The 2019 edition of the annual Osun Osogbo festival is around the corner and in this interview with Saturday Tribune, Mr Toye Arulogun, the Managing Consultant of the marketing communications firm managing the festival, explained that this year’s edition of the festival, tagged, ‘Festival of the World’ will add value to the cultural tourism landscape of Nigeria.
What significance does Osun Osogbo festival hold for the state and its people?
Osun Osogbo is not a festival of the people of Osogbo nor the people of Osun State alone. Osun Osogbo festival is an international festival. As Kabiyesi, the Ataoja of Osogboland would say, it is a festival of the world. Remember that the Osun Grove has been listed by UNESCO’s site since the year 2005 as a world heritage site. So, we are talking about a local festival with a global appeal. More directly to your question however, Osun Osogbo festival is an annual ritual in fulfillment of the promise to Yeye Osun — the goddess of river Osun.
Over the years, it has grown in stature and reputation. It attracts not just Osun devotees but local, national and international tourists. It is, therefore, not just a celebration by Osun devotees or the people of the state, but a global cultural fiesta that attracts patrons and participants locally, nationally and internationally. The significance therefore is the preservation of the Osun Osogbo traditional heritage, promotion of cultural tourism with inherent socio – economic benefits to the state and its people. Osun Osogbo festival is an international traditional, heritage and cultural festival that has given a prominent position to Osogbo and indeed Osun State.
What are you going to do to add value to the programme?
Our strategy is to deliver a win – win experience for all the various stakeholders and partners. The integrity of the traditional institution will be sustained, the state government will derive both intrinsic and extrinsic benefits, the sponsoring brands will get value and returns on investment, the devotees and participants will have a worthy and rewarding experience, the people and businesses in Osun State will gain through job opportunities and increase in sales activities along the value chain.
Do you think you can make a difference?
For us as marketing communications practitioners, managing the festival, we are working on an international brand. Our task is more of reinforcing the brand in terms of offering and contemporariness without losing the traditional and cultural essence which is at its core. I am the team leader and just ended my tenure as the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism in Oyo State and therefore, comes to the table with some measure of experience in the promotion and preservation of our cultural heritage. Having sustained existing festivals and introduced new ones like the Aso Ofi Festival, Amala Fiesta, International Twins festival, World Culture day celebrations while in office, it is our conviction that the Esquire Global team can add value to the Osun Osogbo festival and the cultural tourism landscape in Nigeria.
How do you intend to put your mark without eroding the cultural importance of the show?
It is not about anybody putting a mark, neither is it a show. Osun Osogbo has been existing for decades, it is still existing and will continue to exist. It is a cultural fiesta with strong heritage and high spiritual content. Nobody will dare tamper with that. The traditional and heritage institutions will not permit that. The mystery and mystic is at the nucleus of the festival. Kaabiyesi, The Ataoja of Osogboland is the custodian. The mission is to develop and expand the frontiers of the Osun Osogbo festival brand positioning it as one of the top festivals in Africa and ultimately the world without detracting from its spiritual essence, myth and mysticism.
What should people expect from the 2019 edition of the festival?
The 2019 edition of the Osun Osogbo Festial promises to evoke the same spirituality and celebrations of the past. However, we have injected a few new things to provide value addition especially for sponsors and partners. We expect more foot fall from within and outside the country, more exposure across the various communications channels and vehicles, more fun and excitement in the true spirit of festivity. There will be specifically targeted events across demographies and a general lock down of Osogbo during the 2 weeks celebration. Naturally, this will translate into higher economic gains for Osogbo and the state given the multiplier effect of hosting an international festival in key sectors such as hospitality, transportation, culture and tourism, textile and fashion, food and beverages, arts and entertainment to mention a few.
How do you intend to manage the crowd?
I am glad you recognise the fact that there is typically a huge crowd at most of the events marking the festivities during the Osun Osogbo festival. Remember, it is not the first time and there is a crowd management plan on ground, which is why over the years, there has never been causalities. Your question is, however, appropriate given our promise of more foot fall this year. We have therefore not only upscaled the crowd management plan but security cover as well. Rest assured that as event managers we are focusing on this crucial performance indicator. It is non-negotiable for the success of the festival.
What plans do you have for the local crafts people?
Osogbo is renowned for arts and crafts. The arts and crafts practitioners are an integral part of the festival. People come from all over the world to purchase Osogbo’s art and craft, especially foreigners and Africans in the diaspora. It is a huge market during the festival. So, we will sustain the arts and crafts exhibition with the typical merchandising and sale of not just Osogbo art and craft but Yoruba art and craft.