From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
It was fanfare as the people of Umuoji, in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, trooped out to celebrate their treasured Ofala festival.
It was also an avenue to bid farewell to their late traditional ruler, Igwe Cyril Nwabunwanne Enweze (Ebube Igwulube Okodu, Ochiliozua). The last Ofala festival, according to the people’s culture, ended the reign of the monarch of Umuoji, who joined his ancestors on April 12, 2019, after ruling for 16 years.
The festival attracted people from all walks of life within and outside Nigeria, including his fellow traditional rulers and business associates, among others, to pay their last respects.
The festival turned out to be a sort of carnival as various groups from quarters and villages, clad in different costumes, displayed their cultural prowess.
The president-general of Umuoji Improvement Union of Nigeria (UIUN), Chief Sly Onyima, described Ofala festival as a rite of renewal, a renewal of the people’s commitment to their rich cultural heritage.
“When he ascended the throne on December 30, 2005, our people were proud to note that Igwe Enweze was one of the most educated, experienced and most travelled royal fathers in the state.
“This Ofala is, therefore, an official rite of passage meant to inform the state government, the state’s Traditional Rulers’ Council, Anambra State Investment Promotion Agency (ANSIPPA), friends and Ndi Umuoji that the Igwe is on his spiritual journey,” Onyima stated.
Anambra State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C. Don Adinuba, described the last Ofala as an eloquent testament to the great accomplishments and character of Igwe Enweze, whom he said he was proud to call his own friend even in death.
“He was the most accomplished technocrat. He played on the global stage and ended up being good to the ordinary people of his hometown, who made him their traditional ruler. Igwe Enweze was the epitome of selfless service, who served his people with his body and soul,’’ said Adinuba.
In his tribute to the late Igwe, the former managing director and editor-in-chief of Sun Publishing Limited, an indigene of Umuoji, Chief Tony Onyima, leading his group, known as Aka-Okodu, to pay last respects to the late sage, said that his death was a colossal loss not only to the people of Umuoji community but the entire Anambra State and Nigeria at large.
He advised the new Igwe, when elected and crowned, not only to continue from where his predecessor stopped, but to do more to surpass his achievements and bring Umuoji into the limelight through his policies.
One of the contenders to the throne, Chief Anayo Okoye (Omekannaya), described the late Igwe as an international man who placed the name of the community on the global map: “He was a wonderful man and he was there for his community.
“I will remember him for upholding our customs and traditions. There is a festival we call Uzoiyi. The festival was dying and when he ascended the throne, he rekindled it.
“It is left for the community to decide whom the cap fits to become the new Igwe. Igwe Enweze has left big shoes and being an Igwe of this town is something nobody will toy with because Umuoji is made up of 23 villages. We are one of the biggest towns in the state.
“The seat rotates among other villages and quarters. So, if there is vacancy, it moves to another quarters and it will continue like that. It is not something anybody can just grab, no matter your status. Your quarters must elect you and present you to the entire Umuoji for acceptance.”
The vice-president of Umuoji Improvement Union North America, Mr. Michael Ubadike, eulogized the late Igwe, describing him as a father to many people that came across his way. He stated that the demise of Igwe Enweze was a big blow to the people of Umuoji and international community, where he worked and distinguished himself.
On the union’s contributions to Umuoji, he said: “We are planning to build a big hospital for Umuoji. We have 24 plots to be used for it. It will take some time but, as long as we have started it, we will complete it.
“Another project is Umuoji Boys’ School, which we renovated. We also did the fencing, which was a community effort. Our concern is for it to have a main building and security post,’’ he said.