From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
It was another day of display of rich Igbo culture and a memorable reunion for the people of Awgbu community in Orumba North Local Government Area, Anambra State, as they celebrated this year’s New Yam Festival.
The ceremony with the theme: “Leading Awgbu to Affluence,” held at St. Mary’s Primary School field, Awgbu. It attracted several dignitaries, including government functionaries, Nollywood stars and famous musicians.
Awgbu town is bounded in the West by Agulu and Mbaukwu, in the East by Ndikelionwu, Omogho and Awa, in the North by Umuawulu and Amaetiti while in the South by Nanka.
The festival started with the blessings and prayers of the resident Catholic priest, who thanked God for the gift of life.
The priest noted that New Yam Festival could be likened to the resurrection of mortal bodies after death.
He said that the yam, which everybody celebrated its harvest had to die first after planting before sprouting the stems and growing to maturity, which would then be harvested for human consumption.
In his welcome address, the President General of Awgbu Progressive Union, Prof Chris Onwuka, expressed gratitude for the numerous blessings bestowed on the community in recent times.
He recalled that on December 31, 2015, the people of the community gathered at the Eke Market for the flag-off of their ongoing modern market development.
He also disclosed that on January 14, 2016, the people gathered again for the commissioning of a modern police station built for the community.
The president general described the New Yam Festival as an annual ritual among the Igbo of Eastern Nigeria.
He pointed out that it was a feast in honour of yam believed to be the king of crops.
He noted that for an agrarian community like Awgbu, it was a rule that every native would celebrate the festival with yams harvested from his farm, but expressed regret that since after the Nigeria civil war, yam barns seemed to have disappeared from Awgbu.
Harping on community development, Prof Onwuka seized the opportunity to launch the development of the community into the people’s consciousness.
He reminded his people that they did not have to wait for the government for everything and recalled that in 1987, they gathered at St. Patrick’s field, Awgbu, for the launch of the community’s electricity project.
He urged the people to reduce the sqaundermania mentality that charcterised some of their outings and channel their resources to people-oriented development projects aimed at reducing poverty.
His words: “Let me remind you that Awgbu people have no Civic Centre, we equally lack an arena, a befitting sports stadium. Our contemporaries like Nanka and Ekwulobia have such facilities. Nanka Stadium, otherwise known as Nero Sport, was built by one of the sons of the community. Let me inform you that a committee has been set up to find a large piece of land to build a befitting stadium as well as a civic centre. To actualise this, we need the help of capable individuals, both in this and in areas of education.”
The traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Michael C. Okechukwu, shortly before cutting the yam to usher in the formal eating of yams for the people prayed that God would give them life and good health.
He acknowledged the fact that things were not rosy for Nigerians presently but admonished the people to remain calm in the midst of adversities.
He prayed God to continue to give Governor Willie Obiano the wisdom and strength to take Anambra State to greater heights.
The traditional ruler also appealed to the governor to assist the community in road rehabilitation, noting that some villagers no longer access their homes, owing to the bad condition of their road.
He specifically mentioned the completion of the Awgbu-Amaetiti-Okpeze-Ndikwuenu Road, which needs the attention of the government.
The Chairman on the occasion, Mr. Valentine Okoyenta, in a remark described the event as a huge success and a colourful outing.
He called on the Igbo to maintain brotherly love and passion for their communities, saying that these would foster rapid development across the region.
The Chairman of the event planning committee, Mr. Chinedu Akwuaka while giving an appraisal of the planning of the festival said that at the beginning, it was like things won’t work out, but at the end, it all went beyond everybody’s imagination.
He said that even the good weather condition was a testimony that God loves the Awgbu community, saying that the people could only join hands to move the town higher.
He expressed appreciation to Brother Loius Okeke Ibe for sponsoring the event and the Chairman of Mbuluko Development Union, Theodore Ezeonye, for his efforts in providing the arena for the 2016 Awgbu New Yam Festival.
Different women groups and masquerades entertained and added colour to the event.
One of the celebrities that attended the event, Uche Odoputa, a movie actor, in a chat with Oriental News, urged Igbo communities to see how they could explore tourism potentials in most of their cultural events as a money spinner.