Onicha Clan Celebrates New Yam Festival
By Okereke Wilson Ogbonnaya
The people of Onicha Igboeze and Igboeze Onicha, the two-component autonomous communities of Onicha Clan on Thursday 29th August 2018 commemorated their annual new yam festival at Egunkwo in Onicha Local Government Area
Addressing newsmen during the event, the former President General of the Area, Chief (Dr.) Okorie Ogbu said that the people had maximum respect for the crop since the time of creation and in view of that, it is being celebrated annually.
He disclosed that in the olden days, one’s affluence was rated based on the size of his yam barn and how healthy the tubers of yam therein, stating that the event also marked the end of the year, traditionally for Onicha people.
According to Dr. Ogbu who is also a retired permanent Secretary, the festivity usually takes four market days which stand for traditional one week beginning on Afo market day called Afo Azunata, where people go for shopping in preparation towards the feast.
The following day being Nkwo Market known as Nkwo Osisi ji, stands as a day set aside where residents would go into nearby bushes and cut some sticks which would be prepared in a javelin form mainly for the harvest.
He also said that on Eke day called Ekeji serves as the climax of the event as the farmers would excitedly go into their individual farms and harvest some tubers and the event would be proceeded by Orie market popularly known as Orie Okwafa where so many persons with their flamboyant dressing would go for a greater shopping, expressing gladness for having witnessed another traditional new year.
He added that the following day, all the married women in the area would pay homage to their parental homes alongside special local dishes with the purpose of identifying with their family at the beginning of another year. The visit is usually reciprocated with the gifts of some tubers of yam.
The Traditional Ruler of Igboeze Onicha community and former Chairman of Ebonyi State Traditional Rulers Council, His Royal Highness (HRH) Eze (Dr.) Agom Eze told us that the feast marked the end of the famine which the area noticed shortly after the cultivation period, an avenue by which the residents appreciated God of Creation over their healthy farm produce.
He said that the event is highly characterized by other cultural activities. At the dusk of Orie Okwafa, some women would be hitting their pestles inside the empty mortar, an act through which they would bid farewell to the past year and usher in the new one with a lot of good wishes and prayers.
He also told us that from the outset, it has been a period of merriment of all sorts, dining together among some family members and exchanging of pleasantries among the people and thereby advised all and sundry to work towards the sustenance of the culture.
Traditional Ruler of Onicha Igboeze community, HRH Eze Osimiri Agwu Nwukpa, represented by the Prime Minister, Chief Anthony Ogbonnaya Nwankwo expressed delight over the successful event and assured that the traditional institution would not allow the culture entrusted in the residents to go into oblivion and he called on everyone to be part of the feast adding that it is not fetish in nature.
He also suggested that the young ones should always be carried along to enable them to become acquainted with the activities so that the event would be properly sustained in future.
The incumbent President General of the clan, Chief Isaac Chukwu said yam was the foremost crop of the residents which made it highly valued above others, coupled with the fact that the tuners have the potentiality of taking care of both the farmers and their families in season and out of season.
he added that the event was prompted by the need to revitalize the cultural identity of the people which would go a long way over its maintenance in generations to come.
he appreciated all and sundry who had contributed to one way or the other towards a successful celebration and therefore urged other members of the committee not to relent in their service until the clan is taken to an enviable height
The Secretary-General of Onicha Town Union Caretaker Committee, Barrister Stephen Amaechi Agbafor said that the collective celebration was targeted at producing beneficial changes concerning the cultural activities in the area.
He said, “Initially, people chose to celebrate individually, but recently, it has taken a different dimension as the residents now celebrate it together to enable the young ones to become part of the festival.”
The legal practitioner further described the event as the bedrock of unity between the two communities and their residents and thereby appreciated the efforts of the organizers, 26 components villages which were represented and the Traditional Rulers for gracing the occasion.
Grand Knights of St. Mulumba and member Caretaker Committee of Onicha, Chief (Dr) Cyprian Chijioke Ikwuagwu said that the event had been a unifying factor by which all the residents do exhibit mutual cooperation towards one another.
He disclosed that it usually brings together all the people both those at home and in Diaspora for the common good of the clan, enumerating its importance to include making farmers to feel proud over their agricultural activities, providing an opportunity for the people to practice the cultural activity which they inherited from their forefathers, among others.
He added that before the celebration would take place, its announcement would first be heard from an elderly man, one of the custodians of culture in Eziga village who does calculate the time for the event traditionally using moon and market days, and once such clarification is circulated, shortly after, the feast would take place.
Chief Ikwuagwu also disclosed that the festival does not mitigate Christianity as it is not associated with diabolism or other related acts and therefore enjoined residents to hold the culture in high esteem.