state government should not establish it here, but all we are saying is that they should allow the teaching hospital in Ondo to service the Ondo State University and let FUTA use all the state facilities to prop up their own teaching hospital. This health facility we are talking about is for the people that are here, so as the state capital, Akure deserves a teaching hospital and that is our stand.


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