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The Good, Bad, Ugly of 2023 edition of Osun Osogbo festival… How three suspected cultists were killed. By John Dike

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Osun Osogbo festival is one of the biggest annual traditional festival in Yorubaland among the Yoruba people in the southern part of Nigeria.

Osogbo, the host community is the capital city of Osun State and the festival has started about 700 years ago.

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Osun Osogbo festival is usually celebrated annually in the month of August.

August ,11 this year was another opportunity for the people to showcase their cultural heritage. The festival also attracted Osun adherents and worshippers from all over the world .

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Osun is a goddess of all things feminine; fertility, spirituality, emotions, sensuality, nurture and love. it is a festival to honour the goddess.

Thousands of worshippers and tourists have traveled down to the state capital days before the grand finale.

Consequently, this year’s event turned out to be bloody as two rival cult groups whose confranternity name were not easily ascertained came to the event to showcase their powers and superiority over each other.

The one week event which was climaxed on Friday ,August 11 this year, did not end in a joyous mood. It was greeted with sad moments, as three young men believed to be secret cult members met their waterloo having attempted to disrupt the peaceful celebration that attracted all walks of lives even tourists from both within and outside the country.

At least, three persons were feared dead, while others were reportedly injured in a clash that occurred between two rival cult groups in Osogbo, Osun State capital on Friday.

The clash occurred during the grand finale of the festival as a result of which many residents visitors ,spectators ,foreigners were thrown into panic as people scampered for their safety.

Reports from our correspondent said the immediate cause of the clash between the rival cult groups however, were still not clear, but that the prompt intervention of security agencies and local vigilante group were able to bring the situation under control .

While trying to subdue the hoodlums, about ten operatives of the Nigeria Hunters and Forest Security Service were wounded by the hoodlums and taken to the State Teaching Hospital for treatment.

The suspected cultists also vandalized the NHFS office close to the scene of the incident.

Mr Hammed Nureni, the State Commandant of Nigeria Hunter and Forest Security Service in Osun who confirmed the unfortunate incident, said no fewer than three persons were killed in the clash that ensued between the suspected cultists.

He said despite the earlier warning by both conventional security agencies and local vigilante operative about the event, but some miscreants chooses to have their way and as a result of which three lives were lost in the process

His words “We counted three dead bodies. After the incident that happened at the groove, the hoodlums proceeded to our office and get it vandalized. Also Ten of our men were wounded”, he stated.

The Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubalan and the National Coordinator of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Iba Gani Adams who was physically present at the event vehemently condemned the unfortunate incident.

Speaking during the event at the palace of Ataoja of Osogbo land, Oba Jimoh Oyetunji, said It is unfortunate that cultists and miscreants have taken advantage of the hospitality of the festival to create a platform for cult rivalry which Osun goddess abhors and we must collectively stop the trend.

“This is an opportunity for Osun and Nigeria to attract tourist development.

Osun-Osogbo is renowned globally and we must protect and project it to the whole world. Nothing must stop the advancement of the festival and by extension Yoruba tradition”, he said.

However, despite the ugly incident recorded, the state Governor, Sen. Ademola Adeleke restated the commitment of his administration to tourist development, assuring the visitors, that his administration is poised to creat a conducive atmosphere capable of guaranteeing the safety of the tourists and people of the state.

Adeleke said: “This year’s celebration therefore provides the greatest opportunity ever for our people to have a new look at our culture and tradition. We are challenged to capitalise on our rich culture to build an economically sound and virile nation.

“As a government, our administration has a tourism and cultural industry agenda. During the campaign and within the transition committee, we devised far reaching programmes and policies for the arts, culture and tourism industry. We indeed created a new holistic approach by adding the creative industry as a whole”.

Adeleke who described the event, as a celebration of culture and religion disclosed that the government recognized the socio-cultural benefits of the festival hence the efforts of his administration to improve the aspect of the groove.

” You can see the big crowd that is here today. By next year it will be a lot different. But we thank God that today was successful.

“In terms of development, since inception of worshipping the goddess, they never had it like this. We had to beautify in less than two months. We still have more to do, just keep watching”, he added.

Also speaking, the Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Oyetunji, thanked the Governor and corporate sponsors of the festival for their support through the years.

He prayed for all attendees, Osun State and Nigeria as a whole, stressing that the prosperity Osun is noted for would rest on everyone.

During the festival, there is a sacred forest located in the outskirts of Osogbo which is believed to be one of the forests where “Orisha”, the spirit they believe blesses them, reveals itself.

Devotees are led by a virgin maiden called Arugba who is a link between the community and deity.

The virgin maiden leads in all sacrifices offered in the river. The Arugba (virgin maiden) carries all the sacrifices (flowers, honey, gold etc) of the community and for all those in attendance. The tradition dictates that these sacrifices be carried in a big calabash.

Before all this happens, the worshippers offer a special prayer in the shrine of a priestess.

The Osun Osogbo grand finale was witnessed by several dignitaries and tourists from across the country and around the world.

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