The grand finale of the annual Osun-Osogbo festival ended on Friday with a low turnout of people to the grove as the annual cultural fiesta was observed in strict compliance with the COVID-19 protocols.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the state government had on Tuesday announced a ban on social activities and gatherings at the Osun-Osogbo festival and restricted visitors to the UNESCO World Heritage site to worshippers only.
The state government, however, approved the observance of traditional rites and routines associated with the festival (in strict compliance with COVID-19 guidelines) and that only authorised persons and worshippers were allowed into the Grove.
However, at the Grove on Friday, the Gov. Gboyega Oyetola, represented by the state Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Obawale Adebisi, pleaded with the worshippers and Osogbo monarch, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, to bear with the state, assuring that next year's celebration would bring more tourists.
"I appreciated the monarch and the worshipers of Osun-Osogbo for their cooperation with the state government.
"The purpose of the restriction is not punitive but to ensure the safety of the entire state
"People should know how fast COVID-19 is spreading, particularly in our state and one of the protocols minimum number of people gathering together and this festival is an international festival.
"People who are coming for the festival, no one knows what they may be bringing in.
"Osun Osogbo is strategic to the state because it is an international festival and our plan was that people from outside should join the festival, but because of the COVID-19, we could not do that.
"We plead with the King to bear with the state and we assure him that by next year we will bring many people as many as possible to celebrate with him.
"We wish the Oba well and also the people of Osun. We wish them a happy celebration," the governor said
The Ataoja of Osogbo land, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, Larooye II, host of the Osun-Osogbo festival, thanked the state government for its usual support for the festival.
The royal father stated that worshippers of the Osun deity equally understood why the social gathering was restricted for the festival.
Oba Olanipekun, however, prayed for the pandemic to be over soonest, just as he equally prayed for peace and unity in the state and country at large, with the security of lives and property.