Those who have been awaiting this year’s Osun Osogbo festival with bated breath can now heave a sigh of relief: The festival will hold after all in spite of the passing on of the Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Iyiola Oyewale Matanmi III.

This was disclosed by the organisers of the fiesta and the elders of the town at a press conference held at the Osun Hall of the Airports Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos last Wednesday.

The press briefing was held to dispel and debunk insinuations in some quarters that the demise of the town’s monarch may stall the holding of the world renowned yearly festival. Oba Oyewale joined his ancestors the penultimate Wednesday (August 4) at his palace in Osogbo at the age of 76 years.

Addressing reporters at the briefing, the Executive Secretary of the Osun Osogbo Festival, Aare Ifagbenusola Atanda who is also the Aare Alasa of Osogboland stated that this year’s edition of the festival which is the 641st would hold from Monday 16th through 27th august, 2010.

He described this year’s edition as a unique one being the first time in the history of the ancient town when the Osun Osogbo festival would be celebrated without a substantive Ataoja on the throne.

“It is with mixed feelings that I address you …,” a pensive Atanda told reporters. He however lightened up as he affirmed that the festival would hold after all and that the final rites of passage for the departed monarch would form the highpoint of the two-week-long-fiesta.

“This is the first time Osun Osogbo is being celebrated without the Ataoja. It has never happened before. However, the high point of the event is going to be the rite of passage of the departed Oba. We want to convince the spirit of the late Oba that we know that the festival must go on and that we know our roles. He came to our rescue 34 years ago as he rushed from his Ipebi to lead the Osun possession,” he added.

The Iwopopo ( traditional cleansing of the city) holds on Monday. On Thursday there is the lighting of the Atupa Olojumerindinlogun ( over 600 years old 16 point lamp said to have been snatched from a gnome) and the opening of the festival arts exhibition. The Saturday after holds the fourth Osun Festival Olagunsoye Oyinlola Competion in honour of the state governor for his contribution to the festival. The following Monday is for the Iboriade ( Ataoja’s crowns assemblage). Susanne Wenger’s Sacred Colloquium and the Arugba’s Berth hold on Wednesday, Sisi Osun Cultural Pageant on Thursday, while the grand finale and Asa Grand Musical Festival come up on Fiday.

Also at the press conference were Mr Ayo Olumoko, the festival’s Chief Marketing Consultant, Baale of Gbolufon of Osogboland, Chief Jimoh Buraimoh who is also the festival’s Principal Co-ordinator who all addressed the gathering.

At the events, held on two different occasions the festival’s ambassadors: renowned Fuji artistes, Adewale Ayuba and Saheed Osupa with the Ma Yin E Ni Banger crooners, Skuki.

Both Ayuba and Osupa who appeared at different for a promised to be good ambassadors of the festival. They also expressed appreciation at being appointed.

The duo known as Skuki also expressed gratitude for being deemed fit to perform at the internationally renowned event pledging not to disappoint their fans.

The festival which is expected to be graced by millions of people from all walks of life began around 1370 AD when Osogbo’s founder and monarch, Oba Gbadewolu Larooye, started celebrating his pact with Osun, a river goddess, for fertility, protection and prosperity.

The Osun Groove was enlisted officially as a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2005.