By Mokwugwo Solomon
Traditional rulers from the 70 communities in Anambra South senatorial district of Anambra state on yesterday called for adoption of a uniform date and practice on the celebration of Ofala and new yam festivals across Igboland.
Rising from a 3-day retreat held at the Eagle Destiny Hotels, Ihiala, the royal fathers, under the aegis of Anambra South Traditional Rulers Forum, suggested, among other things, that Ndigbo worldwide should adopt the last Eke Market day in September as the universal day for ‘Iri Ji Ndigbo’, otherwise known as the new yam festival.
The chairman of the Anambra South Traditional Rulers Forum, Igwe Emmanuel C. Nnabuife, who read the communiqué issued at the end of the retreat, lamented that the new yam festival, a major festival that should be celebrated like Christmas in Igboland, did not have any common day in which it is celebrated in the Igbo nation.
He said, “Igbo people, who live by the river side celebrate their own new yam festival separately, those who live slightly away from the river, have completely different period for the celebration and so on. So, for these reasons, the time of celebration of (the) new yam differs from one community to the other. This is why we are having (the) problem of having a common new yam festival date. So, we want to put in proper perspective the procedure or methodology for the celebration. When we write it down, it then behooves on any traditional ruler to get the document and study how to celebrate new yam festival, so that whatever that is done in one community, as far as new yam festival is concerned, will be applicable in any other community in the region.
“So, if we adopt a document here in Anambra South, our intention is to recommend it to our Anambra State Council Of Traditional Rulers and when we do that, the chairman of the state council, who is also the chairman of the south east traditional rulers council, will be able to bring the entire Igbo traditional rulers and liaise with Ohaneze Ndigbo to adopt a common date for new yam festival, either by Igbo calendar or by Roman calendar, so that on the day of the new yam festival, Igbos around the world will celebrate it. This, if adopted, will engender Igbo unity and Igbo will be more focused, and the Igbo tradition will be more acceptable to the larger world.”
“This decision derives from the fact that nobody went anywhere to learn how to be a traditional ruler and our tradition is not written; it is handed over from father to son by oral tradition. We want to put some of the traditions in writing so that, once you become a traditional ruler, you’ll be able to pick a document, read through the document, and know what to do when it is your anniversary. There are traditional rulers, who don’t know how to pray over kolanut or pray to their ancestors because they never knew; but with what we are doing, we will get the traditional rulers to know what to do, the practice and performance and processes in actualising some of our norms,” he said.
The traditional rulers also accepted the suggestion to engineer structures that will guarantee the realisation of the political intentions of Anambra South senatorial zone. They, therefore, urged that the next governor of Anambra state, after the tenure of Governor Willie Obiano, should come from Anambra South senatorial zone in keeping with the understanding reached at the last gubernatorial elections.
“Again, we are looking at the think-home philosophy which Governor Willie Obiano is projecting. The import of the think-home philosophy or ‘Akuluouno’ is the need for our people to invest more at home than outside so that our people will be the envy of the heartland, not necessarily being the envy of outsiders. We want Ndigbo to help develop our area. There are lots of people who have mansions and hotels everywhere outside Igboland but, when you come home, they don’t even have a hut. So, we want that narrative to change so that somebody will be made to understand that he can come home to build industries where people could be employed and life will be made better for our people. So, the think-home philosophy will make our people rely more at home, and rely less outside home,” he added.
The opening ceremony, held on Friday, was attended by Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, the chairman of Anambra state and South East, Traditional Rulers’ Councils, who also gave the keynote address.
The senator representing Anambra South Senatorial Zone, Ifeanyi Ubah, was present as well as Hon. Chris Azubuogu, Hon. Ifeanyi Momah and Hon. Okwudili Ezenwankwo, all of the Federal House of Representatives.
Dr. Paschal Agbodike, the deputy speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly attended in the company of other state assembly members – Chidi Udemadu and Emma Nwafor.
Also, in attendance were political leaders, captains of industries and entrepreneurs including Dr. Dan Chukwudozie, Dr. ABC Orjiakor, Dr. Ernest Obiejesi, Engr. Edwin Enwegbara, Mr Godwin Ezeemo, Dr. Innocent Chukwuma, Chief Damian Okeke, Chief Maja Umeh, C’Don Adinuba, Barr. Greg Okafor, Chief Edozie Ezeugwa, Chief Titus Anagbogu, and others.