When the Obi of Onitsha steps out, everybody snaps to attention. That is to be expected for the revered monarch is a cultural icon for the Igbo in Nigeria and worldwide. So it was that when His Majesty, Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, appeared in Lagos on Sunday, August 26, 2017, to grace the Onitsha Day 2017, at the ground of the Nigeria Police College, Ikeja, the occasion turned into a theatre of Igbo pomp with an intensity that boosted the pride of patriotic Ndigbo.
The occasion, organised by the Lagos chapter of the Onitsha Improvement Union (OIU), displayed the trappings of a top-notch cultural show that encompassed the Onitsha arts, cuisine, customs and traditions. The venue was virtually a kaleidoscope of native apparel, made bright and lavish, by red caps and feathers, red beads and ivories.
The presence of masquerades, Ijele and Agbogho Mmuo Obiligbo and a live performance by Onitsha-born musician, Ikem Mazeli, further injected zest into the occasion.
For the Igbo who had not been home in a long while, the day’s show was tangy enough to quench their nagging nostalgia for their native hearths. Non-Igbo guests would find the occasion an open aperture to one of Nigeria’s vibrant cultures.
It was an occasion when customs and traditions were well dignified. The Igbo rite of breaking kolanut amid prayers and adulation as lavishly portrayed by Chinua Achebe’s books and Nollywood films compared poorly to the live vignette, as performed by the Obi of Onitsha. There was a wholesome display of Igbo gourmet, from garden eggs and peanuts, to Ogbono soup and Nni-Oka (cornmeal) and palm wine.
Sir Andy Chikeh Ekweogwu, president, Onitsha Improvement Union (OIU) Lagos, reiterated the core essence of Onitsha Day, which he spelt out as “raise awareness and consciousness of our culture amongst indigenes, host community and neighbours.”
The occasion also recorded the honouring of a number of awardees. Though, culled from different strata of the society, they shared a common denominator by their remarkable contributions to the development of the state.