Known as the State of the Living Spring, Osun was created in 1991 out of the old Oyo State by the Babangida military administration with its capital in commercial town of Osogbo. The state is blessed with favourable weather, serene atmosphere, green environment, beautiful landscape and enviable historical and natural sites making it a preferable destination for tourists from within and outside the country.
A professor from the University of Arkansas, Dr. Uche Ewelukwa Ofodile, once argued that tourism must and should “ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities and contributing to poverty alleviation.
As it stands, Osun state stands at a very vantage position to ensure this Erin Ijesha, Ogedengbe’s war situation site in Imesi-Ile, the famous Olojo Festival in Ile-Ife, the annual Iwude Ijesa Festival, Ipedi and Odun Sango festivals in Ede are some of the famous sites and festivals in the state while sites like the famous Ife Bronze, the Oranmiyan staff and the Ife Museum are some of the few interesting sites attracting tourists to the state.
Others are the Obafemi Awolowo University Zoological Gardens located on the campus of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife; Ile Ase; Yeyemolu Shrine and Oduduwa Grove – all in Ile Ife.
There is also the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove, venue of the internationally recognized Osun Osogbo Festival and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Adunni Olorisa (Susan Wengers) Centre; Genesis Arts Gallery; Nike Arts Gallery; Jalumi War Site, Inisa Odo Otin; the Olumirin Waterfalls, Erin Ijesa, Igbo Sango in Ede; and the Ayinkunnugba Waterfalls at Oke Ila which make tourists yearn.
The Osun Osogbo festival is a two way event. It has the religious attachments and the social and tourism component. Osun Osogbo Festival is a two-week programme of events starting with the spiritual cleansing of the town. This is generally known as Ìwòpòpò, followed by Olójúmérìndínlógún which is the lightening of the centuries-old 16-points lamp three days later.
Ìboríadé – the assemblage of all the crowns of past rulers (Ataojas) for blessings, follows some four days later. The festival’s Grand Finale showcases the cultural procession of the people to the Osun Grove.
Despite the influence of western civilization, education and religion, the festival has to a very large extent manifested its originality, authenticity and acceptability among nations worldwide.
The origin of the festival can be traced back to the legendary encounter between the early settlers of Osogbo with the Osun Osogbo deity. In about 1370AD, the founder of Osogbo, Oba Gbadewolu Larooye and the great hunter Olutimehin settled in the sacred Osun forest to establish the kingdom and actualized a pact of association and togetherness with the River Osun deity.
Since then Osogbo has remained peaceful, progressive and benevolent city without the perils of war or pestilence. This pact of association is rekindled every year in the month of August and is the foundation of a cultural fiesta that has catapulted itself into world recognition as one of the largest tourist attraction in Nigeria.
Many have called for enhancement of the festival and the promotion of the business and economic prospects of the state during these festivals as it would boost not only the internally generated revenue of the state government but would also advance the development of the state and people in the state.