Jeff AmechiAgbodo, Onitsha
The traditional ruler of Oraukwu community in Idemili North Local Government Area of AnambraState, Igwe Emeka Onuorah, in this interview disclosed that his community has reduced the costs of marriage and burial ceremonies, adding that fines await defaulters. He noted that he has modernised the New Yam festival with prizes to encourage farming in the community. He however, appealed to Government to come to their rescue over the menace of gully erosion in the community.
Your community is a major producer of yam. How do you celebrate New Yam festival?
It celebrated every September and this year’s event was marked on September 14. There was a little modification this year. We had festival eve celebration which was a competition for the biggest yam produced for the year in the community. Winner of the first prize was given N50, 000, second prize got N25,000 and the second runner up got N20, 000. It is aimed to encourage the farmers, and this has gone a long way in promoting farming in the community. The competition has evolved and has been increasing the number of the participants every year.
Were there cultural activities that you revived since you became king ?
The main cultural heritage is the new yam festival which we have tried to improve on and try to keep alive. There is another festival the community used to have called ‘Odunke’ which we no longer practice but we are still thinking on how to revive that. I didn’t inherit much cultural festivals and we are not blessed like some other Igbo communities who are blessed with so many cultural festivals.
Much has been reported about high cost of marriage in the South East. What is the cost like in your community?
We have tried to reduce the cost of marriage in our community to make it as simple as we can to encourage people to get married and not being a burden to people. We started with reducing some of the ceremonies involved in marriage in the community and sometimes we combined white wedding and traditional wine carrying called ‘Igba Nkwu’ and to reduce the number of invitees; just to reduce the cost.
We have stopped those throwing wrappers during marriages and if you do that will you pay a fine of N50,000. Regarding bride price; we try to make it as simple as possible; the amount is so small that it has become only symbolic. We are concerned on how the couple should have happy marriage and live happily after their marriage.
What about high cost of burial?
What we have done is to reduce the number of days for burial from three days to one day. We now do burial only in one day and this has reduced the cost tremendously. But we are happy that the Anambra State Government has followed suit regarding the new law stipulating that burial should be one day and that is what we had already started doing in our community.
Is that law on burial practicable and implementable as it stands now?
It is not because if you look at it, it’s not easy to enforce and once you make a law that is not easy to enforce, it becomes a problem. But I think it is something that should be handled community by community. In my community, there is a fine for those who extend their burials to more than one day; we use it to raise money for the community. So, if you do burial for more than one day; you pay fine of N100,000. We don’t have such problem anymore in my community since we put all these fines in place.
What is your take on the power tussle between traditional rulers and Presidents General in some communities?
Basically, it is a major problem in the state which the state government has tried to wade into in a bid to resolve it. Even the traditional rulers’ council had waded in to stop such squabble, but it is proving hard to resolve. I don’t know the cause; though I think it is personality conflict and not knowing the role of each order. The traditional rulers and Presidents General have their roles well cut out but sometimes conflict which can easily be resolved peacefully before it gets out of hand will ensue. My advice would be that the Presidents General should try to understand the Igwe they are working with and should know that the role of the PG is temporary while traditional ruler is permanent. For me, there is no need for conflicts.
What about the issue of some traditional rulers getting involved in partisan politics?
It is not good and it is against the law for traditional ruler to be in partisan politics. I think most traditional rulers try to avoid being into partisan politics. It is not proper for a traditional ruler to endorse a particular candidate during an election because you are father to everybody.