Osun Osogbo 2012 – A Display of Yoruba Cultural Heritage

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Osogbo, capital of Osun State witnessed an unprecedented influx of tourists and devotees across the globe during the grand finale of this year’s 2012 Osun Osogbo annual festival celebration and the world class festival has come and gone but the memory of this year’s celebration continues to linger in the memory of the devotees as it was conducted without any security threat or rancour.

Although, the status of the present Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Oyetunji Olanipekun, Larooye 11, who is the custodian of the festival, has been the subject of controversy as other royal families of the ancient town have earlier withdrawn their participation in the just concluded festival.

LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that the affected royal families’ action was borne out of the pending case before the Court of Appeal, Akure, Ondo State instituted by them (royal families), challenging his (Olanipekun) nomination and selection as Ataoja of Osogboland by the administration of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.

LEADERSHIP SUNDAY also gathered that the trend of event for the festival have been changed since the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) listed Osun Osogbo Groove as a World Heritage site and the Friday grand finale of the celebration was the memorable day of the event as the votary maid “arugba” (calabash carrier) carried the calabash that contained the rituals to the Osogbo river groove.

Speaking during the annual ceremony, the state governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola identified lack of a national cultural identity among the diverse peoples of Nigeria as one of the major challenges working against its unity as a nation and called for the aggressive promotion of tourism on a national scale that would serve as the avenue for national cultural symbols for every tribes in the country.

The governor also stated that the cultural would help to forge a pan Nigerian cultural consensus upon which a national identity could emerge.

Governor Aregbesola who was represented by his deputy, Otunba Grace Titilayo Laoye-Tomori observed that presently there was very little in the form of national cultural symbols in the country.

According to him, Nigerians feel more comfortable in their sub-national identities as Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa-Fulani, Ijaw, Urhobo, Kanuri, Kalabari, Tiv than in a national identity.

Aregbesola in his speech which was entitled: “Exploring the Benefits of Cultural Tourism”, stated that lack of cultural synergy made it impossible for the country to form the national cultural symbols which every citizen of the country could proudly and voluntarily subscribe to .

He also maintained that aggressive promotion of tourism on a national scale would go a long way to mitigate some of the problems facing the country and help forge a pan-Nigerian cultural consensus upon which a national identity can then emerge.

He explained that, the essence of promoting culture was not mainly as a source of generating revenue, but to showcase the cultural identity of the people, stating that it is against this background that his government places a high premium on tourism, because his administration appreciate the fact that culture is the soul of a people and helps to foster unity, build character, and encourage communal harmony and peace.

The governor who also noted that his administration’s plan was to make the state a tourist attraction by promoting the festivals and culture of people of the state, stressed that part of the plan was to promote the festival to an international level and make it compete favourably with other festivals globally.

Aregbesola, described this year’s festival as well packaged than the previous ones, because of the planning and money invested in its preparation and the objective of government was to see to it that a memorable celebration was achieved, adding that the trend would continue so that each annual celebration of the festival surpasses the previous ones.

His words: “As a government, our vision is to develop a cultural tourism in the area where the Osun Osogbo Sacred Groove and World Heritage Site is located.

“Our plan is to make it a major international tourist centre, complete with modern and up-to-date infrastructural facilities. We are sincerely earnest about this. Already, the approaches to the groove have been given necessary face lift”.

He then charged government at all levels in the country and other stakeholders in the Culture and Tourism sector to invest heavily so as to strengthen the sector.

He further reiterated that other major festivals celebrated across towns and communities in the State would be included in the cultural tourism initiative of his administration and that government will encourage individuals and groups to get ready to participate and invest in the sector.

Speaking on the importance of the festival, the national coordinator of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams said the festival has impacted significantly in promoting Yoruba culture, just as he urged Yorubas to be keen in promoting their culture and tradition, because culture is a symbol of identity.

Also speaking, the Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun appealed to all Osun-Osogbo devotees to support the state and Federal Governments in restoring peace to the nation.

Oba Olanipekun also urged the Federal government to construct an International Airport in Osogbo to boost the economy of the state.

Few of the tourists and devotees of the festival that spoke to LEADRSHIP SUNDAY, maintained that the international recognition of the festival had lifted the festival beyond the shores of Nigeria, calling for more attention and improvement on the infrastructure in the groove.

A tourist, Mr. Nathias Ryffel, who came from Switzerland for the festival, said that he read about the Osun Osogbo Festival on the German Tourist Guide and decided to come, saying that “I am just trying to get a glimpse of life in Nigeria and of the Nigerian people, I came to Osun Osogbo based on what I read, on a German Tourism Guide book I got”.

He described the festival as an interesting annual event which should not be missed in one’s life.

LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, also learnt that all the hotels in the ancient town and its environs were fully booked by the tourists and devotees that came to witness the annual festival which consequently jacked up the businesses of the people during the period.

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