By Oyintiloye Olatunbosun
The Osun Osogbo annual international festival is a celebration of culture and fulfillment of the pledge between a people and a goddess. It underscores a long history that revolves around early settlers of the town, Osogbo, who came very close to a river as a result of drought from their initial place of dwelling; hence they decided to settle in the thick forest.
The water goddess, Osun, appeared to the great hunter, Olutimehin, who was the leader of the team. Olutimehin explained their reasons for settling at the river bank. However, the goddess asked them to move to a new ground. She also pledged to protect them, provide water for them and make their women fertile in return for an offer of sacrifice annually.
Osun Osogbo stands tall of all the internationally celebrated festivals in the world. It is highly venerated and most attended. One interesting attribute of the festival is that it brings devotees of the deity from all over the world together annually, from Cuba to Brazil, United States of America to Jamaica, Canada to Spain, they come together to pay homage to the goddess, who they believe is the source of life.
It is indeed not only about merry making, but about social bond, culture and history.The government of the State of Osun has shown commitment to add needful value to the celebration, first by disabusing the minds of the people that the state culture and tradition is not fetish. It has also established the fact that this event, if properly managed and developed, is a big source of revenue for the state.
In concrete terms, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola administration has improved the facilities surrounding the celebration premises within the last one year. The groove now has a befitting pavilion, which is currently at an advanced stage of completion. Also the road linking the sacred groove has been expanded to accommodate more vehicles and pave the way for traffic.
The government has also made good its promise of creating more access road to the groove through opening up of a new road that links it from Ogo-Oluwa section so that travelers from Ibadan can have access to the groove without passing through Ola-Iya area thereby reducing pressure on that axis of the road.
Governance demands thoughtfulness and innovations. This is the reason this year’s festival is pitched to leverage on the crowd pulling feature of the annual event to promote healthy living, especially awareness on the prevention of HIV-AIDS.
It would be recalled that just last month, the nineteen international conference on HIV/AIDs took place at Washington D.C.,United States of America with a nine – point declaration to turn the tide of the disease together. It sought to build broad support for steps to end the AIDS pandemic.
Osun Osogbo festival is being rebranded as a focal point for many activities and between different categories of people, ranging from students, culture adherents, tourists and admirers to music lovers and various reality shows competitors.
According to the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Temitope Ilori, the sensitization is aimed at capturing the youths population during the festival, with a view to reaching out to them on the need to be cautious during the festival and embrace healthy and responsible life throughout the celebration.
Also, leveraging on the festival, the goverment is working assiduously on moving the state tourism sector from its present cottage level to an industrial one by exploiting the rate in which the blacks all over the world feel connected to the state, which is the cradle of the Yoruba nation, this serves as a springboard for the state and its people.
The government’s initiatives also include involving the public by capturing their interest through various activities, such as marketing and branding of different items i.e, cars, couches, clothing, etc.
To add local content, food vendors are also to be involved through capacity towards standardizing their services to meet the international standards. This will not only stimulate their interest, but their financial base in line with the vision of Aregbesola to connect the younger generation to the dynamics of culture thereby revitalizes the tourism sector.
Osun Osogbo festival is no doubt, a key selling point in this direction, and it will continue to open up diverse opportunities for the state and its people in the years to come.
*Olatunbosun is Assistant Director (Community Forum), Bureau of Communication and Strategy, Governor’s Office, State of Osun.