A socio-cultural group in Akure, Ondo State, Ooye Development Initiative, (ODI) has described as “anti-culture” the resolve of the Ondo State Executive Council which, in a recent press statement, condemned the closure of markets in the state capital, in celebration of the ancient Aeregbe Festival.
In a press release issued by its Secretary, former Dean, Faculty of Science of the University of Ibadan, Professor Abiodun Ayodele and Publicity Secretary, Dr. Festus Adedayo respectively, the group said it considered the statement credited to the Commissioner for Information in the state, Mrs Bamidele Ademola-Olateju in this regard as a continuation of a perceived hostility of the current Ondo State government to the people of Akure.
“We consider the statement a continuation of the Oluwarotimi Akeredolu government’s persistent riding roughshod over the people of Akure, hostility to their ancient practices and persistent disregard for their monarchy and the monarch,” the statement said.
According to ODI, the closure of markets for the yearly festival has not only been in practice in Akure since ancient time, “it constitutes the corpus of tradition, belief system and practices of the people” which the group said is guided by laws, order and consideration for the welfare of the people of the state capital.
The group said that at the beginning of the age long traditional festival and as is its wont every year, the Deji of Akure, through his Chief Press Secretary, adequately announced the programme for the observance of the annual Aheregbe Festival, part of which was the closure of markets.
It said that during this period, no trading or opening of shops was allowed, with the exemption of pharmacy shops and Patent Medicine Stores which are always allowed to open, but with strict enforcement of free human and vehicular movements in the state capital.
“We are also aware that the Deji-in-Council thoroughly monitors this festival to ensure that miscreants do not infiltrate the ranks of those who quietly observe the culture of the ancient kingdom,” said ODI.
The group said it was then shocked that the Akeredolu government could unilaterally, without prior consultation with the custodian of this culture – the king – ban this practice which it said was one of the glues that cement the Akure society together.
“Every town and village has its cultures and traditions that have been in existence since time immemorial. The ones that are felt to be repugnant to public good are either reformed or done away with. The Aheregbe is in the league of ‘Igogo Festival’ celebrated by the people of the governor’s hometown of Owo. At Igogo, residents are banned by culture from beating drums of any kind, even at ceremonies such as marriage, burial etc. This happens for weeks and does not exclude churches. We are not aware that the governor has banned Igogo in Owo. Why is he then banning Aheregbe in Akure?” said the group.
ODI said that if the alibi of the ban was to pave way for the full exercise of fundamental rights, the Igogo Festival was also in violation of the freedom and rights of the people, maintaining that the philosophy of the Aheregbe is to encourage traders in the city to rest for a day in a year and pray for the progress of the city, just as their King does during the annual Ulefunta Festival.
“Ahereghe is not evil and has no demonic affiliation to any god. It can be explained in the need for social harmony, a good and healthy citizenry and should not be outlawed by the fiat of an executive,” ODI said.