It was a tale of two kings: EzeIwekaIII, the Eze Obosi,sitting majestically on the throne;and the yam, the king of crops, anonymous on the floor. But it was the tuber that summoned the Obosi king and his subjects to the Obosi Mini Stadium, Afor-Adike Square,on Saturday, October 6, 2018, fora fiesta of peace.
No paradise lost: watching the 2018 Obiora/Iwaji Festival, you couldn’t but exclaim in ecstasy. Culture met with keenness, amid oohs and aahs. Little wonder, Obiora/Iwaji Festival now ranks among the top cultural festivals in Igboland. It was a time to celebrate the new yam, nay a great tradition of reconciliation, restitution and celebration of peace.
Deacon Ike Madubosah, the President General, Obosi Development Union, put that in perspective in his address of welcome, “Today marks another celebration of Obiora, one of the richest traditions of our land, a tradition that reminds us of the need and value for peace and harmony in our homes, villages and community.”
EzeIweka’s speech touched on the need for peace to reign in his kingdom. The seventh Obiora/Iwaji Festival under his watch, the Obosi monarch said it was a significant year –“a year of purgation and rejuvenation.”He thanked God for the bountiful harvest recorded this year.
“By His special grace, we are assured that our people shall not suffer hunger from now till when we meet again next year to celebrate another abundant harvest,” he prayed. He also reminded all that, right from the olden days, Obiora Festival “has been and, still is, a mandate of peace and tranquility for Obosi Community.”
The literary monarch, whose play, August Inmates, recently made the 2018 long list of the Nigeria Prize for Literature, sponsored by NLNG, stated that peace must be a habitual practice in our lives.
The Obosi Mini Stadiumwas a beehive of activities as the day wore on, right from the arrival of the royal father, flanked by NdiIchie, who occupied the highest echelon of the social ladder next to the king, all costumed in white with colourful headgears. The colourful regalia was complemented by the kaleidoscope of colours of the masquerades,which were to perform later. The annual festival offered noises, jokes, laughter, colours and rites in abundance.
The bountiful harvest of 2018 was attested to by the hefty tubers of yam on parade at the Obosi Mini Stadium, a few metres from the king’s sitting position. Group after group showed their solidarity to the Obosi monarch with assorted gifts. It was a double harvest for the king.
NdiNwunyeEze were the first to present kolanuts to the king, followed by the palace maidens (who brought water for washing hands)and Ndi Enyi Nwanyi (wives of NdiIchie). The Umuada were not left out as they presented kolanuts “befitting of a big person”. When NdiIchie lined up one after another to pay homage, it was an indication that entertainment section of the festival was about to commence.
Soon, the titled elderstook to the field to perform the IgbaEkwe dance. Tom-tom beats of the three giant Ekwedrums suffused the air, and the chiefs were livid with excitement. They were men of accomplishments in the Obosi kingdom and beyond.
Some of those presentwere Senator Mike Ajegbo (Ede Obosi), Founder,Minaj TV; Chief Collins Anibogwu (IyaseleObosi), Chief ChudiAchuke (AfaObosi), former Minister of Defence; Dr. ChieduUyammadu (OdogwuObosi), Chief S.E.Ejindu (AjeeObosi), Chief Guy Okechukwa (OjubaObosi), to mention a few.
The EgwuEkwe was significant, for it was the titled elders’ way of paying loyalty to the monarch and the Obosi Kingdom. Much later, they took to the floor to perform another elaborate dance, Egwu Ota.
The appearance of a group of Medicine San Frontiers doctors, consisting of four expatriates and an African, to pay homage to the king, added glamour to the event. Interestingly, they partook in the IkwoOnunu (breaking of roasted yam by the king), their faces creasing with smiles as theysavoured the new, oiled yam, offered by the charismatic monarch. A line up of excited kids also savoured the taste of the new yam.
Just as he did last year, ChudeNwude, the first Vice President of the Obosi Developing Union, played the role of the palm wine tapper. With the paraphernalia of the tapper, he dragged his bicycle and a gourd of palm wine to salute the king, who blessed the work of his hand, and took a mouthful of the frothing wine before it was shared among those who signified interest to have a drink of the local brew.
Historically, Adike, the founder of Obosi Kingdom, was said to be a hunter. In keeping with that tradition, a young couple played the role of the legendary hunter and his wife. Draped in traditional Igbo attire, the hunter and his wife presented a big grasscuttergame and tubers of yam to the king. Like the palm wine tapper before him, the king blessed their industry. Part of the beauty of Obiora is that it demonstrates to the younger generation the lesson of fortitude and loyalty to constituted authorities.
The Kosisochukwu Development Foundation, administered by the wife of the Obosi monarch, Enyinwanyi Kosisochukwu Iweka,added to the glamour of the day with a drama presentation on youngsters, emphasising on moral rectitude among the youth.
Not all the traditional rulers present were women, though. From Ogwashi-Uku came a female traditional ruler, Obi Martha Dunkwu, the Omu of Anioma, who caused a stir when she was introduced to the crowd; but when she addressed the gathering, her eloquence earned her resonating applause. A firm believer in traditional religion, she lamented that, unlike the Japanese, Indians and Chinese, Africans, especially, the Igbo, had abandoned their traditional religion for Christianity, and voted for a reawakening.
The Omu of Anioma was excited by the cultural displays she witnessed at Obosi, and praised the monarch for sustaining the Igbo culture in the kingdom. “Leadership is not taught in a three weeks’ lecture class. You have shown leadership by the way and manner you have conducted the affairs of your people, particularly your drive to preserve the culture of your forebears,” she said.
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Traditional rulers of Anambra State were well represented. The Igwe of Umueri, the Eze of Aguleri, Ukwasho of Owerre, Igwe of Oraukwu, Igwe of Enugu Aguleri, Eze Ugo of Ukpo, Eze Uzuna Ichida, Igwe of Ogbunike, EzeIseke, to mention a few, came to honour their colleagues. Senator Victor Umeh, representing Anambra Central Senatorial Zone, was among the high-profile personalities that attended the festival.
Besides, the Obosi monarch conferred an award to MrsIfeomaAnabugo(OchendoAnabugo), in recognition of her effort towards polio eradication in Nigeria. Another award was presented to General Charles Maduegbunam for his sterling contribution towards the development of Obosi and Nigeria. It was a sight to behold as all the age grades in Obosi paid their homage to the monarch with songs and gifts. Masquerades, from the seven-faced Onuiyi to the Ijele, had a field day entertaining the spectators. As the evening shadows lengthened, the Obosi monarch disappeared from the Obosi Mini Stadium. When he reappeared, his ensemble had changed to a war gear. His mien became taut as he swerved aggressively in a fiery dance. The crowd cheered on until silence fell. The fun was over here, but many homes echoed with clinking glasses thereafter.