From Wilson Okereke, Afikpo
Wrestling is a traditional African sports and it is where Ebonyi State has been making its mark. It started in 2005 when Chief Austin Edeze, president, National Wrestling Federation (NWF), secured the sponsorship and participation of the state in the maiden edition of Sam Egwu National Wrestling Championship in Abakaliki.
Five national champions were discovered at the event in both male and female categories. Since then, the interest of Ebonyi youth in wrestling has continued to grow in leaps and bounds with many of them flying the flags even at continental levels. Unfortunately, for about 10 years now, the fortunes of the state in the sector have continued to decline.
Ekka is a historically wrestling festival. It is usually done after seven to eight Nkwo market days or nine to 10 market days from the day of Okeaku (New Yam) feast of the Ezza, when there is a leap year. It brings peace and unity to the community. It is a moment of happiness and reunion. It’s meant to add glamour to Okeaku, the traditional New Year of Ezza Clan.
The House of Representatives member for Ezza North/Ishielu Federal Constituency, Anayo Edwin Nwonu, sponsored the recent annual traditional wrestling contest of Ekka Community in Ezza North LGA to promote the people’s rich cultural heritage and also meaningfully engage the youth.
The event was held on September 3, 2021, attracting people from all walks of life who either participated or were on hand to cheer up participants in the show of strength and craftiness.
Nwonu said many youths in the community benefited immensely from the exercise, as the contenders are usually presented with various gifts as a way of motivation: “Many of them are being provided with opportunity to pursue their careers in sporting activities by linking them to the sporting bodies and agencies where their talents can be harnessed.” He said he would continue helping the youths in various means to enable them become self-reliant.
Chairman, Ekka Peace Land Committee, Chief Nugbo Mathias, said: “The event provides the opportunity for people of the same age bracket especially the youth who usually come together and contend with their peers. The conquest is more often than not achieved by throwing the opponent on the ground through skilful demonstration of strength and agility.”
Chairman, Ekka Development Union (EDU), Otubo Sunday; chairman, Unwuezele Youth, Igwe Fidelis; president, Ekka Town Union, Chief Francis Oketa and Mrs Lovina Oketa, who participated in the occasion described it as a season of merriment.
Sunday told our reporter: “The activity does not contradict Christianity in any form as there is nothing fetish about the traditional practice.” He advised the younger generation to uphold their culture tenaciously because it would always speak much of their identity.
One-time wrestler from the community, Ogodo Solomon and one of the guests from Ezza South LGA, Edwin Ugbala, were happy for witnessing this year’s event. They expressed optimism that the wrestling competition would soon attract national and international attention.
Chairman at the occasion, Nwobo Gabriel, enjoined other prominent people from the area to always join hands in promoting their rich cultural heritage, irrespective of their religious beliefs.
The event was also used in observing a communal feast of eating roasted new yam together by the community members, friends and well wishers which had invariably added to the unity and love found among the people.
The overall champion, Ekene Ojukwu, was presented with a brand new motorcycle donated by the lawmaker. Other winners in their various categories were given undisclosed amount of money and consolation prizes.
Nwonu was represented by his personal assistant, Petking Alo.