Osogbo – Osogbo town and the palace of Ataoja of Osogbo on Tuesday were beehive of activity as residents and foreigners got set for the grand finale of the 2012 Osun Osogbo Festival.
The palace and the festival centre were bustling with activities.
The Osun Osogbo groove, which is the centre-point of the festival, is receiving a face-lift, given its status as a UNESCO heritage site.
The activities leading to the festival commenced on Aug. 9 and would be rounded off on Aug. 25, which was meant to celebrate the special “Oroki“ day.
Men and women were seen playing the traditional “ayo olopon“ (native ayo game) as part of the games lined up for the festival.
According to Mr Fatai Adewusi, an indigene of Osogbo, the game is part of the traditional rites that would usher in the grand finale of the festival scheduled for Friday.
Mr Folorunsho Yusuf, Secretary of Osun Osogbo Festival Planning Committee, said that film shows, ayo game, raffle promotions and youth football challenge cup competition, had been lined up to usher in the grand finale.
He said that preparation was in top gear to make the event a huge success, adding that everything would be done to achieve the desired target.
Yusuf said that in order to ensure security of lives and property, entrance to the venue of the shrine would only be strictly by invitation.
“We want to ensure that there is no confusion, because this is a world festival as declared by UNESCO since it was listed on the World Heritage Site and there was need to make it hitch-free.“
Mr Adeola Segun, a resident of Osogbo,said that all the hotels in the city would soon be fully booked as it was the usual practice during the festival.
He said that that would swell up the economy of the residents, as people coming from outside would add value to the socio-economic life of the people.
Already, motorists and commercial motorcycle operators (okada riders), were planning to make brisk business during the festival which would attract many people from all walks of life.
A taxi driver, who simply identified himself as Taju, said he could not wait for the day to come, adding that the period was his most selling point.
“I rake in a lot of money during the Osun Osogbo festival, because we used to have people from different places including the white people who come for tourism purposes, “ he said.
An official of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, attached to the palace, Mrs Mary Bashorun, said the corps was fully prepared.
She said that officials of the Civil Defence Corps had been on ground for surveillance.
“If a car is parked for a long time, we try to ask questions and probably locate the person just to ensure that everything is in order,“ Bashorun said.
Since UNESCO listed Osun Osogbo Festival on the World Heritage List, it had witnessed a sporadic change as it was now being visited by foreigners.
The National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) is making efforts to have more tourist centres in the country like Idanre hill in Ondo State and Oloibiri in Rivers State to be declared as World Heritage Sites.
Also the festival formally took off on Monday, Aug. 13 in Osogbo metropolis with a traditional rally known as “Iwopopo”.
Iwopopo is the traditional cleansing of the routes leading to the palace of the Ataoja of Osogbo and the Osun Grove.
The grand finale of the festival, which is scheduled to hold on Friday, Aug. 24, is expected to be attended by people from both within and outside the country.
The state government had tarred the road leading to the Osun grove as well as reconstructed the pavilion at the shrine with a view to making the festival a success.
The government would provide free rail transport for those who were prepared to visit Osogbo from Oyo and Lagos states for the festival.
The state government was also making necessary arrangements to ensure proper management and control of the crowd during the grand finale of the festival.