David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
After 22 years of crisis, Isuofia community in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State has come to terms to celebrate its age-long New Yam festival that once again brought the indigenes together to eat from one table.
The event witnessed homecoming of Isuofia people in diaspora to join those at home to gather at their civic centre to cement unity that had eluded them over the years. It was so colourful that it looked like the first time the community was celebrating the festival.
For entertainment, the Ohafia War Dance otherwise called Ikperikpeogu, Egedege Dance of Queen Theresa Onuorah and her famous original Egedege of Africa and other live bands were there playing along with traditional dance groups from the community celebrating peace and unity that had returned to the town.
Illustrious sons and daughters of the community, men, women of all ages and children were not left out as they trooped out in their numbers to be part of the celebration. They filed out and occupied canopies positioned according to the six villages that make up Isuofia town, namely Umueze, Ozalla, Isiaku, Okpoko, Akulu and Ezioka, to participate in the ceremony.
Visibly happy and excited, one of the eminent sons of the community and the CEO of Pokobros Group of Companies, Chief Paul Okonkwor, who never hid his love for the unity of Isuofia, having thrown his weight, money and personality for the resolution of the crisis that rocked the community, said that the Unity Iri Ji 2019 as they tagged it, has brought a final stop to the over two decades’ crisis.
He and expressed optimism that all the good things that come along with peace including development would begin to flow into Isuofia.
Okonkwor, a leading member of the Nze na Ozo Isuofia, who disclosed that he had earlier that day attended Iri Ji festival at Akwaeze, Neni and Igboukwu communities of the state, explained the importance of the celebration in Igboland.
“You know yam has its pride, and therefore respected in Igboland. If anybody steals yam in Igboland, it is an abomination, and that makes it a unique crop that is celebrated in the entire South Eastern parts of Nigeria and other Igbo speaking parts of the country in particular.
“The reason yam is the king of all crops is that of all crops basically, it is the only one that evolves like a human being. If you plant it by putting it inside the ground, the old one will die by decaying for the new one to germinate and yield crop, unlike other crops that germinate and stay long.
“Yam has its nature, features and peculiarities. It must decay before the new one comes up, so yam has been the most respected crop among all the crops particularly, in Igboland because its availability means, and brings a lot of good things as it is used for many things in Igboland including marrying a wife.
“Isuofia people attach great importance to New Yam Festival more than Christmas celebration because you cannot see this kind of crowd together during Christmas celebration as people celebrate Christmas individually at their homes. But on the day of Isuofia New Yam Festival every other personal and public programmes are put off and never allowed to clash with the day’s event,” he said.
Also speaking, the oldest and Onye Isi (Head of Nze na Ozo) title holders, in Isuofia, who said he took Ozo title in 1946, Nze Ezenwa Ezeonyedika and the Chairman of Nze na Ozo title holders of Isuofia, Nze Aloysius Nkemjika separately said that they would do everything in their powers to sustain peace in the community, adding that with peace, the community would see more developments in no distant time.
In his address, the traditional ruler of Isuofia community, Igwe Christopher Moghalu, expressed fulfilment and happiness with the turn out of the people of the community to the festival, saying that they could not thank God enough for surviving over twenty years of bloodless differences and intractable crisis that rocked the community.
“The celebration of New Yam festival is deeply rooted in Igbo culture foregrounded in the belief that yam is the king of all crops and the feast of new yam is celebrated to thank God for good harvest.
“Being an important event in the calendar of Igbo race throughout the world, it is very important to state that contrary to the misrepresentation by religious zealots, the new yam festival has nothing to do with fetish and dubious practices.
“It is simply the Igbo traditional way of thanking God for giving them the opportunity to plant and harvest or reap, and of course the day of new yam festival is symbolic of enjoyment after cultivation season and as the people partake of this communal meal, they celebrate reawakening of the abundance of food even as they pray for renewed life, “ the Igwe said.