At the recently held Osun Osogbo Festival, former Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism under the former administration, Toye Arulogun, who is now a consultant for the 2019 annual festival, tells Kemi Olaitan that tourism should be embraced by all and sundry
For the years that he served as Commissioner in Oyo state, like or hate him, one thing that you cannot take away from Toye Arulogun, was his desire to make a difference. Imbibed with bundle of energy synonymous with his stature, he was always with one idea or the other such that the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism under his supervision had one programme to do virtually every week for close to four years he held sway there.
Not the one to stay idle, less than three months after leaving, he has decided to channel his energy into making the Osun Osogbo Festival, which has been celebrated for many years, one of, if not the best tourist attractions in the country. According to him, he is getting himself involved in re-branding the festival to change its perception and fortune.
He said, “Osun Osogbo Festival is an international traditional, heritage and cultural festival that has given a prominent position to Osogbo and indeed the State of Osun on the world cultural tourism map. As you may be aware, it is an annual ritual in fulfilment of the promise to Yeye Osun. – the goddess of river Osun.
“Over the years, it has grown in stature and reputation to merit a listing by UNESCO in 2005 as a world heritage site. It attracts not just Osun devotees but local, national and international tourists. It is therefore not just a celebration by Osun devotees but a global cultural fiesta that attracts patrons and participants locally, nationally and internationally.
“So, for me as a marketing communications practitioner, I am working on an international brand. It is not so much about rebranding, it is more of reinforcing the brand in terms in offering and contemporariness without losing the traditional and cultural essence which is at its core.
“Also remember that I have just ended my tenure as the commissioner for Information Culture and Tourism in Oyo State and therefore come 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, Kaabiyesi Ataoja of Osogbo considered me qualified enough to appoint me as the consultant.
“That is my involvement; which is to bring to bear my skills in marketing communications and experience in culture and tourism for the benefit of Osun Osogbo Festival and tourism in Nigeria.”
On what would make this year’s festival which started last Saturday with a walk involving Governor Gboyega Oyetola and Nigerian ethnic nationalities, different from the previous ones held in the past. Arulogun promised that it would evoke the same spirituality and celebrations of those held in the past.
He disclosed that the marketing and event management company for the festival, Esquire Global, under his leadership has injected 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, specifically targeted events across demographies and a general lock down of Osogbo during the two weeks celebration.
“Naturally, this will translate into higher economic gains for Osogbo and the State of Osun given the multiplier effect of hosting an international festival in key sectors such as hospitality, transportation, culture and tourism, food and beverages, arts and entertainment to mention a few.
“We are desirous of sustaining Osun Osogbo Festival as an international cultural tourism brand in partnership with the state government. The support of the State of Osun is therefore crucial to the success of this year’s edition, as we jointly promote, preserve and sustain the uniqueness of Osun Osogbo festival.
“For this year, pre-festival activities would begin with the traditional cleaning of the city (Iwopopo) on August 5 and the lighting of the mystic 16 points lamp on August 8, while the festival activities would commence on Monday, August 12 with the Assemblage of Crowns (Iboriade).
“The Arugba Berth ceremony would hold on August 13, the same day that tourists would have the opportunity of touring the cultural and historical sites in the state.
“The activities would also witness the native Ayo game, football competition finals, Arts and Crafts Fair and children’s fiesta at the palace pavilion on August 14, with the Ataoja’s Chieftaincy Coronation and Osun Festival Tourism forum rounding off the programme on Thursday, August 15″, he said.
Arulogun while projecting into what Nigerians stand to gain from the festival, he assured that there are many business angles of the festival that can be explored to shore up the economic development of Osun state.
According to him, “the benefits are enormous. Our strategy is to deliver win – win experiences 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 return 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, increase in sales along the value chain.”
While throwing his weight behind the determination of the Federal Government to diversify the nation’s economy from oil, he said it is a step in the right direction as tourism can come to the rescue.
“From my experience, tourism can be a veritable alternative to oil. This has been proven by some countries whose economy is largely dependent on tourism. You know there are different types of tourism; medical, education, religious, sports and so on.
“However, we need to provide the supporting security architecture and infrastructure to make this a reality. More instructively and in support of the fact that tourism can come to the rescue, the fastest growing sector of the Oyo State economy as at when we left is the hospitality and tourism sector with an average growth rate of about 300 per cent.
“The economy of African countries like Seychelles and Ghana survive largely on tourism. Other examples in more developed countries abound. Without doubt, tourism can come to the rescue in Nigeria as envisioned by the Federal Government”, Arulogun said.