By Gbenga Olarinoye
OONI of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, has called on the State and Federal governments to always support initiatives that could guarantee gainful employment for the teeming youth populace and strengthen earnings of local business men in Nigeria.
The African foremost monarch made this call in his Ile-Oodua palace at Ile Ife during the launch of this year’s edition of Aso Ofi Festival slated to hold at Iseyin, an ancient town in Oyo State widely known to be the biggest manufacturing hub for Aso ofi in the world which was first produced and worn in Ile-Ife, saying several vocations synonymous with the Yoruba race are big enough to provide employment for many people in the country and globally.
Going down back memory lane, Ooni Ogunwusi who is the Spiritual Leader of Yorubaland explained that Oduduwa during his reign on throne was the first to discover cotton plant and transformed it to wool thread to make Aso Ofi driven by the inspiration he picked from spider cobwebs and grew large cotton plantations in the ancient town. He said, “Oduduwa was the first to discover cotton plants transforming it to wool thread to make Aso Ofi in ancient Ife. In the medieval days, leaf and animal skin was what our forefathers were wearing.
“But with the discovery of cotton plant which was transformed to wool thread by Oduduwa to make Aso-Ofi, Iseyin later became a foremost city on cloth weaving. He got the inspiration from spider cobwebs and grew a large cotton plantation. The fittings of Aso Ofi was later perfected by the children of Ogun (1st blacksmith), Abere (needle) and Obe (knife).
“Olokun, who is also known as ‘Oluofi’ started the venture with looming thread weaving along with Segi beads (remnants of the production site recently discovered in Ife scientific dating of which gave over 4000 years old. Their descendants migrated to settle in Iseyin and later to train the other descendants of Oduduwa around the world such as – Anu (Ethiopia) and Nubia (Sudan) all the way to present India (Orissa region now known as Odisha in India) and now all over the world. Iseyin and Ilorin people still practice Aso Ofi venture very gainfully till date and we must always encourage them with necessary support because If we don’t tell our stories by ourselves, nobody will?”
The Aseyin of Iseyin, HRM, Oba AbdulGaniyy Salawudeen Olooguebi, Ajinasan 1, who led hundreds of Aso ofi weavers from Iseyin accompanied by their colleagues from Ilorin in Kwara state to Ile-Ife described the Ooni as a true leader and the overall father of Yoruba race that deserves loyalty from all descendants of Oduduwa. “Ooni is our overall father in Yorubaland. He is a true leader, we will continue to honour him as the father of Yoruba and we resist any moves to disrespect him.”
The first class monarch of Oke Ogun people in Oyo State, while tracing the history of Aso Ofi, said Olu Ofi, who is one of the founders of Iseyin, left Ile Ife several years earlier and settled in Iseyin town.
Aso Ofi was invented in Ile-Ife the source and traditional headquarters of Yoruba race worldwide and later taken to Iseyin by Olu Ofi from where it was made to spread across the world saying the weaving business in Iseyin employs several people, owing to this, crime rate in the town is at a very low level.” He urged businessmen, cultural enthusiasts and promoters to key into the project and participate in the festival.
In his opening speech, the Consultant and Coordinator of Aso Ofi Day Festival, Prince Olamide Olajuwon, said Aso-Ofi which is today being used to make shoes, bags, wrist-watches can be improved to a level of massive revenue generation for the people and government. “Since coming back from America, I’ve stopped wearing jeans; what I wear now is Aso-Ofi designed in so many unique ways. I must say here that Oyo State government has given Iseyin Weavers Association seven hectares of land to build their factory and market, which will turn Iseyin to a great tourism haven”, Olamide Olajuwon said.
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