The conscientious efforts of Otunba Gani Adams, chief promoter, Olokun Festival Foundation, at exploring and enhancing the cultural heritage of the Yoruba race as a tourism brand, particularly outside Nigeria, has earned him an award by a group of Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Applauding the cultural/tourism initiative of Otunba Adams through the activities of Olokun Cultural Festival Foundation calendar, the All Africans Heritage Association, the Yoruba Cultural Heritage Council, which promote and protect the cultural integrity of Yoruba in the USA, on Sunday, March 1, 2015, at Buka Restaurant, 2 Lounge Riverdale Street, Atlanta Georgia, honoured Otunba Adams with the award of ‘Yoruba Man of the Year’.
In an elaborate ceremony packed with exhibition of Yoruba dances, folk songs and poems, which showcased the rich cultural heritage of the race, Dr Babs Onabanjo, president, Martin Luther King Foundation, USA, who presented the award to Otunba Adams, remarked that “Your being here this night to be worthy of this award of ‘Yoruba Man of the Year’ is not because you are the most intelligent of all the Yoruba, neither was it because of your wealth or influence, but you are worthy of this award and eminently qualified for it because of your strident and consistent effort at exposing our culture not just for the merry making, but showcasing it as a tourism brand, which no one has ever thought of in Nigeria.
“Our culture is beautiful, exciting, alluring, delectable and raw. We have it in us and as values, but you have taken it beyond the mere concept of being a normative heritage appreciated only in its raw form but has applied ingenuity by enhancing and packaging them in a calendar format, making them a tourism brand, which you have not localised but internationalised. Hence, we in the US and in the Diaspora found your effort as not only worthy and commendable but which must be acknowledged with this award of ‘Yoruba Man of the Year’,” he appraised.
He further pointed out: “Your Yoruba cultural risorgimento through the Olokun Festival Foundation and the inauguration of Oodua Progressive Union all over the world has not only added value to the race in the comity of culturally awakened nations, but has shored up the image of Nigeria as a country, Nigerians as a people and the Yoruba in the Diaspora. It has affirmed to all that Yoruba culture is not only expansive but can never go extinct. We thank you for this gesture,” Onabanjo eulogised.
In his response, Otunba Adams, who expressed his gratitude to the association for considering him worthy of the ‘Yoruba Man of the Year’ said, “If I say I am not elated, I would be deceiving myself. I am not only elated and grateful for this award, but I must thank your association for taking note of the effort, which Olodumare has energised me to expend on Yoruba culture.”
He pointed out that “If I tell you again that it is my own inspiration at inaugurating the Olokun Festival Foundation with the aim of promoting, enhancing, polishing and salvaging Yoruba cultural heritage from extinction, and branding it as a tourism tool for economic empowerment of our people and country, I would be telling a lie. The inspiration is not my own thinking but of Olodumare, who planted it in me and raised people like late Ambassador Segun Olusola, Professor Sophie Oluwole and many others to support the dream, this event would not be held now,” Otunba Adams revealed.
“So, I have to, without a second thought, commit all my resources, capacity and God’s given wherewithal at ensuring the resuscitation of some of our festivals, which were being pushed into the dust bin of oblivion just because of religious indoctrination, vogue, modernity and deliberate attempt at killing our identity by the Western world.” he pointed out.
“Oduduwa has imbued me with the vigour to rise up stoutly in making our people realise that there is a difference between our cultural values and religion. I pointed out that no nation has been able to grow, leaving behind its culture. Our culture is our identity and, unless we enhance this, we are not only going to lose our respect but our identity. And any race that loses its identity will die. However, glory be to God that our efforts, particularly among the Diaspora, are yielding good fruit…and this night is a pointer to that fact,” he observed.
Otunba Adams commended members of All Africans Heritage Association in America for keeping the flag of the cultural values of their progenitors alive and for paying attention to those values, which consistently remind African-Americans about their root.
“I have to commend you for your steadfastness at promoting and enhancing the core value system of Africa, which reminds those in the Diaspora of the beauty, glory, pride and identity of being African. I also assure you that this award will spur me to do more and never relapse to complacency because at all times, sometimes or somewhere, some people are watching,” he added.
The ceremony was witnessed by many distinguished Yoruba indigenes among who were Mr Soji Tinubu, renowned and one of the respected frontline engineers in the USA, who is the executive vice president and chief operating officer, Williams-Russell and Johnson, Inc., USA; the President of Egbe Omo Oduduwa in Atlanta and the President of the Yoruba in Atlanta, Mr Alani Ogunlade of the Farm fame in Atlanta; Captain Olatokunboh Adesina, CEO, Intl. School of Aviation; Dr A. Sobowale, Mr Kolade Alabi and Alhaji A. Kazeem of Oodua Progressive Union (OPU) in USA; Baale Sikiru Odedina, Prince Segun Akanni, Mr Ibrahim Kolawole Mufutau, and many others.
The mode of delivery of his response and the visible passion displayed by Otunba Adams at promoting Yoruba culture as a tourism brand endeared him to Mr Tinubu, a native of Emure Ekiti, who organised another dinner in his honour at 46th Floor, Commerce Club, Atlanta, located on 191 Peachtree St., NE Atlanta, GA, where he had discussions with some notable Yoruba sons and daughters in Atlanta, who did not only commended him, but assured him of their full support.
After the awards conferment ceremony and wonderful dinner for doing Yoruba proud in Atlanta Georgia, Otunba Adams was in Chicago, where he formally launched the Oodua Progressive Union, and charged members to strictly adhere to the vision of the association.
He called on OPU members in Chicago to always display the unique “Omoluabi characteristic, which is the symbol of mannerism of a typical Yoruba.”
Otunba Adams journey to Delaware in Maryland, where he was hosted by members of Oodua Foundation, who described him as “the last born of Oduduwa, with a specific mission to save Yoruba culture from the vultures and hawks, who are determined to clean Yoruba race’s identity from the face of the earth.”
Making Otunba Adams Yoruba cultural-tourism promotion significant was the visit to Oyotunji Village, a Yoruba kingdom in North Carolina, where Yoruba tradition, political system and values are not only practised but institutionalised. Most members of the family have three slash scars (Yoruba tribal marks, ‘Pele’) on their faces.
Oyotunji was founded by Oba Oseijeman Adefunmi I in 1970, after abandoning his life in Detroit as Walter Eugene King and travelled round the world, learning the history of his people.
Oba Adejuyigbe Adefunmi II, the reigning Oba of Oyotunji, who received Otunba Adams and his entourage to Oyotunji, described the cultural activities of the Olokun Festival Foundation as “a divinely ordained revolution set in motion by our transcendental progenitors who did not sleep in heaven, and had to despatch to this world an enigmatic fellow who is the reincarnation of Oduduwa himself, in person of Otunba Adams, to come and save the Yoruba culture and its territorial integrity from being relegated to the background and from being consigned to the dust bin of history.”
Oba Adefunmi, who described the visit of Otunba Adams to Oyotunji as timely and unique, as they are having the positive aura of Oduduwa reincarnate in this village, said Otunba Adams had no choice than to carry the cross which “Our progenitors have hung on his shoulder”.
Otunba Adams, who praised Oba Adefunmi for not only improving on what was laid down by his forebears, commended him for doing better than them.
“You have proved to the whole world through Oyotunji Village, here in North Carolina, that Yoruba is not a tribe but a race, which has a glorious history in the past, a wonderful story at present with eternal admirable culture and an everlasting rousing future. I do not need to tell you that the spirit of our forefathers, the progenitors of the Yoruba race and the indomitable aura and spirit of Oodua is not only with you, but also guiding you and shining in you now and forever,” he lauded.
The visit of Otunba Adams threw the whole village into a festive mood, as Africans in the Diaspora scrambled to the village to witness the fusion of tourism agreements, between the two prominent and most distinguished Yoruba sons in a Yoruba village in the USA called Oyotunji!