Every year, thousands of followers of traditional religions across Nigeria converge at the Osogbo, Osun state capital to join in one of the most popular festivals in West Africa— the Osun Osogbo International Festival.
The five-day event of celebrations happens in August.
This Nigerian festival attracts tourists within and outside the country swarming the street of Osogbo to join the annual rites, with thousands escorting the maiden calabash bearer to the shrine to show gratitude to the Osun goddess.
Osun worship belongs to the Yoruba people, which are the predominant ethnic group in South Western Nigeria. They were believed to have originated from Ile-Ife. Their traditions are closely linked to nature.
There is a strong belief in the supreme being God of all creations, called Olorun or Olodumare, and over 200 other gods, called Orisas. Many of these gods are represented by natural creations in the environment.
Sango, for example, is the god of thunder. Yemoja, the goddess of the sea, and Oya— one of Sango’s wives— is the goddess of the storm.
Despite the influence of the Western culture and religion, the festival has maintained its originality, authenticity and acceptability among nations worldwide.
The celebration transcends various eras right from when it was only known to the Yoruba people of Nigeria down to present day when the cultural festival has now gained world acclaim and is even celebrated beyond the shores of Africa.
During the days of celebrations, followers and tourists line behind the Arugba showing gratitude for the previous year’s blessings and praying for more blessings in the coming year. The group arrives at the Osun to a patiently waiting crowd that receives them amidst prayers in a very beautiful ceremony.
Osun Osogbo Festival is not only important because of its religious approach, but also for keeping Yoruba’s tradition alive and its potential to attract tourists from all over the world.
“Osun Osogbo festival is a brand on its own. Therefore, the Osun State Government must upgrade the Groove to an international standard as it is done in Brazil and other Caribbean countries,” Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, told Vanguard News Nigeria.
Cultural enthusiast and traditionalist, Araba Ifayemi Elebuibon also stresses the need for Yoruba nation to establish a means to defend itself and protect their cultural heritage.
“We need to be more alert and protect ourselves using traditional means. We need to deploy traditional means to protect our people. Yoruba across the country must rediscover itself. We must uphold the tradition and culture which God bestows on us,” he said.
In his remarks to Vanguard Nigeria News, the Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Oyetunji Olanipekun, said Osogbo town was blessed with the Osun river goddess, declaring that the festival ranks among the best in the world and urged the Osun state government to reinvent the glory of the Osun Osogbo Festival by providing the support that is needed to make Osogbo the business hub of the state.
For him, Osun Osogbo festival remains an annual fiesta for tourism attraction, adding that the state is capable of sustaining culture, tradition and Yoruba heritage.