From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Ogidi Community in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State was agog recently following the celebration of the first new yam festival otherwise known as ‘Alommuo/Iwaji’ by the traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Alex Uzor Onyido.
The festival which saw the mass return of the people marked the one year anniversary of Igwe Onyido after the community had stayed for 19 years without a traditional ruler.
The community also used the festival to confer the chieftaincy title of ‘Dike Ejiejemba’ on Governor Willie Obiano for his contribution to the community and the state at large.
Essentially, the festival signalled the commencement of eating of new yam in the community.
Oriental News observed that the event was preceded by the visitation to the shrine by Igwe and his cabinet members two days before the festival. At the shrine, the community performed some cultural rites and presented some items to the gods like yam, goat, kola nuts, fowl and other traditional items, which were to show appreciation to the gods for keeping them alive and providing them with bountiful harvest for the year.
On the morning of the festival day, the Igwe would cut the roasted yam, which he eats first to signify the commencement of the eating of the new yam in the community.
On the arrival of Igwe Onyido and his cabinet members to the celebration arena, he was greeted with 21 canon gunshot as he went round to greet the people before retiring to his seat.
The queen and the wife of the king (Ugogbeze) accompanied by titled women (Ndi Iyom) presented kolanuts after they went round to greet the people.
Also various groups and quarters of the community such as Akanano led by High Chief Emeka Nwabueze, Uru quarters led by Chief Ugochukwu Okwuosa, Ezinkwo quarter led by Chief Okey Okudo and Ikenga quarter led by Chief Emeka Udeze came forward to pay homage to Igwe Onyido. In a chat with Oriental News, Igwe Onyido said that the new yam festival was an annual event in Ogidi.
“We have to do some traditional rites before we start eating the yam. It is a period in Ogidi if you are a chief you will not be allow to eat the yam until the traditional rulers of Ogidi bless the yam in the open and declared the yam safe for eating which involves traditional rites.
“We also conferred ‘Dike Ejiejemba’ to the governor, it is not me, it is the entire Ogidi that came together to honour the governor for appointing our people in his cabinet and giving me certificate of recognition within few months of my coronation and from now onwards the governor has the right to join me in the cabinet and will be given a plot of land to build a house in Ogidi.
“Governor Obiano right now is our brother and our son. Ogidi people are peaceful, very kind, if you please them they will please you, if you bite them they will bite you, if you love them they will love,” the traditional ruler said.
The President General of Ogidi Development Union, Chief Chuka Jideoffor Onubuogu in his remark said: “We are celebrating one year of our royal father on the throne, Igwe Onyido, and our new yam festival known as Alamuo/ Iwaji which coincided with it. The festival signified the commencement of eating of new yam in the community. The Igwe has to first of all open the action by roasting the yam, calling us to the palace, inviting our well-wishers to the palace.
“The reason for honouring the governor at the occasion was that he has been very kind to our community, he appointed 11 persons from our community, he gave us two tarred roads, youths empowerment/skill acquisition centre and gave our Igwe certificate of recognition after 19 years when we had no traditional ruler. You can see the way everybody was jubilating today because peace has returned in Ogidi, we now have a royal father of our choice.”
Traditional Prime Minister of Ogidi, High Chief Emeka Nwabueze while celebrating his own new yam festival in his compound said that the significance of the new yam festival was to thank God for the bountiful harvest He granted the people of the community and for Him to do more in the coming year.
“The festival is to bring together the people to thank God who gave life and provided the yam for us to eat. This is also my first new yam festival to be celebrated by me since I became the Ajie Okpala Ogidi last year. I’m into agriculture and one of my major businesses is agriculture and I want the youths to engage themselves in agriculture as self employment instead of being idle and indulging in crime. I pray for God’s protection for those who attended the festival and to give us life to see the next festival,” Nwabueze said.
Also in his remarks, Chief Samuel Mendu described the yam as the king of all crops, which was the reason for celebrating it from age to age, saying that “in the olden days the yam is planted and harvested by this time, we roast it before eating with oil.”
Another native of Ogidi, Price Chinwe Onwuzulike said that the turnout for this year’s new yam festival showed that lasting peace has returned to Ogidi after several years without a king, saying that the emergence of Igwe Onyido has brought the community together again.
Governor Obiano thanked the community for honouring and endorsing him for another term, assuring them of equitable distribution of projects across the state which Ogidi would not be left out.
The festival attracted various masquerades and cultural troupes.