By Chris Onuoha
The traditional ruler of Ihim in Isiama community, Isiala Mbano local government area of Imo State, Eze Oliver Ohanweh, Obi Gburugburu of Igboland, celebrated the ‘2018 Iwaji’ new yam festival.
The event, witnessed by a large turnout of cultural enthusiasts and some Igbo sons and daughters in Diaspora, was colourful and held amid a display of rich cultural dances of the Ihim people, masquerades and parades of traditionalists.
The ceremony started with customary rites at the Wisdom Palace of Ohanweh where traditional rulers, numbering about 350, and special guests paid homage to the Eze. After the kolanut breaking, palmwine and other traditional paraphernalia were observed, the entire community and guests trooped to the village square where the proper festival took place.
The special guest of honour, IGWE KELLY OKALANKWU OF IGBARIAM of Anambra State, attended the occasion with an entourage of about 45 traditional rulers from Anambra and Enugu States. Others in attendance include Eze Amaobi Uwaleke Obilibi of Urattha Owerri, Eze Douglas Okwarachukwu IV of Orlu, Eze John Nwosu from Orlu, Eze Thomas Obiefule the Okairuru of Umudoka, Eze Akaraka Onuoha, the Ohanyere of Mbaise; GodSavours MBA, Ihie of Umuishi, Eze Romanus Obiechefu, Omeudo of Umuelemai and Eze Steven Onwulimba of Abia State.
Also present were Chief Paulin Igwe from Houston, US; Chief Celestine Iwuagwu, also from US; members of national and state assemblies; state Commissioners and captains of industry.
In a chat with newsmen, Ohanweh disclosed that the essence of the festival was to preserve the culture of his community and encourage tourism in the land. He, however, bemoaned government’s nonchalant attitude to tourism.
“We have some tourist sites that are notable. We have a water fountain that springs from a stone and flows, connecting Imo River with Atlantic Ocean. This natural water is so pure and healthy for drinking. We also have ancient shrines that date back to 430 years. When colonial maters came and try to destroy the shrine and take away our religion, we resisted it by preserving our cultural shrine as our people’s heritage.
It has served as a protective refuge during war and also a mediator when an evil thing is bound to happen to the land. In Igboland, before the advent of the colonialists we worship God through the ancient shrine. We call our god ‘Chineke,’ god the creator of universe. There is a chief priest that takes care of the shrine.
“Attracting tourism in one paramount thing we are not taking for granted. There are some historic things to see and joy while visiting the community. It is a quiet community, hospitable to visitors and would welcome tourists to visit see the historic sites that have been preserved long time ago. Also there is another historic heritage preserve in the land that helps barren women to get pregnant. It is a tree trunk that when a barren woman sits on it, she becomes fertile and conceives. It worked and still in existence for those who believe. This among others is some historic relics that make the community a tourist attraction.
However, most of these that would have been attracting visitors to the land are desolate and wearing out. Government is not doing much to preserve this heritage. We have government agency that should take care of this but they are not doing much rather everything they do is on papers alone without doing anything practical.
When I was the chairman of the 774 local government cultural trade-fair in Abuja in the year 2000, we showcased on the street of Abuja that Igbos are wealthy and rich in culture. These are the things that can earn money for the state and boost the economy of the land.
I urge government of the state to be proactive to encourage tourism through the proper preservation of our cultural heritage and relics for future research.