By Nwabueze Okonkwo
ONITSHA – The residential villa of Chief Hyman Udemba (Akamkpois Obosi), a prominent member of Umuezechieamalu family of Ugamuma village, Obosi in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra state, one of the first class cabinet members of the traditional ruler of Obosi Ancient Kingdom, Igwe Chidubem Iweka III (Eze Obosi) was filled to capacity by eminent personalities penultimate weekend as he celebrated his 5th annual Iwaji cultural festival.
Among the dignitaries were Chief Chief Charles Umolu (Akpe Obosi), Chief Linus Mgbakogu (Attah Obosi), Sir Dan Chidozie Igbokwubili, former President-General of Obosi Development Union, ODU; Chief Emeka Okeke, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, AIG, Nonso Ilechukwu, Chairman of Umuezechieamalu family.
The ceremony was kick-started as early as 7 a.m. with early morning prayer meeting among elders of the Umuezechieamalu family, followed by another meeting of different heads of sub family units, and an enlarged general family meeting which involved the executives of Umuada and Ndi Nwunyedi.
After these series of brief meetings, Udemba, dressed in his chieftaincy regalia, surfaced in public, greeted all the visitors around and made a brief introduction of the celebration to the august visitors who were not conversant with the reason for the celebration.
In sequence, Akamkposi went into kola nut ritual (Igo Ofo Ana with kolanut), during which he thanked God for the celebration and prayed fervently for long life, good health and a successful next season of Obosi people.
In the prayers, he remembered those who served the community well, including leaders of the community and for their peaceful co-existence.
He went into the nitty gritty of the event which was Iwaji proper (cutting of a roasted yam). After the symbolic cutting, he dipped a piece of the roasted yam into a plate of palm oil garnished with oil bean (Ukpaka) and fresh pepper and ate it first, washed it down with a cup of palm wine and then served all the titled men around him which they also ate. All the children around were assembled in line and he also served them with pieces of the roasted yam with prayers, before he distributed the pieces of yam to other groups and invitees seated in various locations, as high point of the occasion.
Being an Ekwe titled Ndichie (Ekwe is musical society for titled men), the celebrant proceeded with Ekwe dance immediately after the roasted yam had been distributed round.
After the dance, he took his seat and addressed the visitors. He gave his account of stewardship to the family members and the entire community and at the same time, made promises to improve upon his services as an Ichie Obosi.
Inspired by his speeches and promises not to renege on his duties as Ndichie, his family members and some guests in turn, stated paying hism homage one after the other, while traditional entertainments and refreshments continued till dusk.
Having been installed as Akamkposi Obosi in January, 2015, Udemba had celebrated his Iwaji festival on yearly basis. He celebrated his first Iwaji in October, 2015, after his installation in January that same year. He did same in 2016, 2017, 2018 and this 2019 which was the 5th of its kind.
In their separate speeches, Sir Igbokwubili who identified himself as a major stakeholder in Obosi, frowned that their culture has been bastardized by the way their present traditional ruler, Iweka put it, adding that the monarch has been going against their highly placed in Obosi which has in turn bastardized their culture.
Also speaking, Ilechukwu, the Umuezechieamalu family leader who described Udemba, the celebrant as a lover of peace and progress, said the entire family members were in attendance to pay homage to Udemba, one of the highly respected family members because he has regard for his family members. Ilechukwu however expressed disgust about the suspension of Udemba from the royal cabinet, some time in March, this year
In his own speech, Chief Okeke, the retired AIG, noted that Obosi culture was now in shambles, adding that ab initio, Igwe Iweka usurped the Igweship stool which is currently causing a lot of problems.
According to him, “Nobody can ascent that throne without I, the Diokpa (King maker) giving him the symbol of authority (ofo) and he mounted the throne ruling Obosi without the Ofo. As far as I am concerned, I have not given the Ofo to anybody since after the reign of the late Igwe Nwakoby and that is why the problems in the royal throne persisted till this moment”.
AIG Okeke described Udemba as an educated individual and a peace-loving son of Obosi. Responding, Udemba thanked all those who graced the occasion and expressed satisfaction that the ceremony ended on a sound note.
On the significance of the festival, Udemba noted that they celebrate Ifejioku in March every every which is a celebration of appeasing their gods to make their crops yield fruitfully at which time Ndichie will receive yam seedlings from Eze Obosi to go and plant. adding, “Each Ndichie will pray in their respective domains for the land to yield.
“In summary, Ifejioku is celebrated after the first rain in the year to usher in farming season. The ancient festival started when there was no white collar jobs and the people circle around farming. For you to celebrate new yam festival, you must plant yam. It however does not necessarily mean that one must be a farmer to celebrate but just a commemoration.
“It is assumed that I planted yam during the farming season and now want to celebrate it after eight or nine months of the planting season as a staple food. In the olden days, for you to become an Ichie, you must have been assessed by the size of your ban of yams for you to be able to celebrate with your family.
“Having planted yam, our anticipation is that the yam will yield having prayed to God. It is now an opportunity to thank God for the fruitful yield and also to inform our own people that the yam is now due to be eaten. Ndichie or any title holder is entitled to celebrate new yam with their families and those they are leading. The celebration started even before the advent of Igweship stool in Igbo land.
“My immediate family which is Umuezechieamalu family of Ugamuma village, Obosi and because my wife, Chief Mrs. Stella Uchenna Udemba is also a titled woman, it is her wish to also involve her own families in the celebration. It is a time for Ndichie to have a close door meeting and resolve any outstanding issue. The period of Iwaji ushers in Obiora (good heart) so that everybody will become peaceful and joyful during the festival”.