By Henry Akubuiro
In Igboland and parts of Ghana, the yam is the king of crops. In the past, the more tubers of yam one had the more claims to wealth, fame and respectability. Though, today, the king of crops may not be ruling over the dining table in every household, it is still a subject of veneration.
Obosi town in Anambra State, like every community in Igbo land, celebrates the new yam festival, but theirs come with a unique combo – season of peace – which is why it is called Obiora/Iwaji Festival. Last Saturday, October 10, 2015, Obosi Kingdom, under the leadership of Eze Chidubem Iweka III, was a rainbow of delight as it marked the annual festival at the Obosi Mini Stadium, Afor-Adike Market Sqaure, Obosi.
The telltale sign of a big event was evident early that morning across the land. No doubt, Obosi is a society where cultural fervour has permeated its fabric. Children, adults and the elderly trooped en-masse to the venue. Nobody wanted to be left behind. By 11am, when the title holders, Ndi Ichie, heralded the arrival of Eze Iweka, the stadium was already jam-packed with locals and visitors from all corners of the globe. Air Vice Marshal Luke Otulor (retd), the Awaike 1 of Abraka Kingdom, Delta State, was one of the high profile traditional rulers from different parts of the country to show their solidarity.
To restate their loyalty to the monarch, according to tradition, Ndi Ichie proceeded to pay homage to Eze Iweka. Led by Mrs Ezinne Maduekwe, the women group, Ndi Iyoms, followed suit. Likewise, Ndi Nze n’ Ozo followed thereafter.
Women, no doubt, are accorded a pride of place in Obosi. Different women groups were the first to present kolanuts to the kings. They included Ndi Iyom, Ndi Iyom Eze (Umuada), women wing of Obosi Development Union (ODU), and Ndi nwunye Igwe (wives of the Iwekas).
The kola nuts were subsequently blessed by the monarch, who thanked God for making it possible for all to witness this year’s Obiora/Iwaji Festival and also for a bountiful harvest, pleading that peace, should reign in the kingdom.
Welcoming all to the festival, the Chairman, Organising Committee, Chude Emeka, said the festival was as old as the tradition in Obosi. “This festival has unique purpose and aim, of which is to officially present a newly cultivated tuber of yam to God Almighty for aegis, and also for sustaining the life of the farmers, the indigenes of the land and the farm product (yam) through a successful season.”
Besides, he noted that the festival marked the fourth anniversary of the enthronement of Igwe Chidubem Iweka as the king of Obosi, informing that the festival was characterized by restating royal parade, cultural dances, masquerade parade, etcetera, adding it was time, too, for the monarch to confer chieftaincy titles to worthy friends of Obosi Kingdom.
The President, Obosi Development Union (ODU), Dan Igbokwubili, together with his executive members, proceeded to pay homage to the monarch, after which Eze Iweka stood to present his Obiora/Iwaji message, in which he said the celebration of yam and peaceful coexistence were highly valued by their ancestors, who deemed it necessary to observe both in joint celebration of Obiora.
He echoed: “This is a highly remarkable aspect of our culture that must be perpetuated for its qualities of great value. Today, in the face of widespread unrest, war, ethnic hostilities and terrorism across the globe, one cannot overstate the need for peace and cordial relations,” even as he urged everybody, especially the youth of Obosi, to maintain peace during and after the festival.
The king, who praised the state governor, Willie Obiano, for making phenomenal impact on the security situation in the state, including the formation of the anti-cult squad with headquarters at Enugu-Ukwu, which, in only three months, had eliminated cultism in Obosi, thanked the state Commissioner for Police, Mr. H.H. Karma, and the anti-cult commander, ACP Dickson Osamwonyi, for outstanding anti-cult policing.
Still suing for peace in Obosi, he called on the state governor to address urgently the return of the terror group, Adike Peace Foundation (APF), presently scheming to overrun the town. “All youth,” he said, “no matter their affiliations, are our sons, and we must reiterate that rehabilitation of idle, unskilled youth shall be achieved through counselling and adequate placement and not by violence or militancy.”
While celebrating the bountiful harvest, the monarch also used the opportunity to count the community’s harvest in human resources since the last Obiora Festival. Eze Iweka was grateful that, among others, Bishop Chuka Aguegbo was recently consecrated in Delta State to become the first Pentecostal bishop of Obosi origin; Dr. Emmanuel Orakwue was made the Rector of Global Distance Learning Institute, Abuja; Kene Mortanya was outstanding in the American military; and Bishop Sam Chidoka was also consecrated bishop in Lagos.
He specially thanked the Adazie Obosi, Chief Emeka Anyoku, for continuously being an umbrella for the oppressed and downtrodden in Obosi and beyond; Nnabuenyi Philip Ikeazor, Managing Director, Keystone Bank, for contributing to the success of the festival; Mr. Cletus Ibeto for his continued support of his throne. The monarch restated the call for the Federal Government of Nigeria to come to the aid of the town in combating the terrible erosion menace
The air quivered once again with Iyom Inokwa’s enchantment to the royal throne. For the fans of the high life music of late Oliver de Coque, it was deja vu as his younger brother, Eugene de Coque, made all nostalgic with an interlude of music, beginning with the hit track “Ndidi”. He continued later with a series of tunes popularised by the high life maestro.
Lest you forget, in the Bible, Jesus won renown for feeding the multitude with few loaves of bread, in Obosi, Eze Iweka, after performing the new yam rites, fed teeming number of children with yam steeped in red oil. In the meanwhile, the famous Egwu Ekwe dance by Ndi Ichie held everybody captivate for more than an hour. Colourful masquerades also entertained the audience intermittently.
Represented by the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Chief Greg Obi, the Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obi, said, thought he wasn’t present at the event, he supported the people of Obosi in the celebration of the new yam, “an ancient rite”. He commended the support of the Obosi Kingdom to his government, saying it would continue to grow stronger.
The monarch conferred awards on many individuals who had distinguished themselves in the society. They include Chief Chimezie Ikeazu, SAN (posthumous), Hon. Kenneth Ifeatu Obi, Chief Molokwu Okechukwu, Prof. Comfort Muonagu, Nze Philip Ikeazu, and Lady Onwuekwe. Eze Iweka also conferred chieftaincy title on Chief Osita Orji.
A day of showing gratitude, different branches of the Obosi Development Union (ODU) and age grades trooped to pay homage. The climax of the festival was when Eze Iweka changed to an ancient war ensemble and waltzed across the arena before jigging to the rhythm of ancient war dance. Enchantment was wholesale. (Daily Sun)
Photo credit: @ObosiNetwork