It was a celebration of tradition, culture, tourism and entertainment in Aramoko-Ekiti, headquarters of Ekiti West Local Government Area. Those indigenous to the community and those who are not indigenous to it and tourists celebrated the maiden edition of Aramoko Heritage Festival (ARAHFEST) Carnival to celebrate the tourism potential of the town.
A major town in Ekiti State, Aramoko-Ekiti, has joined the list of towns and cities on the nation’s cultural and tourism map with the celebration of Aramoko Heritage Festival (ARAHFEST) Carnival which drew participants from within and outside the state.
The major event celebrated in the ancient town, is the annual Aramoko Day but those indigenous to it under the aegis of Aramoko Development Association (ADA) led by its National President, Dr. Dipo Aladeloye, decided to up the ante by holding a landmark event to project their hometown.
Aladeloye explained that the concept of setting a day aside to celebrate the town’s day had become monotonous, hence the need to take a bold step to refresh the community’s cultural heritage. He said ARAHFEST is being re-designed, remodelled and rebranded from the old “Ara Day” which serves as a showcase for the culture and tradition of the town.
The group tabled the proposal before members of Alara-in-Council, the town’s traditional cabinet and it was unanimously approved. Aramoko has the privilege of producing Nigeria’s first Professor of Choreography and acclaimed carnival organiser, Prof. Rasaki Ojo-Bakare, who graciously accepted to organise and coordinate the event.
Bakare, a former Artistic Director of the popular Abuja Carnival, brought his international experience to bear on his community and took time to train the local contingents.
The three-day carnival featured Contemporary Youths carnival, Miss Aramoko Beauty Pageant, Indigenous Heritage Carnival, Music Concert and Uponan Alara Cultural ceremony.
There were also carnivals at the four quarters of the town; namely Isasa-Ijowa, Anaye-Ikunato, Oke-Oja and Isao, arts and crafts exhibition and homage to the Alara of Aramoko-Ekiti, Oba Adegoke Olu Adeyemi.
Various cultural groups used the platform as a showcase of the heritage of the ancient town by playing up her core values as well as traditional connection with Ile- Ife. In the parade that took the various groups round the town in various regalia, the Igede, Hausa and Urhobo communities resident in the town also joined in their traditional outfits to add colour to the procession. At the end, winners emerged and prizes were given to them.
The carnival’s Music Jamboree featured Edris Abdulkareem of the ‘Nigeria Jagajaga’ fame, Ara, the talking drummer, Fuji and other traditional musicians. Top Nollywood stars and scholars who served as juries at ARAHFEST included Jibola Dabo, Peju Ogunmola, Dele Odule, Hajia Lantana Ahmed, Dr. Kola Oyewo and Taiwo Ibikunle.
In the beauty contest and parade which involved 10 contestants of Aramoko citizens drawn from various higher institutions, Miss Oluwatoyosi Esther Ige, an undergraduate from the Science Faculty of the Federal University of Oye Ekiti, won the first prize of a landed property and N20, 000 monthly allowances that would be paid for 12 months.
The first and second runners-up in the exercise also went home with a deep freezer and fridge respectively. They also got monetary reward, among other prizes.
Eighteen-year-old Miss Ige caused a stir when her name was announced as the winner. She knelt down and sang praises to God. She explained to Southwest Report that she was elated as the competition was her first attempt at such exercise.
She said: “I never thought I could win but I put all best; intellectually and stylishly. My parents have always told me to put my best at any human endeavour that comes my way and the contest was one of such.
“Having said this, I appreciate my parents for giving me education and I thank the organisers, especially our amiable Kabiyesi, Oba Adegoke Olu Adeyemi, ADA President, Dr. Dipo Aladeloye and the Festival Director, Prof. Rasaki Ojo-Bakare. In all, I believe this contest has exposed us all to what happens in other climes and we will make the best use of it,’’
The grand finale had Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose, his Gombe State counterpart, Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwambo, Ekiti State Deputy Governor, Prof. Olusola Eleka and scores of traditional rulers in attendance.
The Alara of Aramoko, Oba Adeyemi, commended the organisers and expressed his satisfaction on the carnival, describing Fayose and Dankwambo “as uncommon leaders and bridge builders, who have consistently worked towards the unity of the country.
“I’m happy today because my community has just initiated a carnival that would not only be a unifying factor for our people but also a strong tool to reposition our noble town and put it in world map.
“I welcome all our dignitaries to this event and in particular, I appreciate our Special Guest of Honour and our Governor, Dr. Peter Fayose and his deputy, for taking time out to celebrate with us.
“I am particularly delighted to welcome to Aramoko a true Nigerian of an uncommon accomplishment, a foremost politician, a banking guru and a seasoned administrator who richly and truly deserves to be our Chief Launcher at ARAHFEST 2017.
“This is no other than our Gombe State-born politician, the state governor and a former Accountant-General of the Federation, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, a bridge builder and a nationalist per excellence.”
Speaking on the event, Prof. Bakare, who hinted that 2018 edition would be a 7-day event, described the 2017 edition as a successful outing.
While calling on individuals and multinationals to key into the subsequent festivals in the town as a way of leveraging it, he pointed out that ARAHFEST was aimed at projecting the culture and tourism potential of Aramoko community which is a historic Yoruba town.
Bakare revealed that series of training were organised for youths and adults that participated at the carnival with experts invited from outside the state for the festival.
He said: “The festival was conceived to engage the youth of the town and take them away from criminality and negativity. Many of them have been idle and their hands have become workshop for the devil.
“We want our youths to be busy positively and that was why we have loaded the festival with youth-related activities. Every activity was a competition among the youth from the four quarters of the town.
“Aside the musical jamboree, there was also indigenous carnival that was performed by traditionalists, hunters, blacksmiths and farmers who wore various costumes,” he said.
Speaking at the event, Deputy Governor of Gombe State, Hon. Charles Iliya, who represented Dankwamabo, described the carnival as “an international event that would put Aramoko in world map.”
He called on the natives of the town to rally round Oba Adeyemi and Governor Fayose, who he described as a bridge builder to deepen development.
“My Principal, Governor Dankwamabo would have loved to receive the chieftaincy title of Atuluse of Aramoko land in person but for other state’s assignments. However, I was speaking to him as I sat down there and he was glad to be part of this ceremony.
“With this honour, Aramoko has validated the fact that Nigeria is one, irrespective of religion and tribe. Let me also add that Governor Fayose is a friend of all and a man who is working assiduously to sustain the oneness of Nigeria,’’
As the community prepares for this year’s edition, one thing is clear, the 2017 edition has re-opened a new chapter in traditional carnival in this part of the world.