BREAKING: Open Letter to Gov Ademola Adeleke: Time to Reform Osun Osogbo- Festival By Kayode Adejumo-Bello

After a 30 years hiatus (the last time I was at the festival was 1993) I was at the 2023 edition of the iconoclastic Osun Osogbo Festival between Thursday 10-Saturday 12 when the grand finale of the festival took place at the groove.

I must confess that the festival has grown bigger and richer over the years. The sponsors have come in to infuse a commercial and tourism value hitherto unexploited to the festival by way of grand concerts, eye-catching branding, raffles, contests, pegeantry and an atmosphere of joi de vivre. And the whole city is the better for it in terms of economic boost and the stimulation of local participation….CONTINUE READING

The state Government must also be praised for funding the reclamation and beautification of the historical artifacts and landmarks within the whole environment of the groove. One cannot but be proud of the new found glow at the groove. The goddess of Osun must be well pleased at such projection of beauty and attic splendor. Suzan Wenger must be brimming with pride in her pantheon.

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Once again, Osun Osogbo festival was regal. A befitting celebration of culture and spirituality of a people.

But it is regrettable to say that as much as the festival could yet deliver, the 2023 edition-of which I was a witness and active participant-was marred by violence, gangsterism and the proliferation of arms and ammunition.

You would be excused to imagine you were approaching a war zone as you approached the groove on Saturday at the grand finale. I personally can put the number of guns on display by none state actors at a conservative 1000 pieces of different types and makes: Shotguns, rifles, pump action, pistols, Dane guns, even sub machines!

It would seem like different cults groups and community gangs came openly to display their armoury and reservoir of weaponry. They came openly to display their trade in stock. Violence.

That was why there were so many violent clashes resulting in bloody injuries and deaths. Some national dailies put the official death toll at 3. I bet it was more.

The question is; why would a festival in celebration of virtue and purity be turned into a bloodletting orgy? When did Osun Osogbo festival become a parade of military hardware? What changed between 1993 when I last visited and now? Ironically, in 1993, Nigeria was still under the jackboot of military rule!
It is therefore time for the government of Osun State under the people-centric leadership of His Excellency, Senaor Ademola Adeleke to reform the festival; both in content and in form. The theme of the festival should be reasserted to project the founding vision of its progenitors. Osun Osogbo is a celebration of VIRTUE, PURITY and CULTURE, let it remain so.

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Let’s rejig the festival to make it more attractive to local tourists and the international community.

The government should as a matter of urgency immediately proceed to set up a high-powered committee representing the communities and all stakeholders to look at the current template of local mobilisation, participation, security and safety protocols with a view to tinker and hew out a festival devoid of violence and gangsterism. It is a difficult assignment but it is doable.

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The committee should objectively set a realistic timeline for the achievement of this onerous task. A 30% reduction in violence can be achieved in one year for example. Which would mean that by 2026 we can have a festival we can all freely attend with our children and their friends.

Should the government of Senator Ademola Adeleke achieve this milestone, it will be a worthy legacy to the state. I am sure even the ‘Ara’les’ will be proud and bless his future endeavours.

In conclusion, the political class should rise up to leadership in this cause. Most of the guns in the hands of the local hoodlums, miscreants and cultists were vended for them by the politicians. It is time to disarm. Not just in the interest of our common patrimony, but it is also called ‘enlightened self-interest.

Osun Osogbo festival is our cultural and spiritual heritage; it is our call to make it an enduring legacy. Otherwise it is shame on all of us….CONTINUE READING

Kayode Adejumo-Bello,
Professional biographer, writer and public affairs analyst,
Ibadan.