IT has been on for close to 800 years. And for many more years to come, the romance between a people and their patron goddess would continue. So far, the Osogbo people never fail to call the whole world to their city in honour of their goddess, Osun. And for many indigenes and worshippers of the Osun goddess, that is the source of prosperity for the town and people of Osogbo. Next month, tourists would once again troop to the ancient artistic Osogbo kingdom to celebrate with the city as it holds another Osun Osogbo festival.
But the festival has gone beyond a festival for the people of Osogbo. Whatever cultural tourism value Nigeria has in the world, Osun Osogbo festival and the Osun grove contributed greatly to it. For tourists interested in experiencing the celebration of the festival, it is time to start making travel arrangements, especially accommodation as there never seems to be enough bed spaces in the city, especially on the grand finale. Being a festival that attracts huge tourist traffic to Osogbo during the 17-day event, corporate organizations have latched unto it to promote their products and make huge sales. So, it has become a kind of custom for the Osun Osogbo marketers, Infogem Limited, to unveil the each year’s activities at a corporate forum. The forum is also an opportunity for the marketers and the Osogbo Heritage Council to announce date for the event and unveil sponsors for the year’s edition. One of the things that has made the Osun Osogbo festival a cultural- cum- touristic activity is the custodians’ ability to not open up the festival to activities within, outside grove and traditional rites.
As such Osun Osogbo has become a festival that has evolved over the years, incorporating activities that attract both the young and the old, it attracts also individuals and corporate organizations. So, Osun Osogbo celebrates the ancient and the modern. This is reflected in activities lined up for the celebration. It will hold next month. Iwopopo, the traditional cleansing, which signals the beginning of the annual festival, is set for Monday,August 11. Aside this traditional rite, there will be fun for tourists. The Iwopopo Town Storming, a musical fiesta, would also be on the card. The Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria’s (FTAN) Osun Forum will hold on the 12th, while the Festival of Art Exhibition’s opening ceremony and Ayo Olopon (traditional ayo games) will be on Wednesday, August 13.
Olojumerindinlogun, the Lighting of a 16- Point Lamp will hold on August 14. The lamp itself is of great interest as it is reputed to be over 500 years old. Another key traditional event, called Iboriade, is on Monday, August 18. Iboriade is the celebration of royalty and ancestry of the Osogbo people. On display will be the crowns worn by past Ataoja, oba of Osogbo’s title. The crowns date back to hundreds of years. Susanne Wenger’s Sacred Colloquium will hold on Wednesday, August 20. The grand finale is expected to hold on Friday, August 22. This year’s event would conclude with the Osun Festival Trade Fair, a day after the traditional grand finale. In its effort to help Osun Osogbo continue to develop as a destination, the Osun State government said it had spent N147,385,250 in the last three years to uplift the festival.
This was disclosed by the Special Adviser to the Osun State Governor on Tourism and Culture, Mr. Ladi Soyode. He said since the inception of the Aregbesola administration, “the promotion of matters that have to do with the Yoruba cultural renaissance is given a pride of place.” According to him, this was because “the objectives of reviving our traditional industries like cloth dying and weaving, bead making, carving of art works in various mediums, revival of traditional hair styles, the promotion of ancient festivals and celebration in majestic proportions will not only reduce poverty by encouraging industry, but promote the ethos of Omoluabi which form the basis of the socio-political ideology of the Aregbesola administration in Osun.”
Soyode gave a breakdown of last year’s festival arrivals. The festival attracted 21, 713 domestic tourists, while 123 in-bound tourists also attended the fair last year. He said the state government was committed to the following activities at this year’s festival: Tourism Ambassadors Programme, Osun Osogbo Festival Trade Fair, the Festival Marathon Walk, Osun Osogbo Food Festival and the festival concert. Giving the history of the festival, the Festival Co-ordinator, Chief Jimoh Buraimoh, said the relationship between the town of Osogbo and the Osun goddess started around 1370 AD with an encounter between the founders of Osogbo and the Osun Osogbo deity.
He said: “In about 1370 AD, founder of Osogbo, Oba Gbadewolu Larooye, and the great hunter, Olutimehin, settled in the sacred Osun forest to establish the kingdom and actualized a pact of association and togetherness with the river deity. Since then, Osogbo has remained a peaceful, progressive and benevolent city without any ravage of war or pestilence. This is the pact of association which rekindled every year in the month of August.” Buraimoh described the activities associated with the festival as springboard for cultural development in Osun State and Nigeria in general. He said despite the influence of western civilization, education and religion, the festival has, to a large extent, maintained its originality, authenticity and acceptability wldwide. From plans being put in place, it is going to be another successful edition. Also sponsors such as MTN, Nigerian Breweries and brands such as Seaman’s, Alomo, Eko Hotel and many others have identified with this year’s edition.