IFE is referred to as the cradle of human existence according to History, science, Biblical, empirical and Quranic discoveries on the different stories about creation. The ancient town of Ile-Ife is said to be the Source of Mankind and the only place where the OLOJO Festival (Day of Creation) is celebrated.
OLOJO day is asserted in relativity to the Beginning when God created the heaven and the earth. The world been dark and void with the Spirit of God hovering round the earth is said to be what God - Olodumare deposited in the land of expansion, Ile-Ife as our divine heritage.
Ojo-ti-ojo-di-ojo (OLOJO) is the day mankind was established on earth in spirit form the very first time.
EVENTS LEADING TO OLOJO DAY
There are series of events leading to the OLOJO Festival. It is about two weeks, starting with IDIJO - the determination of the sacred dates, done in the first week of August. Next is Osu Ogun, the month of the pathfinder deity, which is immediately followed by Gbajure, which signals the commencement of the Olojo festival. Two days after Gbajure, the Ooni also refer to as Oonirisa goes into seclusion for five days, to have physical and spiritual communal with his ancestors, esoteric beings and the Almighty God.
No one determines the date when the festival will hold during the months of September and October but the Ooni himself after hearing the unseen drums. It is communicated to him when he will enter into seclusion.
The seclusion of Ooni is similar to seclusion observed by the Oba of Benin in celebration of Ague festival, going futher to reflect the link between Ile-Ife and Benin Kingdom, for Oranmiyan was the son of Ogun and Oba of Benin. We are more connected than we think traditionally.
That Saturday morning it rained. I was on a road trip to Cotonou with a couple of other photographers on a photowalk through Ouidah. Ouidah is a busy touristy place in Benin Republic known for its central role in the slave trade during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It was at the Ouidah beach that hundreds of thousands of Africans were shipped across the Atlantic to the West, never to return.
Ouidah, which first encountered Europeans in the 16th century, was once a small village called Gléwé in the Xwéda kingdom. Its mainstay was agriculture, hunting and fishing in the coastal lagoons.
It’s been made famous worldwide by the slave museum, the restored mansion of Brazilian Slaves known as the Maison du Brésil art gallery and comprises the voodoo python temple, the sacred forest of kpasse, the Route des Esclaves which includes the Door of no return, a memorial arch which is similar to the Point of No return in Badagry.
We learnt of Ganvie when it became clear that we couldn’t reach Ouidah and be back in good time. At the Jetty there is a system in place to collect fees from visiting tourists. I noticed a small market to the left where locals traded. Money and and goods changed hands. We thought to hire a boat as opposed to travelling with other people; after some back and forth on the price, we board one and the ride to Ganvie town began. It is about 25 minutes into the large Lake Nokoué, near Cotonou.
History has it that Ganvie, with roughly 30,000 people, was created in the 16th or 17th centuries by the Tofinue people on the lake to avoid the Fon tribe from the West African kingdom of Dahomey who captured minor tribes and sold them off to the Portugese as slaves.
But a tenet in the trado-religious beliefs of the Fon tribe saved the Tofinue people from being the regular targets of slave raiders: they were forbidden from advancing on any peoples dwelling on water. Thus Ganvié grew in size and in number.
It all started with the goal of documenting all the waterfalls in Nigeria as part of my portfolio, and in all I have chased about 12 waterfalls.
I have heard different tales about Farin Ruwa, some of the small bridge to get there, some of the presence of crawlies and so on. But for me, nothing will ever beat having the experience.
With a system of always staying back in places i want to explore whenever my work takes me around (Yes, I do have a 9-5), i gladly hook on the opportunity when it avails itself again.
Work trip to Abuja for a week made the journey to Farin Ruwa possible. I and a couple of adrenaline junkies embarked on this journey on a Monday morning. We were waiting at Nyanya bus stop looking at the crawling traffic on the other side of the road when my friend Khalidz just said, "It's Monday morning, people are going to work and we are going hiking", I smiled happily to myself, goals on its way I thought.
CHASING NIGERIA'S VICTORIA FALL
Farin Ruwa is in Wamba Council area of Nasarawa State, the neighboring State to Abuja, FCT.
From Nyanya we board a car going to Akwanga straight, sometimes this is not possible for an individual but because we had the numbers, we got a vehicle on time. Nyanya to Akwanga was almost an hour. From Akwanga, we board another vehicle to Wamba where we disembarked at the Junction leading to Farin Ruwa. We then got bike men to take us to the fall.
Then our journey began. There are little villages on the way such as Mama, Marhai, Kulere and Wamba, the terrain to the waterfall gets dusty and challenging as you go further in. Your real journey starts when you cross the first stream which is the most active of all the streams that you will have to cross to get to the Fall. About 15km from the fall you will witness a wonderful view of the fall as it flows against the large flat chested rocky terrain. It gives you an illusion of been closer to the waterfall, but alas, your journey has just started. The view is picturesque
THE CHALLENGING TERRAIN
The first bridge is built with concrete slabs and is quite strong. It can take bikes but not wide enough for cars. The the climb up and down the hill starts. I tried to compare this terrain to the one of Owu waterfall in terms of the challenges faced in getting to them. They both seem to be the farthest into the hinterland so far for me in terms of roughness. We passed six streams before getting to the waterfall. There are some rocks that were laid in the streams for people to walk on making a rocky pathway exception of the first one with a bridge. I did walked through the rivers for I was wearing plastic shoes. Advisable when hiking where water is, get a good crocs with good grip soles.
On your way, about 5km to the fall one would noticed some abandoned uncompleted buildings on the far left. We later learn from our tour guide, Mr Emmanuel Agalti, a staff of the Tourism Ministry that they were suppose to be chalets for guests to stay in. But like the sad story of all the Tourism spots we have, it's an abandoned project.
We met our guide on the way as we were about to cross the first stream. He live in one of the villages we passed on the way, and once we were spotted as strangers, he head out to meet us.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
At some point we will come down from the bike, walk a few distance and then climb back again, drive some few metres and down again. On getting to the last bridge which is an iron bridge, we parked the bikes and then walk into a spaced forest with trees left and right forming an umbrella above. From here you will start hearing the sound of the water, you have to keep walking and then you see some stairs that leads down to the fall. The first close sight of the fall is amazing.