By Kehinde Olufowobi
The 2019 boat regatta popularly called Okoshi festival among the Yoruba held amid pomp and pageantry in Oni community of Ogun Waterside Local Government Area of Ogun state has drew tourists from far and near to the riverine community.
The festival , which is a water based cultural sporting and recreational activities put together to show diverse functions of the boat in the past years, has been indispensable part of the maritime heritage and annual festival of the people of Oni . It represents the cultural heritage usually presented in ceremony of colourful event that brings together large fleets of decorated boats with flags and buntings, displayed by artistic paddlers who exercise skills and dexterity.
The festival has been modernized to serve recreational and tourism purposes. The designs and formats of regatta have continued to be adapted to suit new usages and its contents are gradually broadening in scope to serve more than the purpose of celebration and worship.
The festival featured a parade of decorated boats on the Oni lagoon. The parade consist of large fishing boats depicting social cultural tradition, folklores and occupational aspect of the people of the riverine area.
Residents and tourists defied the early morning downpour to converge at the riverbank to catch a glimpse of the boat regatta.
Clad in different colours of attires, residents and tourists filled the riverbank singing and dancing.
Residents and tourists were treated to the best of water display of culture, tradition and aquatic splendour during the festival .
Speaking at the event, the chairman organising committee of the Okoshi festival, Otunba M A Lawal said the festival has showcased the cultural heritage of the people of Oni.
Lawal said, “The festival has become part of the culture of the people of Oni. It will, no doubt, boost the tourism and economic potentials of the people of Oni and its environ, and foster unity and cooperation among people of this Local Government”.
He added that the festival was “not just for fun but a display of tradition of our ancestors. It means a lot to us.”
Mr Soliu Sheu, a tourist, said the festival has exposed him to the rich culture of the people of Oni. He added that he didn’t regret attending the festival. “The festival was interesting and I really enjoy myself here,” he said.
Another tourist, Mr Ayoleke Imoru said the people of Oni should be encouraged to keep the festival alive, saying, “We need to encourage them for the job well done by giving them the necessary support in the next festival”.
Also speaking at the event, Otunba Fiwagboye of Oni, Otunba Olugbenga Nola implored indigenes and residents of the riverine community to come together and chat a course for the development and promotion of the festival, saying, “If calabar can develop the annual calabar carnival to its current status, we can equally turn the boat regatta (Okosi festival) into a tourism and developmental festival”.
He added that the social cultural event is all about celebrating communal bonding and positioning the community as a tourism hub.