By JIMOH BABATUNDE
In most villages in Nigeria, festivals are quite inevitable because they go a long way in entertaining and uniting the villagers. Some festivals, on the otherhand, have the capacity to draw attention from neighbouring villages or far beyond that. One of such is the Ikeji festival.
Ikeji festival is an annual festival of all Aro kingdom spread alongside the South eastern part of Nigeria. Arondizougu autonomous community as it is called has the largest concentration of Aron settlers/elements which makes her the preferred hub for propagating Aron culture and tradition.
Ikeji festival is however an annual home coming ceremony and gathering of the Aron descendants from home and abroad to give thanks to God for making them see a new year, Ikeji.
It is a long held tradition passed down through the ancestry of the Arondizougu clan emanating from Arochukwu in Abia state. It is an eight day festival of merriment and spectacular display of masquerades coming out in their glamour to thrill the ever teeming crowd that converge in the village to witness the occasion.
One of the masquerades is the ‘pericoma’, a masquerade known for its acrobatic displays and prowess. It is multi-cultural, multi-racial and cut across all gender. Ikeji festival literally transforms the serene scene of village life to a commercial hub driving a swamp of tourists, researchers, fun seekers, businesses and brands to one location for eight days.
This time around, the Ikeji festival would be held in April, and a pre-festival gathering was held to this end. Speaking at the pre-festival gathering, the spokespersons Mazi Christian OkohaOkoro, Presidential General, Arondizuogu Patriotic union and MaziChimezieNwankwo, Secretary of town union, pointed out that Nigeria’s strong culture is one of the great attributes that has kept Nigeria strong, and they are committed to promoting Nigerian culture through the Ikeji festival .
The first four days of the festival, the eke, orie, afor, and nkwo are also named after the four native market days of Igbo culture.
On the eke day, everybody turns up in the market to buy and stock up their homes in preparation for the next day; orie in which all the livestock bought on the eke are killed and made ready for merriment and fasting on the afor and nkwo respectively. The merriment and feasting spans the remaining four (4) days as visitors and dwellers alike go about from home to home participating in the feast.
On each of the eight days, the masquerades come out and tour the village in a long procession of enthusiasts singing their praises as they thrill and put on spectacular displays. They later converge on the market square before calling it a day but the merriment proceeds into the wee hours of the day.
Ikeji festival is a big time festival which is now gaining international attention and repute, which is has adequate security in place for lives and properties, and could also be a huge source of income from tourism if managed well.