Osun-Osogbo cultural festival will hold today as usual. From the traffic jam in different parts of Osogbo, it could be seen that large number of people across all walks of life have entered the city. And more are still coming to grace the ceremony that keeps growing in the face of negative attitudes shown to it by government and the people.
If not for my research about the life and times of the late Mama Adunni Olorisha, Susanne Wenger, I may not have visited the groves till now. This was not mainly out of religious belief but the fact that am not an outgoing person.
In 1950, it took the intervention of Susanne Wenger before the grove was saved and it remains the only major grove in Yoruba land that has withstood the test of time. Wenger’s arrival coincided with era of fervent nationalist struggle in Nigeria that later manifested in cultural undertone as Nigerians sought national identity in their religions, cultures and arts. It was in the process of preserving the grove of Osun-Osogbo that she later became not only the priestess but also protector of the grove against different attacks from some interest groups since then till her passage in 2009.
The point of this post is on the latent potentials of the grove. If well exploited, it has capacity of boosting the state’s economy; create jobs; attract investors and generate several positive multiplier effects on the people’s livelihood regardless of their beliefs.
We need to take a cue from the House of Saudis. The rulers of Saudi Arabia are promoting Islam as a cardinal agenda of the country’s foreign policy not exclusively out of religious belief but the fact that the more people convert to Islam, the more people would travel down for pilgrimage. That explains the economic aspect of promoting the religion. According to a report, Saudi Arabia is generating nothing less than $8.4 billion annually from Hajj and Umrah. This excludes other non-religious visits by tourists.
Fortunately, most Cubans in particular and other Americans believe they originated from Yorubaland and Osun State is believed to be the cradle of the Yoruba race. This view was buttressed by the Cuban Ambassador to Nigeria, Carlos Sosa, while hosting the Ooni of Ife, Enitan Ogunwusi, at Cuban embassy in Abuja.
Hence, within Cuba and other neighbouring countries, the Osun State government could make their visit to the grove so attractive that they would begin to see it as their holy land as we have it in the two major religions — Islam and Christianity. This among others is a means of increasing the state’s IGR instead of depending on Abuja for allocation.
Presently, the festival has been ranked second to christian programmes in term of tourists attraction to Nigeria. The state government could further showcase the festival to the world through massive adverts that will create more awareness about it abroad.
As a state within the most peaceful region in Nigeria, foreign tourists will not find insecurity as an obstacle on their visit to Osun state when other things are put in place. It is hopeful that with the crash in the price of oil, Nigeria and Osun State in particular would learn how to generate incomes and employment from the grove and other tourist centres as part of efforts towards the diversification of the economy from oil dependency.