Your Excellency, Senator Ademola Adeleke,
As worshippers, tourists, and lovers of traditions across the universe assemble to celebrate the annual Osun Osogbo festival, it is sad to see the River Osun grove, a world heritage site and a significant cultural preservation legacy left by our forefathers, in such a dreadful situation.
The Osun Osogbo celebration has been recognized as a tremendous feat by followers, including foreigners, who flock in large numbers to adore the River Osun Goddess year after year. If you stroll through the groove, you will observe that the last time it underwent genuine growth was during Susan Wenger’s tenure. The Australian traveller who dedicated a significant portion of her life to the sacred groove and the River Osun Goddess.
I raised this matter privately with various stakeholders, but their explanations did not satisfy me. Every year, certain companies, including state and federal governments, make large donations to the Osun Osogbo festival, in addition to cash raised by individuals and visitors who come to worship the River Goddess. With these gifts, one has to wonder if these cash were properly remitted for developing the groove through new innovations or designs.
Your Excellency, the River Osun Sacred Groove is more than just a traditional site where devotees come to worship seldomly. The government should see and treat it as a tourism destination. As a global heritage site, I believe the groove merits additional attention and supervision from the state, in addition to the Federal government’s control of its operations through the Ministry of Culture. Please allow us to improve the groove and make it more appealing.
Sadly, the sad stories about the River Osun are more than mismanagement, land grabber desperation, government negligence at all levels, and stunted progress throughout the years. It may be of interest to you that the sacred water that forms the foundation of the Osun Osogbo celebration has suffered considerably at the hands of miners.
The River Osun has been contaminated as a result of mining activity, which is no longer news. Several reports have revealed that the river is significantly contaminated with excess mercury, lead, cyanide, arsenal and other harmful components that are toxic to human health. Last year, the previous government cautioned and sensitized worshippers and visitors not to drink the water during the festival during a news conference. Devotees defied the state administration by drinking polluted water.
Mr. President, I work as a journalist in Osun State. I’ve been covering Osun Osogbo for more than five years. Aside from the painful memory caused by the new color of the river, I am personally concerned about excess elements present in the water which are injurious to health. Despite protests and pressures from all sides, the Osun Osogbo celebration has begun with the sacred water still contaminated. This year, more devotees, including guests, will consume the poisoned water. Let us leave the faith debate aside. Those who drank it last year and did not get sick as a result of a lack of medical testing or the timing of possible consequences would drink it again and encourage others to do the same.
Concerns regarding the circumstance have been highlighted by experts. Concerningly, each person living along the Osun River will have an increase in the levels of cyanide, lead, and mercury in their bodies. Unborn children may be at risk for neurological abnormalities, according to some specialists. Children who are exposed to excessive lead levels run the risk of developing low IQ, learning impairments, and behavioral problems. These effects are permanent.
We can’t tell believers not to worship the River Osun Goddess. We can’t tell them not to drink the sacred water, which is recognized for curing ailments, most of which are related to childbirth. Most adherents are either uneducated or religiously motivated to believe threats related with the polluted River. They will drink it if the color changes to purple today. As a result, it is the obligation of every responsible and proactive government to stop the contamination and clean up the water.
Under your leadership, the government must do everything in its power to make the water safe to drink. This administration must tighten its belt and find solutions to this long-standing issue. It is safer to clean the water body than ordering devotees to avoid it. As the date for Arugba’s procession to the holy grove approaches, it will be a heartbreaking experience to see innocent people, especially children and women, drink poisoned water as they adore the River Goddess and seek healing from her sacred water.