Wabara: Why Are Igbo Forests Not For Tourism?
FROM SEUN ADEOYE (OSOGBO) AND UZOMA NZEAGWU (AWKA)
SENATE President Adolphus Wabara beheld the spectacle of the Osun Festival in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, perhaps for the first time yesterday.
He surveyed the grove that has continued to provide appreciable revenue to the state through revenue. The Igbo high chief also witnessed the thousands of religious faithful and culture enthusiasts, mostly women, who joyfully thronged the festival, resplendent in their all-white Iro and Buba.
He recognised that the deep Osun grove was not in any material way different from the traditional shrines in the South East.
In the midst of it all, the Senate President could not but wonder aloud: "Why would my people, the Igbo, use their God-given forests for ritual killings and not tourism"
Wabara's poser was an inadvertent reaction to the discovery of some horror shrines in Anambra Sate by the police on Wednesday, habouring about 50 dead bodies and 90 skulls.
The Senate President, while speaking at the Osun-Osogbo shrine wondered why people of Igbo origin "rich in culture", should be using their forests for human sacrifice.
He lauded the people and government of Osun State for protecting their culture, particularly how the shrine was being used for tourist attraction Wabara noted that thousands of people from within and outside Nigeria visit the Osun grove yearly for cultural and tourism purposes.
He said: "it is sad that our people (Igbo indigenes) with this type of edifice, will use it for such wicked and nefarious activities. I've looked around and I did not see any corpse, either fresh or old, and I cannot see any human skull. This forest was protected by the people for great occasions like this."
The Senate President therefore urged the people of the South-East "to go back home" and ensure that "such activities not fit for the century are stopped and our thick forests are protected."
At the Osun-Osogbo festival attended by thousands of people, Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola said that the event had gone beyond religion but was now a "celebration of our cultural heritage."
Oyinlola said that the significance of the festival had increased over the years. "As you can see, we have both Christians and Moslems alike gathering for this great event," he said.
While pledging the support and cooperation of his government with the UNESCO on the developmental progress of the Osun grove, Oyinlola said that his administration would exchange partnership with private individuals and organiations in the promotion of culture and tourism.
The governor who disclosed that Osun cultural carnival would hold from August 27 to September 3, implored the organizers of Osun-Osogbo festival to sustain and maintain the current tempo of the festival.
Professor Wande Abimbola, Special Adviser to the President on Culture, who represented President Olusegun Obasanjo, prayed for those who attended the event and pledged the president's support for the event.
The week-long activities of the festival ended with prayers and sacrifices at the grove where participants went back home with water fetched from the river as source of divine favour and blessings.
And in an attempt to dig out more facts surrounding the Arusi Okija "Shrine" in Ihiala Local Government area of Anambra State, the Police Headquarters Abuja has dispatched more policemen to the state.
This is however coming on the heels of strong criticisms of the police raid by the Pan Igbo Socio cultural group, Ohaneze which argued that worshippers at shrines was a non-issue in Nigeria.
A police source said the Inspector General, Mr Tafa Balogun had sent some policemen and detectives from the Force Headquarters, Abuja to dig deeper into the forest.
It was learnt that a confessional statement from one of the suspects earlier arrested in the police raid this week might have prompted the IG's action, suggesting that it is a mop up operation to pick up suspects who escaped arrest.
The Anambra Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Kolapo Shofoluwe told The Guardian that investigation into the matter was still on.
Early last week, Shofoluwe had stated that Police Headquarters, Abuja would send more reinforcements to strengthen efforts of the State Command.
But in a sharp reaction, the Secretary General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Col Joe Achuzia (rtd), described the police action as ridiculous, and a calculated attempt to tarnish the image of the Igbo , saying the issue portrayed the ethnic stock as cannibals.