THE crowd at the World Ifa festival day on 2nd and 3ri of June, 2012 could be likened to the mammoth attendance of faithful at the monthly camp sessions of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), the annual Shiloh of the Winners Chapel or the special Assalat Service held by NASFAT or Dawwa by some other Muslim faithful.
The World Ifa festival day lived up to its billing as there was vehicular and land traffic in Oke Itase, lie Ife and environ.
Oke Itase which is the short form of Oke eyi ta ti se wa (mountain ofour source) is a Yoruba word which is not only self explanatory but also means the spot where the shrine is located is the source or the origin of all human beings. It is believed among the Ifa worshippers inside the shrine is where the Noah s ark berthed after the great flood.
On2™1 June, 2012 theprocessionmoved to the shrine as early as 7am and at 8am, the procession moved round the shrines and groove in Ue-Ife and its environ. Indeed, it was a great procession led by Araba Agbaye, Chief Adisa Aworeni who is to the faithful what the Pope is to the catholic, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye to RCCG members, Bishop David Oyedepo to members of the Winners Chapel and a Sheik to Muslims. The Ifa faithful that came from all parts of Nigeria, danced and beat the local gong and drums. It was an awesome sight. The procession berthed at Ope Agbonniregun (the Agbonniregun palm tree) in Oke-Itase to perform rites at 10.40am.
The crowd as at midday became large as more faithful arrived for the festival. The beauty about this event was that commercial activities witnessed a sharp increase. Getting food to eat at Oke-Itase and environ was a big task. The restaurants and bars were filled up and I had to take a commecial motorbike (popularly known as okada) to Mayfair, a journey of about 10 minutes. It took the okada about 20 minutes to navigate out of the traffic and another 35 minutes to get to our destination and where I could comfortably sit and eat.
The okada rider, Rasak Oni, could not hide his excitement. He said: "I pray for this festival to hold every day of the year. Since two days ago, my returns have increased and today, I can tell you confidently that as at 11am, I already had my delivery money for the day and profits too. Can you now imagine how much I stand to gain today?"
It was the same story for the food vendors in and around Oke-Itase as they could not attend to me on time. Alhaja Olanrewaju who spoke briefly said, "Business since yesterday has boomed seriously. The patronage is so high that I am cooking again. I cooked double the portion I normally sell, yet the food is finished. I want to tell you that Allah is great. I can now send money to my child in the University."
At 3.05pm, there was a long procession with dancing and drums led by Araba Agbaye to the Ooni of Ife palace for Isurere rites, which were done almost one hour and a half late because the procession walked for over an hour through Oke-Itase to the palace. There were the daughters of the high priests who carried their respective fafh ers' Ifa, led by a beautiful young girl who was said to be the daughter of Araba. She led 16 young damsels who represented the Awo Olodu Merindinlogun (16 Ifa High priests) with her Ifa firmly on her head too.
The procession left the palace to Oke-Itase and there was invocation. The young damsel placed her Ifa before the seat where Araba would later sit. The other 16 girls put theirs on the ground below the first one. The Araba arrived a few minutes' later and paid homage before sitting on the chair. The other Awo Olodu mermdinlogun (16 Ifa High priests) came in and paid their homage to him.
The proceeding for the evening started with the feeding of Ifa. After that, mere was great merriment with dancing and jubilation in the small hall which also serves as the shrine. With time, it became apparent that the shrine was too small for the crowd that attended this festival.
heat was thick and a lot of people hung outside as they could not manage the stuffy hall.
TheTlfe Keredidi drum rite was performed before the chanting of Were Ifa. After the chant, Abebe Agiri dance rites were done and the Ifa ethical talk was done by OloriAwo.
When it was midnight, special prayers were offered for peace in Vorubaland, Nigeria and the World. The Araba thereafter came up to tell the crowd of Ifa divination for the New Year. He warned that except Nigerians love and care for one another, there would be serious calamities. The Araba implored the faithful to be truthful, show love and kindness and to live in peace with others. He said the problem of Boko Haram would soon come to pass, adding that Ifa says that the country will rise and be great again.
He prophesied further: The Yoruba race will play a great role in the rejuvenation of the country and Nigeria will soon emerge as a world power that Eeople from all walks of life will e rushing to. He declared further: "Nigeria will become the hub of commercial activities in the world.
We will become the beautiful bride sought after by the world because Ifa has said that it is not by mistake that I am in Nigeria. All the gods have come together and agreed to lift this nation out of her problems. The gods have agreed to deal with everyone one does not want the growth of this country. Boko Haram will soon be a thing of the past. Ifa has instructed that you should be careful in the New Year. You should love yourself and love others. Live in peace and the sacrifices we are told to do by Ifa to avert danger and bring peace to the land, we will do it immediately."
As early as 7am the following day, June 3, 2012 there was a procession to the palace to meet with Ooni of Ife and feed him on the events of the previous days and the prophesies of Ifa. When the Ooni came out, the packed palace filed up and j)aid homage while the Araba offered special prayers for the monarch. The other 16 Ifa High priests joined Araba in the special prayers.
After the prayer, Olori Ejugbona, Aworeni Awofolaju rendered songs with gong and dance while others danced and echoed the song by him. Araba gave the Ifa messages for the Tew Year to the Ooni. In his response, the monarch said: "I commend and thank everybody for their steadfast love and peaceful conduct since yesterday morning. I know how tedious it can be since yesterday morning not to sleep. I want to say that all the sacrifices to be made as prescribed by Ifa will be done immediately/'
He prayed for the people and the country too. After that, Arike Ade and her Adamo Band took to the floor and entertained the people before the Ooni blessed the people in the palace and the procession movea back again to the World Ifa Temple.
The son of Araoa Agbaye, an undergraduate student of Yoruba language at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, with Owolabi Aworeni said: "You will be surprised that Ifa temples across the world are over 100. We have Ifa temple in USA, Spain, Cuba, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina and Brazil, to mention a few. Ifa is Olodumare's sacred message to mankind. It is the embodiment of the existence of human and other creatures. In fact, it is the basis for understanding the beginning and end of all living and non-living things. Orunmila is the harbinger and interpreter of that divine message of Olodumare."
He continued: "The yearly celebration, as you can, see has shown that tne people are gradually going back to their roots. You will oe surprised that pastors and imams joined us for our festival."
He burst into a song: "Awa o sow He wa o,
Awa o sow He wa o
Esin kan ope, o e
Esin kan ope kawa ma sow
Awa o sow He wa o "
Meaning: "We'll observe our family rites as no religion precludes us from observing rites."
The young Aworeni said further: "Ours is a religion of peace and harmony. Ifa is a guide for the existence of man from cradle to grave. We are not local, as you can see the number of foreigners that attended the festival. My prayer is that one day, these foreigners won't repackage Ifa and bring it back to Africa and we will still take it from them as the gospel truth."
He left and continued dancing to the sonorous music blaring away.