By AFAM Echi-08035360957
- Odu festival is the fore runner of every yam festival held in Oratta clan including Oru Owerre- HRH Eze Kingsley Ezewunwa Odu, Agwu Ukwu Dindi 1, Dindi Ihiagwa
On Wednesday 24th July, all roads lead to Iriamogu, Dindi Ihiagwa Autonomous community for the celebration of the popular Odu Festival. Odu Festival is the feast of new yam for the community.
In Igbo land the new yam festival is a very significant event. It depicts the prominence yam occupies among other crops in the socio-cultural affairs of Igbo people. With the Igbo region of South East, yam appears the most revered crop. The celebration usually commences from July to October depending on the calendar and circumstances of each community. In some places the new yam festival is called the Iriji, as we have the Iriji Mbaise, or Ike Ji as we have in the Aro communities or IwaJi in other places.
The Ihiagwa community, fast growing town which is hosting the Federal University of Technology (FUTO), is not left out in the popular Igbo tradition. Here it is called the Odu Festival. His Royal Highness Eze Kingsley Ezewunwa Odu, Agwu Ukwu Dindi 1, Dindi Ihiagwa Autonomous community, Agwu Ukwu Kingdom fielded questions from our reporter as he provides insight about the Odu festival in Ihiagwa. It is an interesting experience.
According to him the Odu festival is their new yam festival which comes up first among the Oratta Clan. ‘They call us Aguzie Afor (annual calendar) because we proclaim the annual calendar because we tell them the time for this and that concerning the new yam festival’, the natural ruler said. He went on to say that it is a period they express gratitude to God for the benefit of harvesting new agricultural products especially yam adding that after the ceremony other surrounding towns will follow suit.
Said he, after us Oru Owerre will take place and in the next two weeks Umuoma Autonomous Community will take over, followed by Umudibia. Uratta community he explained again is made up of the three local governments that constitute the Owerri Federal constituency namely, Owerri West, Owerri North and Owerri Municipal. On the possible reason why they originate the new yam festival among the three LGA’s and if it results from Ihiagwa being the eldest, he said it is because traditionally they are the ones called Aguzie Afor (those that declares the annual calendar) and not based on seniority.
The significance of the ceremony he noted is just to thank God for keeping them alive to a new year to harvest their agricultural products starting from yam. The celebration starts with the Ibuzo village performing the Ile Ngu.
‘Traditionally, we believe in our ancestors, we believe in the gods of Otammiri, he tells us when and how to start. The Ibuzo village will go to Okoahia Otammiri to find out exactly when the time will be, that is for the Odu. There is a tree called Okukorongu where the Ngu is hung mysteriously, it is calibrated by our ancestors. There is a position it will be kept it will indicate two weeks and four days, a week and four days. If it is a week and four days it means Odu will come up in a week and four days. Immediately the head of the shrine goes there he will come and tell the Ndi Ichie and ndi Ichie will tell the Eze this is the time for Odu festival. This is how we arrived at the 24th day of July.’’
Eze Odu mentioned that a lot of activities mark the ceremony. Hear him again, ‘first of all we observe the Onunu, a four days restriction of movement to the farm lands. After labouring for several months cultivating there is need to rest, after which you go to the farm to harvest. After this, the Okukorongu will now follow to know the date for Odu. During the celebration itself there is so much merriment, you can describe it as our Christmas, It is Christmas for Ihiagwa people. People from far and wide will come to pay us homage and celebrate with us, Nekede and indeed people from the Uratta clan. There is going to be dancing at the Nkwa square. Two people each will be selected from Iriamogu (my village),Ibuzo and Nkaramoche to dance.’’
‘After the dancing, people return to their respective enclaves to entertain their guests, then merriment of food, kola, drinks and other things will follow. It is a joyous moment like the Christmas for us,’’ the Eze continued. The royal father also disclosed that the festival is the only tradition that binds all the people together and involves all men, women, youths and it is the reason it is called Odu Ihiagwa. It is all inclusive. My grandfather was born on the Odu day and that is why they named himOdu.’’
The two autonomous communities in Ihiagwa will gather at Iriamogu for the celebration. The observances during the celebration are that people are not allowed to fight, no use of knife to harm anybody, (no violence). If contravened the violator will pay ‘otuewu pam ise’,(local parlance) meaning one goat and five pounds. The natural ruler dismissed all every suspicion of fetishness associated with event saying it is not fetish. The priests he said come there to pray for us and all those engaged in it are all Christians. Previously some people kicked against it but they have all keyed in now.
He went further to explain that all other communities in Oratta celebrate the new yam festival under different names but Nekede still call theirs Odu being the younger brother of Ihiagwa. Oru Owerre he said is the same festival but it must be kick started in Ihiagwa before others key in.He gave kudos to Chief Emeka Udokporo whom he described as a good Christian for his strident effort in sustaining the celebration in spite of all odds.
The period of the celebration the traditional ruler explained is not fixed but determined by the gods through the deities. The importance of the festival is underscored by the fact that nobody in Ihiagwa eat a new yam before the festival. According to him, ‘no new yam will enter Ihiagwa until this festival is done and it is always coming before the 27th of every July’ adding that any violator will be sanctioned same way that you can’t bring a female dog to Ihiagwa which he said is forbidden.
When pressed to explain the reason why female dogs are forbidden in Ihiagwa he simply said ‘it is our culture which I met but if you insist it is story for another day.’ He added that they also don’t eat ‘Una’, three leaf yam and Python. The Python issue has something to do with Otammiri. You may watch out for details on these in subsequent publications. When asked if Otammiri originated from Ihiagwa he said no, that it took root from Egbu. He reminded a common saying in Owerri that Otammiri came from Egbu but Ihiagwa worships it and adores it. Ihiagwa is hosting the chief priest of Otammiri adding that Egbu people like Avu people too come on pilgrimage to Ihiagwa including Ochicha people in Ngor Okpala.
On how he feels when our people try to demonize our culture he said that it is based on their ignorance because it is not fetish or as bad as they paint it claiming it is the same thing that happens in the church called, ‘’Owuweiheubi’’ (harvest). Jocularly, he said that when the Christians do their own it is the priests that enjoy those products. According to him, 8 days after the people can go to the market to buy the new yams as they are free to eat it now.
The President of Ihiagwa Town Management Council (ITMC) Engr Emeka Udokporo elaborating on the festival stated that another side of its importance rests on the fact that it helps to instil good morals on the people. Said he, no evil man will be part of the celebration, if you have been involved in any crime or evil of any sort you cannot be part of the celebration because of the consequences.
The entrepreneur and philanthropist also insisted that you cannot touch the kola nut to bless it if you have been involved activities like robbery, shading of blood, abortion or coveting of another man’s wife. One must be completely decent and pure to be part of the event as the observances are not any different from the biblical injunctions handed down by God. The moral content of the festival it was observed if sustained will put the community on the path of moral rectitude, the President insisted.
Udokporo corroborated the assertion of the Eze that it is after the festival that Owerri IshiIse celebrates OruOwerri. Hear him again, ‘’in fact, it is after the Nkwa dance by the eldest man from the designated compound in Iriamogu village (anybody cannot dance it at all) and the speeches made by the selected men from the affected villages, that we can now start the celebration and eating of the new yam’’.
The function it was learnt is organized annually by the Ihiagwa Town Management Committee (ITMC) whose responsibility is to ensure that all the positive values and cultural heritages of the two autonomous communities in Ihiagwa are brought to bear in the festival.
Dindi-Ihiagwa Autommous community is made up of six villages which are closely knitted and densely populated. The community occupies a very vast area that lies about 12km South of the capital city, Owerri. It is bounded in the North by Umuoma Nekede, on the East by Obibi Ezena, on the South by Eziobodo and Okolochi communities on the West.