The Time To Celebrate Our Root Is Come

By Olatujoye Olumoroti

Marcus Garvey founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League(UNIA-ACL) once said;

‘A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots’

This knowledge of past history and culture is what the state of Osun is most popular for. The Osun-Osogbo festival is one of the most celebrated African festivals in the world, and the time has come to once again to celebrate roots and pray for a future yet unknown for the people of Osun.

According to history, this festival evolved from a yearly celebration of the river goddess who serves as the protector of the community. It was said that a group of people lead by hunter Olutimehin, settled at the bank of the river to escape the famine in their former dwelling place. Osun, the water goddess was said to have appeared to Olutimehin and requested him and his group to move up some bit to higher ground – the present Osogbo town. The river goddess had promised to protect the people and bless their women and land with fruitfulness, and in return a yearly celebration to her was to take place every year.

Centuries after this the Osun-Osogbo festival has become even bigger than the people of Osogbo ever envisage it would be, and it has often been recorded that the river goddess has been blessed visitors as well as indigenes with fertility.

The Festival is a two week event that starts with “IWOPOPO” a three day ritual to cleanse the land from evil and also said to reveal the schemes of evil doers in the community. Followed by this is the lighting of the 600 years 16 faced lamps called “Ina Olujumerindinlogun”. It is said that this lamp must all through the night without going off at any point.

The “Iboriade Ritual” comes next. This is a ritual that requires all past kings (Ataoja) to come for blessings by the present Ataoja, the Arugba, Yeye Osun and a group of Osun Priestesses.

The “Arugba Ritual” is the highest part of the festival. The Arugba is a young virgin who carries the sacrifice to appease the goddess round the community before taking it down to the river.

 According to tradition as the Arugba moves round with the sacrifice, the people seeing her as a representative of the goddess, cast their problems on her and say prayers.

To the people of Osogbo and Osun at large, this festival is not just about the rituals of thanking the river goddess and committing the coming year into her hands, it’s about a reminder of their heritage and an opportunity for family reunions.

The festival has become a worldwide event that many tourists from different parts of the world see as a rebirth of cultural rejuvenation. Tourists come in their hundreds to see the rich culture and tradition of Yoruba nation which has been described as epic.

Osun: Tourism as a Tool for Generating Revenue, by Onagbeso Temitope

Tourism is perceived by practitioners in the field and stakeholders alike as possessing viable potentialities in terms of internally generated revenue in order to boost the economic revenue of the three tiers of government—the federal, state and local governments. However, has there been a serious move towards the realization of this lofty objective? What proactive measures have been put in place by the stakeholders themselves? Have our policy makers been able to really integrate tourism into the system? What have the various tiers of government been able to do in this regard? So many posers begging for answers.
Using the Osun Osogbo cultural fiesta within the precincts of the Osun Osogbo sacred grove’s perimeter as an example, there are myriads of tourists who troop into the grove in their hundreds and thousands before, during and after the internationally acclaimed festival. Statistics show that tourists of different shapes and sizes visit the grove either as visitors or as scholars on academic research. Information available to this writer from the educational unit of the National Museum, Osogbo, indicates that from 2013 to 2015, a total number of 78,000 tourists, both indigenes and foreigners alike, came to the grove. There is an avalanche of opportunities to harness revenue for the state and local governments, with the Federal Government getting the lion share.
The issue of a car park during Osun Osogbo festival remains the core issue. The buffer zone can be put into effective use by creating a special area as parking venue. Apart from controlling the human and vehicular movement, it would also gear up revenue realisation and mobilisation for all the stakeholders concerned. Talks are under way to tame the tide of this social or cultural issue in the not too distant future. Again, the creation of new local government within the existing ones is a right step in the right direction. In Osogbo local Government, we now have Osogbo Local Government Central at Oke Baale, Osogbo Local Government ( South) tentatively at Oja-Oba within the ambience of Ataoja’s palace and Osogbo Local Government (North) at Awosuru area. The recent reconstruction and renovation ongoing within the palace enhanced the looks of the two storey block formerly put together by the late Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Samuel Adedeji Adenle.
The museum kitchen where local delicacies could be savoured by tourists, students as well as stakeholders is a sure way to pump up revenue for government. Even private partnership is allowed to thrive within the buffer zone. The door is thrown wide open for interested private companies and individuals to make effective use of the buffer zone of the grove.
People from all walks of life troop to the grove on a daily basis for one thing or the other, spiritual consultation topping the list. The grove is lying fallow as a virgin area waiting to be tapped and made effective and judicious use of. Amid these glaring opportunities, we must reiterate one fact: that we must be awake to our social responsibilities that tourism has been and will remain a viable vehicle and a tool to move us forward and bail us out from the current economic recession. There must be collaborative efforts among stakeholders such as the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Arts and Culture, Nigerian Institute For Hospitality and Tourism and the National Commission For Museums and Monuments. They must remain proactive towards the growth and development of the grove. The ongoing renovation and restoration on the grove by the Adunni Olorisa Trust (AOT) must be commended. This will in no doubt go a long way in attracting more and more tourists to the grove.
A plethora of brisk businesses are explored during the Osun Osogbo festival. But the missing link is the coordinating factor among the stakeholders to form a proactive and business-oriented idea in order to effectively harness both the human and natural resources starring us in the face, year in year out. We need to have an economic equilibrium where stakeholders, especially the state and the local governments which are closer to the people, collaborate efficiently well in promoting tourism.
The usual frenzied atmosphere during the festival, where everybody belongs to none and God is for all, should be put behind us. The time to begin to approach issues proactively as strong and united stakeholders in the realm of tourism in Osun State is now!
Temitope wrote in from the National Museum, Osogbo.