By Ngozi Nwoke
A carnival of sorts took place in Lagos when the Igbo-speaking community, dignitaries and friends gathered to celebrate the Nnoko Ndigbo/Iriji festival hosted by Cyril Sunday Eze, president-general, Igbo-speaking Community Lagos, at the weekend.
In his welcome address, Eze said the Nnoko Ndigbo/Iriji ceremony was an annual traditional event of the Igbo, which is customary for all Igbo sons and daughters to participate in order to preserve Igbo tradition and culture.
He said: “I want to use this opportunity to most sincerely thank you, our guests, especially the great son of Ojoto, Leo Okafor, who is the chairman on the occasion, traditional rulers, mother of the day, Nnukwu Eze Nwanyi, the queen, prince and princess of the day for your participation at the Nnoko Ndigbo/Iriji festival yesterday, you are highly appreciated.
“The event was a huge success because of your presence. I want to also congratulate and appreciate the organsing committee chairman Okenze Anadu and his committee members for their commitement and duty to work. May God bless and reward you all. I also apologize for all our shortcomings at the event, in anyway we might have offended or did not treat you well. I am sorry. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all and remain your loyal servant.”
One of the special guests, Mrs. P. Ikeji, said that it was the culture of Ndigbo to show gratitude to the supreme God for a bountiful harvest.
She said: “The new yam festival is symbolic to every Igbo indigene. It is a tradition that gives us the pleasure to showcase our cultural dance styles, delicious native dishes and beautiful attire.
“I always look forward to the annual yam festival anywhere I am. It is also an opportunity to connect with indigenes, Igbo in the community. We are thankful to God almighty for the gift of life and good health to enjoy this beautiful day, as we anticipate next year.”
Mr. Leo Okafor also rendered applause to the people who attended the event, encouraging them to continue to uphold the Igbo customs and heritage. He said: “In Igbo land, our culture is our pride and preseving our tradition is our biggest responsibility as sons and daughters of the tribe. This is why we don’t joke with the annual new yam festival. We have some of our people who travelled far and wide from their various destinations just to witness this amazing event. During the new yam festival, we always show gratitude to God the maker of heaven and earth, for without God, we can do nothing.”
Mr. Hazel Onyeze Onuo, popularly known as White Money, winner of the Big Brother Naija season six reality TV show, noted that the new yam festival is significant to the Igbo tradition.
He said: “I am a true son of the Igbo soil. I strongly believe in my tradition and Christianity. So, when I hear people say the new yam festival is a fetish ritual where human sacrifice is involved. This is totally false. I always use the chance to enlighten them against the falsehood. The Igbo new yam festival is only a traditional practice that gives us the privilege to offer thanksgiving to God, first for the gift of life, usher in the new yam and celebrate the end of an old harvest season.”