Magnus Eze, Enugu
The traditional institution in Anambra State has pledged that everything humanly possible would be done to promote and preserve Igbo cultural heritage. For two days last weekend, its northern and southern senatorial districts took turns to celebrate culture.
In those two days, the traditional rulers kept their zones in the celebratory mode. In fact, in Anambra South, a huge carnival was staged for the New Yam (Iri Ji) as never before sponsored by Zenith Bank.
The colourful event which took place at the Ekwulobia Township Stadium had in attendance all traditional rulers of the southern senatorial zone and leadership of town unions. They were entertained by different dance troupes including the famous Egedege dance troupe made popular by Theresa Onuora. There were several Ogene music groups in tow; while a maiden, Chidinma, popularly known as Ijele Nwaokija had a wonderful performance.
Chairman, Anambra South Traditional Rulers’ Council and monarch of Isseke in Ihiala, Igwe Emmanuel Nnabuife directed the proceedings. The ageless Igwe of Nnewi, Igwe Kenneth Orizu, who declared the event open with the traditional prayers and breaking of kolanuts also prayed for longevity, good health and good neighbourliness and a better life for all. The monarch urged for peaceful co-existence among Nigerians. He also called on the Igbo never to forget their cultural heritage:
“We’re noted for yam farming. In the days of yore, men were recognised for their yam barns. Before the war, we used to celebrate Igbo Day even as far as Kano. The people will adorn their colourful Igbo attire and parade all over the metropolis of Kano where I lived. But these days, since after the war, it’s been as if we lost our root and things have fallen apart. People now wear all manner of cloths including babariga and abandoned our native Igbo attire and our way of life.
“We must reinvent our glorious past beginning with the Iri Ji. This should be a symbol of peace and unity for our people.”
Done with the prayers, Igwe Laz Ekwueme, a professor of music and doyen of choral music in Nigeria who now sits on the stool of Oko kingdom, mounted the podium and performed the traditional cutting of the yam. He prayed for more bountiful harvest in the next farming season noting that henceforth, the celebration has been etched in the calendar of the zone.
While the people of the two senatorial zones showcased the best of their culture, it was literally moments of glory for Chief Obiora Okonkwo, whom they acknowledged has done quite a lot in promoting Igbo culture and uplifting the lives of people of the state.
At Igbariam in Anambra East Local Government Area, where all the traditional rulers of Anambra North, led by Igwe Nkeli Kelly, Okalakwu Igbariam, had gathered to celebrate the culture of the people, the atmosphere was ecstatic as colourful masquerades entertained guests after the traditional breaking of kolanuts and prayers. There was also occasional canon gun shots; announcing to those faraway that a very momentous event was taking place.
Supported by his colleagues, Igwe Okalakwu offered prayers for the good of Anambra State and its leadership. He prayed for longevity and good health of people of the state and Igboland in general. He also implored God and ancestors of the people to open doors of blessings for them.
He enlisted support of all present for the administration in the state to enable it deliver on its mandate. With a thunderous chorus of isee, isee from the crowd comprising of members of leadership of town unions in the zone, he declared the event open. Then, the Mmanwu Udele masquerade dance entertained guests which comprised of visiting traditional rulers from Anambra Central Senatorial zone, led by its chairman, Igwe Peter Uyanwa, Ezedike Ukwulu and Isuofia II of Nawfia, Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo among many others
Igwe Okalakwu said it became expedient for traditional rulers of Anambra North, the home zone of Governor Willie Obiano, to specially honour Okonkwo. He urged him to use his foundation; Pro-Value Humanity Foundation, to push for self-actualization of Anambra youths, asking him to step forward and have another feather added to his already heavy cap.
Okonkwo and his wife, walked into a circle of the Anambra north traditional rulers who dutifully capped him as “Ibobo Igbo” amidst thunderous ovation from the crowd. The following day, he knelt again, this time before traditional rulers of Anambra south, and was capped, as Ebubemba.
Grateful for the recognition and acceptance by the traditional institution in the state, he promised not to let Anambra people down in his quest to use his talents and gifts to make more impacts on the people: “I feel highly accepted; highly welcomed. Anambra north senatorial district has history as the origin of the Igbo race. They gathered at Igbariam to say that you’re one of us; you are the Ibobo Ndigbo and the next day, Anambra south people gathered at Ekwulobia to crown me Ebube Mba; since they have said it; so shall it be. I give honour and glory to God.”
The installations rounded off cultural festivities for the celebration of Omenani Anambra north and the Iri ji festival of Anambra south.
Igwe Ekwueme spoke to Daily Sun on the significance of the event: “We thank God that He’s given us life and food to maintain that life. Yam is the main crop of Ndigbo and it’s symbolic of many things which I don’t want to go into. But one thing is that we use this event as a symbol of uniting Igbo as a united people with a strong footing in a country which God has given us; where we are not discriminated against anymore.
“This is the first time that we are marking it as a body in Anambra south and we hope that Anambra state will also do it as a body and in fact, the whole Igbo race and the world will have one day to unite in a symbolic ceremony of eating the yam in unity and spreading love with everybody else.”
Igwe Kelly spoke in the same hue at Igbariam, but regretted that the Igbo were fast losing their rich cultural heritage even as he noted that the day’s event was part of their efforts in reviving Igbo culture: “We’re losing our cultural heritage but efforts are on in different councils to revive it. I am hopeful that before 2021, people will see the effect of the enormous work so far done in that direction.
“One of the things we must do is to speak our own tongue. We are speaking the tongue of those who colonised us. In fact, we regard those not speaking English, as not educated but education is not civilisation. So, we would start by speaking our own language.