In the next two weeks, the Osun sacred grove will see a milieu carnival-like activity. Colours, crowd and verve will heighten the enthusiasm of spectators. And the click of camera shots, chants, energising drumbeats of surging crowd, led by the Ataoja and a virgin maiden Arugba from the royal clan trekking through sacred paths that terminated in the Osun Grove, which is now World Heritage Site (WHS) the centre-piece of attraction and celebration, where theAtaoja will sit on a stone stool to perform the animal rituals to appease the ancestors will be recreated. The cultural fiesta is organised by the state government, with the support of National Commission for Museum and Monument (NCMM) and many private sector bodies.
The list of sponsors for this year’s event include: MTN Nigeria, Nigeria Breweries (Goldsberg) Seamans Royal, and Kasepreko (Alomo Bitters).
Participants from eleven countries have already indicated their readiness to be in Osogbo to take part in the two-week long cultural fiesta.
A release from the organisers is to the effect that participants and tourists from Trinidad and Tobago, Austria, the Philippines, Brazil, France, Cuba, and Germany may have arrived Osogbo on Sunday.
South Africa, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda are also among the expected participants at the festival. Already, organisers of the fiesta have released a list of activities. Iwopopo (cleansing of road) holds on August 10. FTAN’s forum is slated for August 11, with Ataoja football tournament final. Festival art exhibition and opening ceremony holds on August 12. Also lined up in the programme are lighting of Oloju-Merindinlogun 642 year’s old lamp at the palace on August 13. Educational quiz competition final comes up on August 14, and Osun festival trade fair holds on August 16.
Other events are Iboriade, Ataoja’s crowns assemblage and FUMAN’s performance day, Arugba’s berth andANTP/TAMPAN’s performance nite for August 18. Sussane Wenger’s sacred colloquium is slated for August 19. Osun children cultural fiesta and Ayo olopon contest (native ayo game contest) holds on August 20, while the grand finale of the festival will come up on August 21 at the Osun Grove, where people offer sacrifices, in form of money, goods, kola nuts and birds, as well as vows to the river goddess by the worshippers at the river bank, while other various traditional groups and professionals like traditional chiefs, royal families, traditional devotees, market women forum, and cultural troupes pay homage to the Atoja of Osogbo, the paramount ruler of the town.
Also, according to the programmes of the event rolled out, recently, in Lagos, by the festival consultant, and the Managing Director of INFOGEM, Mr. Ayo Olumoko, this year’s edition of the 600 years old festival will be celebrated with pomp.
Present at the festival programme unveiling were the representative of His Royal Majesty, Oba Jimoh Oyetunji Olanipekun, Larooye 11, the Ataoja of Osogbo land, the Otun Eesa of Osogbo land, Chief Moshood Adeyemi Aremu, the Olori and chairperson women development Ataoja Palace, Mrs Jelilat Oyetunji, the President/Chairman of Council Institute of Directors Nigeria (IoD), Mr Yemi Akeju, Senior Brand Manager, Seaman, Mr Olayinka Amuwo and Marketing Manager, KASAPREKO, Mr Peter Adekho and the Corporate Communication Manager, Mr. Patrick Olowokemi.
Last year’s Osun Osogbo festival was tempered by the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) and short of suffering cancelation by the government but the people still rolled out the drums in what was a low key celebration to observe the event. Dating back to 370 AD, the festival is held yearly in honour of the founding fathers of the town and a veneration of the goddess of Osun, the kindred spirit of the town to whom the people own their existence and hold the strong belief that she is the goddess of fertility, as well as the protector of the people.
For this, the sons and daughters of Osogbo both at home and in diaspora come together yearly to re-enact this ancient celebration and pay homage to their forbearer, the goddess of the Osun and the Ataoja amidst celebration and feasting in a swarming procession of indigenes, strangers and tourists, led by the Ataoja and a virgin maiden Arugba. The crowd goes into a frenzy of prayers and supplications with devotees who rush to fetch Osun water into jerry cans, after the Ataoja have completed the ritual feeding of the Osun. The recharged water of Osun is believed to heal diseases, promote fertility in women and virility in men.
Interestingly, the festival has, in the recent times, developed into a socio-cultural event not only celebrated by the people of Osun, but, also, by the people of the entire South West and others event with attendance from across the world. It has also grown to be a big leisure and entertainment event with many entertainment packages and sports built in to attract patronage and followings.