By Ayo Onikoyi
Ofala festival has received the Federal Government’s ‘Award of Excellence’ in culture. The award is in recognition of the outstanding and excellent contributions of the Ofala festival to the development and preservation of Nigeria’s cultural heritage. The award was made on the occasion of the First United Nations World Tourism Organisation ( UNWTO) Global Conference on linking tourism, culture, and the creative industries as pathways to recovery and inclusive development, which has just ended in Lagos.
The Ofala is the high point of the Onitsha ceremonial cycle. This display of royal dances, tributes, parades and music running over two days, with the Obi of Onitsha as the celebrant of the spectacle is rooted in deep spirituality. It is an occasion for the monarch to fulfil certain obligations. The Ofala is primarily a celebration by the monarch and his subjects of the monarch’s annual emergence from seclusion, during which period the monarch has successfully negotiated the fortunes of the kingdom. It is also a re-enactment of the joy which the monarch shared with his subjects, at the discovery that yam is nontoxic, and a valuable source of food.
The award was presented in Lagos to His Majesty, Nnaemeka Achebe, Obi of Onitsha at a gala night and command performance during the conference by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the Secretary General of the UNWTO Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili.
Speaking on the award, His Majesty conveyed the appreciation of the Onitsha community to both the federal government and the UNWTO . According to him, ‘’this recognition added to the endorsement of the Ofala by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, as a major Nigerian festival, has further enhanced our goals of attracting considerable national, west African, and international attention to the Ofala and getting the festival to attain the status of a major event in the Nigerian, and by extension in the West African cultural/tourism calendar’’.