From Obinna Odogwu, Ekwulobia
Recently, Enugwu-Ukwu, a relatively boisterous community in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State, was agog. The town and its environs were enveloped by excitement as the natives from all walks of life across the globe returned home for the 2017 Igu Aro festival.
Being the 59th in series and the sixth of the monarch, Sir Ralph Obumnemeh Ekpeh; the Okpalanakana – Ukabia Nri IV, the festival had a week of activities packaged to make the occasion grand. The event afforded the people of the community the opportunity to assess the past year, as well as pray to God to bless the New Year.
They also used it to honour prominent sons and daughters who have contributed to the growth and development of the town and the society at large by giving them chieftaincy titles.
The Igu Aro started with a colloquium on the New Year’s Day, January 1, with the theme: “The Significance of Oji (colanut) in Igbo Land,” chaired by the Vice Chancellor of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof. Chukwuma Ozumba. This was followed by an interdenominational prayer for peace and unity for the Enugwu-Ukwu kingdom.
The masquerade festival (Ipia Agba), which sees the various masquerades from the 18 villages of the town display their prowess in the use of the cane was earlier held on December 26, 2015. Prizes were given to the masquerades adjudged to be adept in the act of ipia agba.
On January 5, the monarch embarked on visits to historical sites in the town – Obu Okpalanakana – homestead of the progenitor of Enugwu-Ukwu, located in Uruekwo village, and Nkpume Onyilienyi/Nkpume Ogogwu where he first berthed on his way from Omambala through Amanuke community.
History showed that he settled on the rocky area for some time, but due to its difficult terrain – rocks and uneven land surface – he had to relocate to Uruekwo village where he established the Obu Okpalanakana.
Soon after the visit, the Igwe announced the change of name of the popular Ezi Elias junction that led to Nimo, Neni and other neighbouring towns to Ezi Okpalanri. The decision taken by the Igwe’s cabinet was in honour of the founder of Enugwu-Ukwu since his Obu was located in that very site.
At the appointed time on the D-Day, Igwe Ekpeh stepped into the Obu Enugwu-Ukwu na Umunri to the cheering admiration of the excited crowd.
His palace, which seats about 3,000 persons was filled to the capacity and had a spill-over of people.
Flowing with royalty with some touch of finesse, the monarch moved round the palace arena to greet his visibly elated subjects and other guests.
Igwe Ekpeh thanked God for blessing the community in the past year and prayed for bigger packages for the year 2017. He also thanked his subjects for their support and contributions to the growth of the community while urging them to keep maintaining the peace of the town:
“We are most grateful to the Almighty God for the life, bountiful harvests of the last year, and His kindness upon us. And we are presenting this year 2017 before His throne of grace for more blessings.”
The traditional ruler also announced a few changes in the town’s burial ceremonies, which were reduced from three to two days. Other components of catering services, which normally cost bereaved families huge sum of money were also reduced substantially. The natives hailed the new rules, saying that they were welcome developments.
The first class monarch also prayed for peace and progress of Anambra State and the country in general. He cautioned leaders at all levels of governance to be mindful of their activities and be accountable to the people who voted them to power.
While educating the younger generation on the historical foundation of Enugwu-Ukwu community, the traditional ruler pointed out that Eri Dynasty comprises the following clans – Okofia, Nri, Agulu, Onogu, Ogbodudu, Iguedo and Onoja. He said that their descendants include Aguleri Kingdom, Igbariam, Amanuke, Ukpo, Ifitedunu, Umunnachi and Ukwulu.
Other descendants of Nri, according to him, are Okpalanakana Ukabia Nri, the first son of Nri and father of Enugwu-Ukwu, Okpalariam father of Nawfia, Okpala Aguiyi father of Enugwu Agidi and Ifikunian father of Agukwu. The Iguedo Dynasty comprises Ogbunike, Awkuzu, Nando and Umuleri while Onoja began the Igala kingdom in the present day Kogi State.
Chairman of Igu Aro Commission, Chief Peter J.C. Nwokafor noted that given the premium placed on the festival, his team left no stone unturned to ensure that they had a smooth celebration. While showering encomiums on the traditional ruler, he pointed out that the Igu Aro festival is very significant and dear to Enugwu-Ukwu Kingdom:
“It is during this period that the monarch rains blessings on his subjects and the land for productivity.” The monarch used the occasion to confer chieftaincy titles on eminent personalities, who were considered in the views of the members of his cabinet as deserving such honours.
They include former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva, who was conferred with Ikemba title; Chief (Dr) Innocent Chukwuma of Innoson Group (Okpuzu Igbo); Chief Reginald Ikpeawujo (Ezinwanne Dinamba); Chief Dozie Nwankwo of the House of Representatives (Onyendozi); Dr (Sir) Chief Charles Omalu (Ogbuo Ogadagidi); Chief Ralph Ebisi (Ebubedike) and Dr Chief (Mrs) Chinwe Egwuagu Ndubisi (Adakibie), all of Enugwu-Ukwu na Umunri.
Dignitaries at the occasion included Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr Nkem Okeke; former Governor Peter Obi; former National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh; Igwe Alfred Achebe, Obi of Onitsha; Igwe Mbamalu Okeke of Abagana, Igwe Peter Anukwu of Mbaukwu and Igwes of Nawfia and Nise.
A major telecom provider, MTN, sponsored some aspects of the festival and decorated the arena with their flags and buntings. The company’s regional manager praised the Enugwu Ukwu community for bringing the enviable culture of Nri people to such a new height.