Osogbo, Nigeria – Despite the state government’s warning against drinking water from the Osun River during the grand finale of the Osun Osogbo festival due to contamination, many devotees and visitors were sighted on Friday, defying health warnings.
Some worshippers, who fetched the water in different sizes of jerrycans, were seen drinking the water on their way out of the grove.
Devotees and visitors, who had trooped out to the riverside in white attire and beads, were seen singing traditional songs and dancing. A worshipper, Abidoye Osungbenro, said she strongly believed that nothing would happen to her if she drank the contaminated water.
Ms Osungbenro said the deity would protect her and others from any ailment as a result of drinking contaminated water. She said the government’s advisory about drinking from the contaminated river would not be beneficial to those who believe in the efficacy of the water.
Another devotee, Adeoye Ifadayo, described the Osun River as divine, providing healing and protection. Ms Ifadayo said the government’s advisory would not stop them from drinking the contaminated water.
Similarly, Sadiq Adeoso, an Osun devotee, said with the divine power in the river, nothing would happen to those who drink its contaminated water because of its sacred powers.
The contaminated water, packaged in jerrycans, was sold at the grove’s entrance, with the price of the water ranging from N150 to N350.
During the festival, tourists, visitors and devotees usually drink from the Osun River for its perceived divine healing properties, while some take the water home to bathe.
The government on Thursday advised tourists and devotees to the grand finale of the festival to refrain from drinking the water because of contamination.
Commissioner for health, Rafiu Isamotu, said the government embarked on sensitisation to discourage people from drinking the water during the festival as the activities of artisanal miners had contaminated it.
Mr Isamotu said public health officials would be at the grove during the festival to sensitise further people on the dangers of drinking the water. According to the curator and site manager of Osun Osogbo Grove, Adekunle Fatai, no fewer than 60,000 devotees and tourists are expected at the grand finale.
The river is heavily contaminated with mercury, lead, cyanide and other harmful elements poisonous to human health. Geographical information analysis and laboratory tests carried out by Urban Alert affirmed the presence of heavy elements in the water.
Meanwhile, traditionalists and Osun devotees continued to troop the river in their numbers as early as 7:00 a.m to celebrate the festival’s grand finale. Traditional entertainers and cultural troops entertained guests and visitors at the grove.
The Osun-Osogbo festival, whose history dates back many centuries, is usually celebrated in an ancient grove believed to be among the last of the sacred forests among Yoruba cities.
In recognition of its global significance and cultural value, the Sacred Grove was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
For the people of Osogbo, the festival symbolises the traditional cleansing of the town and the cultural reunion of the people with their ancestors and founders of the Osogbo kingdom. (NAN)