Despite Ebola Scare, OsunOsogbo 2014 Records Success

Traditional-Religious-Worshippers-in-Osun-StateThe 2014 Osun Osogbo Festival has come and gone but the festival will not only linger in the mind of tourists and stakeholders as a successful exercise, but also as one surrounded with controversy, no thanks to the Ebola Virus scare. A correspondent, who attended the festival, spoke with tourists and stakeholders on their expectations of the festival, the Ebola scare and the overall success of the yearly festival.

The scare of the dreaded Ebola Virus notwithstanding, the 2014 Osun Osogbo Festival was a resounding success. Tourists and stakeholders who spoke at the festival were full of praise to the organisers for organising a hitch-free festival and to the people of Osogbo for being good hosts.

Few weeks to the festival, there were uncertainties on whether the festival will hold or not. There were stories in the media alerting the public on the Osun State government’s stand on Ebola control, which discouraged non-resident and foreigners and tourists from attending the festival.

 However, the success of the festival has confirmed the connection and intensity of the tourism sector to the people and how quickly it can recover in the midst of crisis.

Though the festival witnessed slimmer patronage with the absence of the Odu’a People Congress (OPC) among others, but the domestic patronage has shown that it is the people’s festival with the significant number of cultural enthusiasts that converged on the grove for the annual rite to the Osun goddess.

Even with the Ebola scare, the festival also recorded a marginal influx of foreign tourists and Osun devotees from Brazil and visitors from within Nigeria.

Many believed that the ingenuity of the age-long festival of the people has become a point of reference and nothing can disrupt it because of the norms, value and heritage it holds to their existence while others said the degree of campaign mechanism at mobilising rather than discouraging people, put together by the organisers paid off at the end.

Notwithstanding, the festival started on a good note with the votary maid setting out the procession at about 10:00am to the Ojubo Osun (Osun shrine) at the grove.

In earnest, the procession progresses with a good outing and attracted spectacle and admiration from devotees, tourists and visitors who thronged the grove in their numbers.

Mrs. Nike Okundaye, the founder of Nike Art Gallery, said that this year’s festival was memorable as there was no record of casualties throughout the celebration.

She however commended the security operatives at this year’s edition for not only being around, but also giving maximum security to visitors. According to her, “The crowd was not much and the security agencies did a good job.”

Speaking on tourist patronage, Okundaye said, “My products were patronised by few people, but the patronage was not like the previous year. We hope next year’s edition (2015) will be much better than this year as we pray for better things ahead.”

Mr. Paulo Oliveira, the Director of Studies, Centro de Orunmila in Brazil called for stronger cultural ties between Nigeria and Brazil.

Oliveira who led a Brazilian delegation to the Osun Osogbo festival despite the Ebola scare said that Brazil has similar culture with Nigeria, adding that their traditional way of worship is not different from the Yoruba traditions.
“We remove our cap before greeting our traditional rulers, we as well prostrate to greet our traditional rulers just like the way Yoruba people do.
“We eat, dance and worship the same way Yoruba people do and most of us are traditional worshippers,” Oliveira said.
The director said that the origin of some of the Brazilians is from Oduduwa, the forefather of Yoruba land in Ile-Ife, Osun State.
His words: “I believe that majority of Brazilians are not foreigners, but Nigerians. You can trace our origin to be from Ile-Ife. Brazilians believe that we are Yoruba and not foreigners by history since our forefathers were enslaved to the foreign country where they eventually married white men and gave birth to us.”
Oliveira said that in some part of Brazil they still worship Sango, Obatala, Sopona, Oya, Ogun and Irumole.
“These are the things they left behind for us to worship, and would continue to be a generation thing because it was what our forbearers identified with and transferred to us. We share the same blood, traditions, norms and culture, so Nigerians and Brazilians are brothers and sisters.
“That is the more reason why we do attend the Osun Osogbo festival in order to embrace our cultural heritage and traditions of our forefathers,” he said.
Mrs. Olaleke Fakeye, the Regional Trade Marketer for MTN, South-West said that there was no regret despite the restriction of visitors to this year’s Osun Osogbo festival.
According to Fakeye, “MTN never regretted collaborating with the organisers and the government of Osun State in hosting the annual festival because it not only help to reach our subscribers, but also created a rallying point to celebrate the people’s heritage.

“We did every programme that we organised for the children and people of Osun State and gave out a special gift to the winner of the football competition that we organised.

“We witnessed a larger crowd in our MTN stage. I think it was quite successful,” Fakeye said.
She added that they have been partnering with Osun government for over eight years and there was not much difference in their sales this year when compared with the previous year, 2013.