People make over N80m during our festivals
The national coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) and chief promoter of the Olokun Festival Foundation, Otunba Gani Adams, speaks with Olalekan Olabulo on the relevance of using festivals to promote Nigeria’s culture and engender development.
WHAT is the concept behind Eledumare festival?
It is the same concept behind all other festivals that our foundation organises, but the difference is that Eledumare is the creator of all human beings and all the deities. We were spiritually informed to organise Eledumare festival. We believe that due recognition should be given to the almighty God; we cannot continue to celebrate deities, while we neglect the creator of all things. The festival is also put together to correct the insinuation that OPC does not believe in God. A lot of people believe that OPC members are idol worshippers and believe only in deities. We want people to know that we hold God in high esteem, that we cherish Him and believe in Him.
Can you expatiate on your statement that you got a divine call to organise the festival?
What we are doing is beyond promoting culture. It is more of a spiritual thing. Most of our programmes have spiritual interventions. If I was not called to organise a festival, it would be extremely difficult for me to do so. We are concerned about promoting our rich cultural heritage. We realise that we are losing our cultural identity day-by-day in Yoruba land. Influence of Western culture on us is becoming too much, we feel we should educate our people and make them embrace their heritage. We are not saying they should eradicate western culture, that is impossible, at the same time; our people should not throw away their heritage. That is exactly what we are doing, to sensitise them towards making them see the beauty of their culture.
Can the festival be used to foster relationship among the three major religions in Nigeria?
We are not doing it on the basis of religion. We are doing it on the basis of promoting culture. Eledumare is the God of culture; He gave us languages, and those things that have become our ways of life. He created everything in life, so what we are doing is basically the celebration of the owner of life and the founder of heaven and earth. We are not doing this on the platform of any religion; Eledumare is the owner of attire, food and every other thing humans use. We are very careful with the issue of religion. Our foundation was not founded to promote any religion, it was founded to promote Yoruba cultural heritage. The members of the organisation are drawn from the three major religions in Nigeria. It is not a religious thing at all, but a tool for cultural reawakening.
What would you say is the contribution of various festivals in the country to its cultural and national development?
Festivals have brought a lot of advantage to tourism development in Nigeria. It has created a lot of awareness and a change of orientation in people who believe that their culture and tradition is fetish. Nothing is fetish in our culture. Your culture is about you and your person; it is about originality, it is about human essence, it is what defines us and shapes our identity. I can’t imagine a people without culture. So, our growth as a nation is tied to our attitude towards our culture. When you reject your culture, you reject yourself. If you call it fetish, what you are saying invariably is that you are evil as well. Celebrating our culture through various festivals in the country has created a platform for people to make money. For example, in any community where we hold our festivals, residents of the community often make between 80 and 100 million naira. You can see the economic advantage of holding festivals. What we are doing has a lot of advantage to tourism development, economy and education. It educates the younger generation. For the past five decades, our children have been blindfolded to believe that their cultural heritage is demonic. Right now, we are trying to correct that impression, so that our race and culture will not go into extinction.