Over 8 ambassadors to grace event
From MAGNUS EZE, Abuja
Barely one month to the national new yam festival of Ndigbo (Iri Ji), which holds at Igbo Ukwu, the historical origin of the Igbo race in Aguata Local Government Area, Anambra State, Abuja, the nation’s capital is already having a feel of what the event would look like.
Last week, traditional rulers from the five Igbo speaking states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo stormed Abuja and visited relevant government agencies involved in culture and tourism to woo support for the festival that has come to be a first class tourism destination. They also visited some embassies.
Festival promoters, Mbido Igbo Association (MIA), working in conjunction with Inter Agency Cultural Committee of South East States is partnering notable culture and tourism related bodies like the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Nigerian Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) and National Gallery of Arts to ensure that this year’s programme is a huge success.
From the agricultural sector, the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCI), Umudike, Abia State and the National Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, are said to be involved.
Chairman of MIA, Mazi Ugochukwu Okafor-Uzu, indicated that the rich cultural heritage of Ndigbo would be on display at the event billed for August 23-27.
Masquerades of all shapes and sizes including the colourful Ijele, Egwurugwu, Mgbadike and Mmanwu Enugu State will lead the pack, while traditional wrestling competition, yam fair and various dancing displays will spice the festival.
No fewer than eight ambassadors including those of Canada, Philippine, Kenya, Israel, Spain, Switzerland and Cote D’ Voire are expected at the grand finale, a move intended to boost cultural relations between them and Nigeria.
Daily Sun gathered that the Eze Mmuo (Chief Priest) would perform the traditional new yam rituals at the National Yam House in Igbo Ukwu. Winners in the wrestling and biggest yam competition would go home with mouth-watering prizes. Organisers could not disclose the prizes but last year’s winners went home with deep freezers and motorcycles.
Tourism as goldmine
Traditional rulers from the Igbo speaking states are united that the strength of Nigeria as a nation lies in its cultural diversity, adding the NTDC must be fully empowered to discharge its mandate of promoting the nation’s tourism potential.
The traditional ruler of Akpugoeze, Oji River (Enugu State); Igwe C. N Nwajaju who led a delegation of other monarchs namely; Eze Amaokpoka, Umunneochi (Abia State), Eze Mmadu Nwoha, Igwe Mbano Agwe, Oguta (Imo State), Igwe Sylvanus Ibe , Eze Ndigbo, Suleja, Eze Collins Chibueze Okoli; Eze Ndigbo, Abuja, Eze J.B.C. Nwoha and National Chairman, Mbido Igbo Association, Mazi Ugochukwu Okafor-Uzu on a courtesy visit to the Director-General of NTDC, Mrs Sally Mbanefo, commended her for the numerous achievements of the agency since she was appointed:
“Sally has been dutiful in her responsibility to promote and showcase all the tourism and cultural potentials in the country, which made us proud as a great nation, because our strength lies mainly and squarely in our cultural diversity. The unity of this great country cannot be achieved if this parastatal fails.
“Therefore, like the prophet from the South and as the custodian of the culture of the Igbo people of Nigeria, we hereby make a declaration that the only remedy for the ills of the country lies mainly in this parastatal. Not funding it well means joking with the growth and unity of the country for this parastatal holds our peace, stability and base as a nation.”
Mbanefo, who was at the 2014 edition of the new yam festival conferred with the title of Ola Nma Ndigbo (Gold) in her response underscored domestic tourism as a viable tool for unifying Nigerians, creating jobs in the local communities and reducing criminality in the country.
The DG NTDC applauded the anti-corruption crusade of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration saying that it will reduce criminality and encourage foreign investments in the country.
“It will boost the nation’s economy and create wealth for Nigerians,” Mbanefo stated, emphasising that the wealth of culture, tradition, heritage and languages in Nigeria must be encouraged and preserved.
Involvement of States
The Eze Ndigbo of Suleja and National Vice President of Eze Ndigbo in the Diaspora, Igwe Okoli, told Daily Sun that Ndigbo in the Diaspora have been fully mobilised for the grand festival, pointing out that the contingent from the northern part of the country looked forward to a spectacular outing.
While commending the South East governors, especially the host, Chief Willie Obiano of Anambra State, Okoli urged that this year’s edition should not only be epochal but be used as a window to showcase the oneness of Ndigbo.
He thanked Obiano for his love for culture, which led to the creation of a new ministry for Diaspora and Cultural Affairs in the state; noting that development of culture and tourism would bring economic prosperity to the geo-political zone in this era of economic crunch.