Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
It was a display of the rich cultural heritage of the Igbo people recently during the chieftaincy title coronation of Sir Josephat Okpalafulaku as Ikenga Awka-Etiti community, Anambra State.
The ceremony which took place at the palace of the traditional ruler of Awka-Etiti, His Majesty, Michael Ezeudenna, Igwe Okagbado, before a thanksgiving and reception at Okpalafulaku’s country home, Ejighinandu village, Awka-Etiti attracted the presence of government functionaries, captains of industries, clergymen, corporate organisations among others.
Bestowing the Ikenga title on any man in Igbo land, historians say does not happen always because of the significance of the name “Ikenga” on the Igbo cosmology.
A Nigerian histories aficionado, writer of historical fiction and poet, Richard Ali in a treatise on Ikenga noted that in Igbo cosmology Ikenga symbolises the “strength of one’s right arm” or masculine potency.
Quoting Wikipedia, Ali said Ikenga is one of the most powerful symbols of the Igbo people and their most prized common cultural artifact.
He noted that physically, Ikenga can be described as a small hand carved effigy which is very personal to each male person but the Igbo people see it from different perspectives which include the god of achievement or god of time.
He said there are types of Ikenga which includes the Warrior Ikenga, Community Ikenga and the Titleholders Ikenga.
“In the South-East Nigeria, in the days of yore, there’s a masculine deity that confers success in farming, trading, hunting, blacksmithing, creative arts and procreation. This deity is called Ikenga. It is symbolised with a statuette of a two-horned warrior holding a sword in his right hand. The Warrior Ikenga was a warrior-king who fought against evil and injustice in ancient times whom researchers estimated the date of Ikenga’s reign range from 20,000 BC to 30, 000 BC. After his death, Ikenga reincarnated in various cultures around the world to fight evil, ignorance and oppression. Today in Igbo land, Ikenga can be given as a title to men of high reputation and integrity,” he said
The traditional ruler of Awka-Etiti, Igwe Okagbado, perhaps, in justifying Ali’ submission that Ikenga can be given as a title to a man of high reputation and integrity told Daily Sun that the decision to confer such revered title on Okpalafulaku was a collective community decision based on his sterling qualities and contributions to the community.
“The cap fits Chief Jasper Okpalafulaku, Managing Director, Transglobe Pharmaceuticals as Ikenga Awka-Etiti. The entire community looked at his track records and behavior over the years and decided to honour him this way. He lifts the poor people out of poverty, he wipes tears from the eyes of those weeping, he literarily fights pains in people’s lives and he is a good man. He doesn’t get tired in helping people and has never hesitated in rising up to any challenge. That is the reason the community said I should bestow this honour on him and I complied immediately,” the traditional ruler said.
Igwe Okagbado described Okpalafulaku as a God-fearing man noting that the community reposed a lot of confidence in him having been tested and trusted. He noted that Okpalafulaku was unanimously chosen as the chairman of the Building Committee for the proposed Awka-Etiti ultra modern stadium which showed that his integrity is never in doubt.
Okpalafulaku’s business partner for decades, Chief Barth Eli, Ichie Ozurigbo Awka-Etiti described him as a hardworking man of excellent character. He said it was the traits in Okpalafulaku despite being a childhood friend of his that galvanized their relationship into an enterprise since 1991 which has also been transferred into their children.
Chioma Obidiaso, Okpalafulaku’s first daughter described her father as a humorous but serious-minded person who doesn’t joke with people and community welfare. She described the honour done to him as well deserved and urged more people in Igbo land to contribute positively to the society.
Divisional Police Officer, Fegge Police Divison, Onitsha, Rabiu Garba, a Superintendent of Police, described him as a unique and humble person and thanked the community for the recognition done to him.
Chief Okpalafulaku expressed delight that his people officially gave him the title even when many have been greeting him with that appellation for some time without a formal decoration. He said he was humbled and would do more going by the various goodwill messages that have been pouring in for him.
The wife, Lady Uchechi Okpalafulaku in her own summation thanked God for giving them the grace to live together for the past forty years as a family and to witness the honour from the community. She encouraged people to be agents of peace and progress anywhere they may be and noting that virtue pays in the long run.