•Says civil war took Igbo several years back
•States traditional rites for New Yam Festival
By Vincent Ujumadu, Awka
EZE Obidiegbwu Onyesoh, the traditional ruler of Nri, Anambra State which is regarded as the ancestral abode of Igbo people, has said that the loss of the three-year Nigeria-Biafra war took the Igbo nation several years back in terms of development, arguing that the worst thing any Igbo man could think of is to engage in another war.
Eze Onyesoh, who spoke with reporters at Nri in Anaocha Local Government area of the state as part of activities to mark this year’s Onwasato Ilo Muo/New Yam festival of the Igbo nation, which takes place today, observed that but for the war, Igbo would have excelled beyond human imagination.
He said: “Igbo nation had the opportunity to excel and was on the right path before that civil war. No right thinking Igbo man should engage in another war. We have to fight intelligence battle to better our situation and not by unnecessary noise making.
“The worst thing that can happen to a man is to witness two wars in his lifetime and it should not be our portion. We must think twice before doing anything irrationally.” The monarch observed that the problem with Nigeria was leadership, noting that those who had been governing the country in the past missed the right direction.
“We find it difficult to believe some of the revelations being made, but it is a fact that corruption has been institutionalised. It has permeated the fabrics of our society and it cannot be cured in a hurry. It has to be a systematic battle if we must get it right,” he said.
Eze Onyesoh regretted that carefree attitude had led to what he described as the bastardisation of Igbo customs and tradition, adding that the right thing is for traditional rulers of the various communities to perform the New Yam festival before their subjects eat the new yam.
On the preparations that culminated in today’s celebration, Eze Onyesoh said that all traditional title holders in Nri would perform ritual purification to be clean for the ceremony before proceeding to the evil forest where they would partake in the symbolic dining with the spirits.
According to him, to prepare adequately for the ceremony, the title holders must try to be holy within the period, including not sleeping with women, adding that they would thereafter gather at Eze Nri palace to perform some sacrifices and tie the ‘egbo’, an object that must not be let loose to avoid attacking the youths of the community.
He said that it is at the end of this ceremony that the gods would give permission for the new yam to be eaten in Nri. “Nobody eats new yam before Eze Nri, otherwise he or she will face dire consequences,” he further said, adding that the difficulties in having a common date for the celebration of the festival for all Igbo people was due to the republican nature of the Igbo.
Explaining the myth behind yam in Igbo land, Eze Onyesoh said: “Igbo mythology has it that when Nri became hungry and needed something to eat, he found yam sprout from the grave of his son and when he uprooted it and ate it, it tasted good and he named it the king of crops.
“This is why yam is venerated among the Igbo and anyone who deliberately damages yam crops is treated as a murderer.”