By Shina Abubakar, Osogbo
The heavens opened its valves and showers of blessings rained on the Osun maiden voyage and its devotees as they pay obeisance to the goddess at the Osun-Osogbo groove.
Although, the 2020 Osun-Osogbo International festival was low keyed because of the coronavirus pandemic, as the State government through the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Dr. Adebisi Obawale bans social gathering and any procession, allowing only devotees access into the grove.
Yet, adherents from various states of the federation as well as culture enthusiast thronged the groove to witness the religious rites.
The maiden voyage (Arugba), who is the major focus of the grand finale left the Osun temple located inside the Ataoja palace around 8 am followed by the Ataoja, Oba Jimoh Oyetunji for the shrine where traditional rites would be performed.
The duo was followed by the Araba of Osogbo, High Priest Ifayemi Elebuibon, who led another traditionalist to the groove in a bid to pay homage to the monarch.
Despite government directives banning procession, the groove was a beehive of activities, as devotees, culture enthusiast and observers filled the shrine performing different rites.
Meanwhile, the State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, represented by Dr Obawale said the restriction order was not to punish adherents of the deity but to curtail the spread of the ravaging COVID-19 which was on the increase in the country and other nations of the world from where people come for the festival.
He said before the 2021 edition, the state government would have invested in the festival to give it the befitting international status it was renowned for.
“The State Government appreciates the monarch and the worshipers of Osun Osogbo for their cooperation with government’s directives on COVID-19 guidelines. I am assuring you that the purpose of the restriction is not punitive but to ensure the safety of the entire state.
People should know how fast COVID-19 is spreading particularly in our state and one of the protocols was to ensure that minimum number of people gathered together and this festival is an international festival and if people, who want to be part of it are allowed to come, no one knows what they may be bringing in.
“Osun Osogbo is strategic to the state because it is an international festival and our plan is that people from outside should join the festival. We plead with the King to bear with the state and we assure him that by next year we will bring many people to celebrate with him”, he said.
Speaking on the relevance of the festival, Araba Elebuibon said the festival is best described as a sort of thanksgiving by the Ataoja and indigenes of Osogbo to the water goddess for her magnanimity towards the town.
“Osun has been good to Osogbo and it she is still being good to the town, as you can see it has not rained here for weeks but today, from dawn till now it has been raining. This showed that Osun is kind towards the town and thanking her would endear more progress to the town”.
An adherent of the deity, Bukola Olosun said the rites performed at the riverside was to beg the goddess to help defeat the ravaging coronavirus pandemic, adding that the rain showers could be described as the showers of victory.
Members of the RevolutionNow movement were also seen at the groove singing solidarity songs dressed in their traditional orange beret.