Posted by Charles S Uzoukwu | 5 September 2017 | 1,559 times
The increasing prominence of New Yam festivity in Igboland took a new turn in an Umuahia community of Abia State, where the Council of Ohuhu Traditional Rulers, in a rare display of appreciation, used the opportunity to honour eminent sons and daughters of the land. Top on the list was the former Premier of the defunct Eastern Region, Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara; foremost African Public Relations guru/media persona and one time Managing Director of Champion Newspapers, Chief Bob Ewulonu Ogbuagu, both of whom were conferred with posthumous awards of Ikoro Ohuhu; Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah; and renowned Breton Woods Economist and former Minister of Finance under President Olusegun Obasanjo and Coordinating Minister of the Economy/Finance during Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, Prof. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, an eminent wife of the clan, who was duly honoured as the Kpakpando (Star), whose brightness has touched every nook and cranny of the globe.
That was not all. The event which brought sons and daughters of Ohuhu together at the Nkwoachara Community Square, Isingwu, Umuahia North Local Government Area, on August 30, 2017, also witnessed the conferment of various levels of Ikoro title on other illustrious ambassadors of the community, such as former Director-General of Immigration, Mrs. Rose Chinyere Uzoma (OON, MNI); pioneer chairman of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)/former Executive Director of Daily Times of Nigeria, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu; businessman/chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief (Amb.) Empire Kanu; Publisher/one-time governorship aspirant, Chief Ikechi Emelike. Others were Mayor Chief Sam C. Okwulehie and Chief Enyinna Nwokenna. Notable among six other illustrious sons who were equally conferred with various chieftaincy titles, is Chief (Amb.) Charles Nzechi, Managing Director/Chief Executive of an IATA-accredited Travel Agency, who incidentally was the youngest and most admired by both young and old, because of his impressive acts of philanthropy that have touched the life of the less-privileged, especially widows and indigent students.
The Chairman of Ohuhu Council of Ndi-Eze, His Royal Majesty, Eze Alozie Emekobum, led other Royal Fathers in performing the Iwa-ji ritual and conferment of the chieftaincy titles in accordance with the customs of the Ohuhu Clan. They particularly commended the youthful Charles Nzechi for his commitment to the economic and social well-being of the clan through various empowerment programmes that have brought smiles to the poor and destitute within Ohuhu and beyond.
Perhaps, as a way of confirming the commendation by the royal fathers, there were loud clamour from the crowd calling on him to join politics. According to one of the youths, “Charles has proved himself as a man of the people and we have also seen in him the potential for service and sacrifice,” which he noted are lacking in most politicians of today. While some groups vowed to back him as their man in the House of Representatives, interestingly, youths from the locality premised their call on the fact that it is Ohuhu’s turn to clinch the slot, based on the rotational policy that had existed since 1999. No doubt, the enthusiastic crowd that followed Nzechi during and after the ceremony affirms the collective decision by the Ohuhu traditional rulers to honour the young travelpreneur with such a prestigious title. Given the adage that when a young person washes his hands clean, he dines with elders, there is no doubt that the Royal Fathers are in agreement with the people’s clarion invitation for him to venture into politics. This was another highlight of this year’s Iwa-ji festival, besides conferment of chieftaincy titles, which makes it historic.
New Yam celebration in Igboland come in diverse ways, subject to the various sub-cultures and clans that make up the Igbo nation. First, there is Iwa-ji ceremony. This means offering the traditional prayer to appreciate God for fertility of the land that produced the good harvest, as well as blessing the new yam before consumption. This ritual precedes the Iri-ji festival proper. But because the focus is on consuming the new yam, hence the emphasis is on Iri-ji, which has become a major cultural festival in various communities of Igboland. So, what actually happened on that eventful day was 2017 Iwa-ji festival, made unique by the historic conferment of chieftaincy titles in recognition of heroic contributions of sons and daughters of the clan. It was an event to remember, in the sense that it was the first of its kind in the history of Ohuhu, Umuahia.
•Uzoukwu, an indigene of the clan and Abuja-based Public Affairs analyst, witnessed the festival.
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