The Osun Osogbo Festival!

By: Amanda Ibironke
25 April, 2019

Column: Feature and Opinion

Osun osogbo grove is a sacred forest along the banks of the Osun River. The Osun osogbo grove is among the last of the sacred forests which usually adjoined the edges of most Yoruba cities before extensive urbanisation.Every year, the Osun-Osogbo festival is celebrated in the month of August at the grove. Yearly, the festival attracts thousands of Osun worshippers, spectators and tourists from all walks of life. For the people of Osogbo land, August is a month of celebration, traditional cleansing of the city and cultural reunion of the people with their ancestors and founders of the Osogbo Kingdom. The Osun-Osogbo Festival is a two-week-long programme. It starts with the traditional cleansing of the town called 'Iwopopo', which is followed after three days by the lighting of the 500-year-old sixteen-point lamp called 'Ina Olojumerindinlogun'.

Ina Olojumerindinlogun, the sacred lamp lit at the beginning of the annual Osun-Osogbo festival. Then comes the 'Ibroriade', an assemblage of the crowns of the past rulers of the town, (the Ataojas of Osogbo), for blessings. This event is led by the sitting Ataoja of Osogbo and the Arugba (the virgin calabash carrier), Yeye Osun (chief priestess) and a committee of priestesses. 

Founded on an ancient covenant entered into circa 1370 AD between the first Osogbo settlers and the Osun river goddess, the festival has become an annual ritual marked by plenty of fanfare. The ceremonies culminate in the cultural procession of people to the Osun grove, a spectacle that commands the interest of thousands of tourists every year. The procession begins in the Ataoja’s palace and its star attraction is the votary maid, Arugba. She is the maiden who carries the sacred calabash of prayers and offerings to the grove. Arugba is escorted on the walk by Osun priests and priestesses who begin by leading her round the palace premises and back to a sacred hut. By this time, the grove and streets leading to the palace are teeming with people awaiting the appearance of the Arugba. Guarded by devotees, she comes out of the hut and stands by its entrance, and the calabash is placed on her head from behind. Immediately the atmosphere is electrified. The tempo increases as people press against one another; cameramen jostle for shots as she exits the palace and heads towards the grove. The crowd increases at every junction and Arugba’s advance is accompanied by chants of “Ooreyeye o!” – a lyrical exhortation of blessings to the Osun goddess.

Ambassador Bala said when the process is completed, the NIN and the e-ID Card will be the only official way to identify Nigerians because an individual's NIN will integrate and categorize all the numbers and item of an individual like his passport number, BVN, driver’s license, voters card number, bank accounts, landed properties etc. in just one single card called the e-ID Card. And that is what the Nigerian government is trying to do.

 “Also around the world identity theft is big. People stealing the identity of other people and used to commit crime, this exercise will give Nigerians the opportunity to identify themselves not only in Nigeria but even outside Nigeria because there are situations where we could have some other nationals of Africa that "maybe" have obtained the Nigerian passport and say they are Nigerians but in actual sense they are not Nigerians. Also this process will go a long way in fighting crime”, the Ambassador stated.

We asked the High Commissioner if there is a particular time frame or if there will be any form of enforcement from the Diplomatic Missions in foreign countries to ensure that by certain period of time all Nigerians are registered.

The Ambassador replied, "Well we have been informed that there is a time limit within which you need to register, that is between 90 and 120 days from the start of the exercise now. Even though that will not mean that what you have previously like the passport will not be valid, it is still valid but you will need to register within this particular period."

Regarding cost implication of registration for NIN, the Ambassador emphasized the need to let people know that NIN is free in Nigeria. However, he clarified that “outside Nigeria because the service is brought to you next to your door, then if you are over 16 years old you are required to pay the amount of $50 to obtain it, and for those who are under 16 years, $5 is the amount required to pay if you are in South Africa or other countries. This amount was decided by the National Identity management Commission (NIMC),” Ambassador Bala explained.

The Nigerian diplomat continued; “to my understanding because if you have to go back to Nigeria to register you will spend even more. This is an exercise that has never been done by any other country asides Nigeria for its citizens in the Diaspora. For those countries who have the highest data base like India, they require their citizens to go back to India in other to obtain the card. It is mandatory for them to go back home and do it. But for Nigeria that is not the case. You can do it at home which is free when you find yourself at home, and you can also do it outside the country, but outside the country comes with a fee. Our people need to understand that it is so because the service is brought closer to where they are”.

The Nigerian government has given permission to about six (6) companies to carry out the registration of Nigerians outside the shores of Nigeria. For South Africa, the Ambassador confirmed they have received from government the six (6) companies that have been authorized to do the registration for Nigerians outside of Nigeria. And the company responsible for South Africa is Thebez global; that is the company that has been given the mandate and license to register Nigerians in South Africa.

Ambassador Bala advised Nigerians in South Africa to make sure they enroll because he has enrolled. "I have gone and I have obtained my own NIN and if it is not legal I wouldn't get myself involved in it. I know that it is an exercise that is mandated by law and therefore I encourage all Nigerians wherever they are in South Africa, Lesotho and eSwatini. I encourage them to embrace this, I encourage them to go and register because I see the benefits," Ambassador pleaded.

 "If I can carry just one card with me that can identify me anywhere and I don't need to carry my bank card, I don't need to carry my driver’s license, I can use it as my passport to Ecowas countries and countries that are visa free for Nigerians because it conforms to such standards as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), why wouldn’t' I want to enroll and want to be registered? So I encourage every Nigerian because it is required by law to register, Ambassador Bala urged.

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