…Highlights on the Importance of the Traditional Festival
The Traditional ruler of Issele-Uku Kingdom and the Head of Eze Chime Clan, HRM Agbogidi Obi Nduka, MNSE, has expressed confidence on the security arrangements for the 2018 annual Ine Festival assuring that all necessary arrangements have been made for the safety of the people of Issele-Uku during the festive period.
Obi Nduka stated this and many more during a world press conference on Tuesday, September 4, 2018 at his Palace in Issele-Uku where he briefed the retinue of journalists on the significance of the annual festival and line up of activities heralding the Ine Aho festival.
The Monarch said, “On the issue of security, it is not a problem. It has been tackled and that is not an issue. We have a committee on security and it is their duty that they make sure they liaise with every security outfit that we can get in this country to protect lives and property. The Nigeria Police has been informed of the Ine Festival, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps has been informed and every other paramilitary outfit has been informed.”
“It is also important that we note that the Ine Festival is a period of rejoicing, celebration and not a period of war and fighting but we cannot rule out those things because we are all human but I can assure that the Ine Festival is as peaceful as you can always get anywhere in the country.” Obi Nduka assured.
On the significance of the annual festival, the Issele-Uku monarch emphasized that, “One of the imperative cultures of Issele-Uku, is the Ine Aho Festival, which is the most revered festival in the ancient town of Issele-Uku. Ine Aho festival has been celebrated over the years by our people yearly, mostly, from the month of August through September to October”, adding that, “The significance of the Ine Aho festival to the people of Issele-Uku is numerous. We are committed to preserving our cultural heritage despite the influx of foreign culture which has eroded the cultures of some communities and at the same time, we are willing to project this culture to the world. With modernization and globalization, we see the need to create, add value and importance to our festival and we are striving towards achieving that goal, especially by targeting the youth with specialized programs that will be put in place in the future as the festival is attended by people of all ages.”
Speaking further, the Obi disclosed that the Ine Festival period is highly loaded with minor and major traditional events of which majority of the traditional activities of the festival, unfortunately, are non-popularized and publicized. “Amongst them are, ‘Izu Afiachi’, ‘Ilo Chi Ikpala’, ‘Ilo Chi Ikolo’, ‘Mgba Ututu’, ‘Iba Nzu’, ‘Ihu Onicha’. These are significant traditional activities and the highlights of the Ine Aho festival. These activities pull crowd from far and wide to experience the festival.” He harped.
A chronological breakdown of the traditional activities during the Ine Festival as highlighted by the Monarch, are as follows;
“Izu Afiachi” is performed by the Obi on Afor market day, the main market day of Issele-Uku. It is the only day in the year the royal household is permitted by custom to enter the market place. Money is distributed to market women in form of gifts. Market items are collected with the consent of the traders. Offerings and prayers are made at Ihu Mkpitime to Mkpitime deity at the market place. This festival is to honour and remember Queen Omu, the mother of Obi Eze-Chima.
“Ilo Chi Ikpala” and “Ilo Chi Ikolo” are both celebrated on Nkwo market days by the Ikpala-red cap title holders and Ikolo-youth respectively. They perform these festivals to give thanks to their Chi (ancestors) for sparing and protecting their lives. They also pray for better fortune in the New Year. These festivals are marked by local canon and gunshots, merry making, sharing of food and drinks.
“Mgba Ututu” wrestling competition is performed seven days before the Ine Aho festival. It is a day set aside for strong men and presently women in the town to exhibit their skills in wrestling, to entertain the people of Issele-Uku and their visiting guests. They, the wrestlers are usually, self-nominated coming from the nine villages that make up the town. The competition commences in the morning at Idumunei village. The winners at Idumunei wrestling court are gathered for a later showcase at the “Ezi Ogwa Obi” (outer palace) for the final rounds, basically, to entertain Obi and other spectators. Thereafter, the final winners of the competition at the palace would emerge. This competition attracts people, especially the youths of Issele-Uku and beyond to witness this festival.
Prior to the Ine Aho festival is the declaration of “ba Nzu”. This is the most important ceremony to be performed as its marks a period of spiritual cleansing and purification of the town from all evil. The people in the town would be refrained from noisemaking and all forms of noise are prohibited. Vigils are observed in this period at the Palace. Our ancestors during this time are appeased by the prayers offered by the Obi who remains isolated, abstained from movements. Friends, well-wishers as well as visitors are giving Nzu (white chalk) to rob on their bodies. It is believed that by so doing it cleanses them of evil.
The Ine Aho festival, in the early morning of the final day of “Iba Nzu” is declared open officially, with local canon shots by the order of the Obi of Issele-Uku. This signifies that the embargo imposed on the town is lifted, which refrains all people of the town from noise making and all forms of noise, as the Obi would be performing the spiritual purifications of the town of all evil, for a period of five days. Therefore, these canon shots would be greeted with other gunshots, released by Nzele Ogbodo/Onotu (High Chiefs in the town) independently and simultaneously, in acknowledgement of the lifted embargo. After which, the town is thrown into a festive mood with mammoth crowd of children and youths of the town drumming, singing and dancing from all directions of the town heading towards the Oligbo Royal Palace. At about this same time, the High Chiefs of the town would be fully dressed in their colourful regalia, trouping out, dancing with their subjects, accompanied by families and friends who shower praises on them while dancing to the sounds coming out from the local drums called “olimgba”.
At this point in time, the Obi of Issele-Uku fully prepared, would be accompanied out from his palatial residence by a group of Umu Issoh – custodians of the royal Emaba music. Also, with long flutes in their mouths sounding, the royal flute group “Otu Ekpele” escort the Obi to the “Ezi Ogwa Obi” where the Ine Aho festival is taking place while performing the royal Uje. It is interesting to note, that there is order of sequence during the Ine Aho festival, things are done sequentially in an organized manner.
The wives of the Obi of Issele-Uku, are not left out, dressed in traditional white clothes “akwa ocha”, with peculiar hairstyles, being led by the Akemu (orderly attached to the wives of the Obi of Issele-Uku) in a file, drumming and singing praises in soft tones, honouring the Obi, dance pass to the spot traditionally mapped out for them.
Later on, after the Obi has performed the royal Uje and seated at the “Ogwa” the Onotu High Chiefs flanked by “Olimgba” music group, more-so, accompanied by their own subjects will proceed to “Ogwa Obi” where they would dance their hearts to the admirations of the mammoth crowd and then declare their allegiance to the Obi of Issele-Uku. This is called “Ina Aka”.
“Ihu Onicha” is another major festival performed on Afor market day. It signifies the coming to an end of the festivals of Issele-Uku, till the next year. On this day, the Idime chiefs as the Onotu chiefs before them perform the “Ina Aka” ceremony, declaring of allegiance to the Obi of Issele-Uku. It is also marked by merry making, dancing, singing and firing of canon shots.