By Anthony Obi
Ofala festival is intertwining with royalty. It means “the formal annual outing of the king,” aimed at bringing the Igwe face to face with his subjects. It is a “majestic outing” from the palace through to the festival arena in honour of the monarch.
From today to January 2, 2018, Ezinifite community in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State will be agog with Igwe Samuel Anayochukwu Obika’s maiden Ofala celebration. The preparations started early enough on December 10. Anyone making his way to the birthplace of the late king of highlife music, Chief (Dr.) Oliver Sunday Akanite (aka Oliver De Coque), could smell the festivity in the air.
The nooks and corners of the town are kept extremely neat and tidy. The Imeobi (Palace) already renovated and the Ofala arena is decorated with colourful banners and classic art works to add glamour to the event of glamour.
The heart of the ceremony usually is the march past by the Ichies, Umuada (married daughters of the land), age grade societies, the would-be chiefs, etc, attired in their traditional regalia, accompanied by retinue of praise singers (Otinkpus), backed by traditional music troupe to the arena.
The kick-off today starts with the visit of Umuada Ezinifite to Igwe Ezeoha II of Ezinifite, spend some time with the royal household as was the tradition. According to the Igwe: “It is the duty of Umuada to detail some younger members/princesses during such visit to minister unto the Oche Eze (the Queen), throughout the period of the Ofala preparation. They help specifically with the preparation of food to be served in the palace and they are in control of entertainment of guests to be hosted at the Imeobi.
“Since Ofala is an event that concerns all sons and daughters of the town, the preparations are usually thorough and all involving. This is the period, when the women display their expertise in event organization and management.
“For instance, the Oche Eze, the Queen, regarded as an embodiment of nobility, affluence and high class, in consultation with the Umuada and wives of Ichies, dishes out necessary instructions to the women wing of the town union as regards the overall preparations of the festival. They ensure that the entire arena for the Ofala festival wears a clean and new look.”
“It is customary as the Igwe makes his first appearance at the festival arena, heralded by 21 cannon shots, his queen, accompanied by wives of Ichies, Umuada and princesses dance round the square singing praises of the king and asking God to preserve the life of their traditional rulers and grant abundant peace to their land. They are very gorgeously dressed to depict the spirit of the occasion.”
A three-day prayer session, tagged: “Mbanese Believers City Wide Crusade” starts tomorrow, to be followed by the Ezinifite Town Union General Assembly on December 30. There will be a royal breakfast meeting of the Ezeoha-in-Council, December 31.
The main Ofala will be celebrated on January 2, 2018, heralded by the firing of “Egbenduru”, the historic old cannon fired to celebrate great events in Igboland, followed by the beat of “Ikoro,” the royal drum for the Ezeoha-in-Council, the customary open air church service Rt. Rev. Ephraim Ikeakor, Anglican Bishop of Amichi, the national anthem and Anambra State.
Dignitaries expected include Governor Willie Obiano; Dr. Lizi-Ben Iheanacho, Director, Research and Documentation, National Council for Arts and Culture; Rita Maduagwu, Speaker, state assembly and Greg Obi, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters. The Obi Nnaemeka Achebe, Agbogidi Onitsha and his Nnewi counterpart, Igwe Kenneth Orizu III, are the Royal Guests of Honour, and Sir Leo Ike Okoye (Owelle Ezinifite).
The presence of masquerades of different shapes and sizes, cultural troupes and live performance by music artistes from the town, led by Ambassador Eugene De Coque.
The Odogwu-Abii Ezinifite, Ogbuefi Akwudoleze Ray Ifeme, told Daily Sun: “For those indigenes who have not been home in a long while, and the young ones who will be home for the Christmas and New Year, this Igwe Ezeoha maiden Ofala celebration would be tangy enough to quench their nagging nostalgia for their native hearts. Non-Igbo guests would find the celebration an open aperture to one of Nigeria’s vibrant cultures.
“The occasion will be climaxed with the conferment of chieftaincy titles to deserving sons and daughters of Ezinifite and other Nigerians, from different strata of the society but shared a common denominator by their remarkable contributions to the development of the community, Anambra State and economic growth of the country.”