Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra state is agog for the 2019 annual Ofala festival of the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe taking place this weekend at the Awka road palace ground arena.
Activities marking the event commenced last Saturday and would culminate in a cultural extravaganza this Saturday, where hundreds of guests including diplomats and tourist are expected to attend.
Rooted in deep spirituality, the Ofala is the highpoint of the Onitsha ceremonial cycle. It is primarily a celebration by the monarch and his subjects to mark the monarch’s annual emergence from seclusion, during which period he has successfully negotiated the fortunes of the kingdom.
The Ofala also marks the homecoming of Onitsha indigenes both in Nigeria and in diaspora.
A statement from Chairman of Ofala steering committee, Prof Ngozi Okafor (Ogene of Onitsha) and Chief coordinator of publicity and marketing of the programme, Chief Emeka Maduegbuna said that the festival has been sponsored since 2011 by telecom operator, Globacom.
According to them, the actual Ofala which is a display of royal dances, tributes, parades and music running over two days, will take place on Friday and Saturday: “The scope of the festival has been widened, with various events now part of the celebrations, would not only display the rich cultural heritage of Onicha Ado N’Idu. It will also be 10 days of unstoppable fun and entertainment for both visitors and residents’’.
They added that, beginning from this year, the planning and organisation of the Ofala was undertaken in such a way as to enhance the impact of the festival with a view to ensuring that it attracted considerable national, West African, and international attention.
Chairman of the steering committee, noted that the Ofala had recently been endorsed by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), the apex tourism regulatory agency in the country as a major Nigerian festival.
This year’s Ofala events kicked off last Saturday, with the maiden Onitsha City Marathon, organised by the Onitsha Business School. The 21-kilometre road race was approved by both the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN), and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Many renowned international marathoners particularly from countries with road racing records like Kenya, Ethiopia, Ugandan and diaspora Nigerian elite athletes participated in the event. Kenya’s Bernard Sang, 39, and Esther Chesand, 25, won the male and female categories of the maiden event. Sang won with 1.4:44 seconds while Emmanuel Pam and Fadekemi Olude from Plateau came top as male and female champions of the Nigerian nationality category.
Also, the Oreze Arts VII, a group arts exhibition promoted by the monarch’s Chimedie Museum Trust Foundation and supported by the National Gallery of Art, would be part of the activities. Works of 250 artists from various parts of the world would be on display at the show slated from today to Sunday.
Frank Ugiomoh, Professor of Art History and Theory, Department of Fine Art and Design, University of Port Harcourt would be the special guest of honour at the opening ceremony of the art exhibition.
A panel discussion on the role of art in community enlightenment, cohesion and development will form part of the exhibition. The panellists include renowned artists like Tayo Adenaike, Obiora Anidi, and Nneka Odoh. Others are art collector Hakeem Adedeji, and art curator Iheanyi Onwuegbucha.
Prof. Okafor said no fewer than 2,000 persons were expected to participate in the Ofala youth carnival taking place tomorrow.
Now in its 7th year, the carnival holds under the auspices of the Onitsha Ado Youth Council led by Mr. Patrick Agha-Mba and showcases the rich cultural heritage of Onitsha.