How Onitsha celebrated this year’s Ofala
This year’s Ofala Festival of the Onitsha people was full of spendour.
It was pomp mixed with rich display of culture as Onitsha people in Anambra State celebrated the annual Ofala festival. It was indeed a historic home-coming for indigenes of the commercial city akin to Christmas festivities.
The Ofala festival, originally celebrated by Onitsha indigenes, is now being held by other neighbouring communities like Nnewi and Ukpo. In fact, in some places it is called Ikeji, especially in Imo and Abia states where it is celebrated as New Yam Festival or the beginning of the planting season. Mbaise calls it Iriji, Nnewi, Afia Olu, Arochukwu, Ikeji and Owerri, Oru-Owerri among others. The festival is the celebration of life, love and oneness among the people of the community.
However, this year’s Ofala, which was the 17th in the series, kicked off on September 29 at the Ime Obi, Onitsha with the Oraeze International Arts Exhibition attracting over 100 artistes from Nigeria and the Diaspora.
The festival also featured a youth carnival and age-grade competitions, the Ofala and Azu Ofala festivals.
The ceremony proper was held at the Ime Obi (Inner Court) of the palatial palace of Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe.
It said that in Anambra, there are two types of Ofala-the annual ceremony, attracting friends from other communities. In this festival, the monarch usually takes stock of his activities within the year while the second usually takes place at the death of the king.
This year, the Igwe, apart from celebrating the rich cultural heritage of his people, also used the occasion to thank his ancestors for giving them long lives and to launch community development programmes.
On the day of the Ofala proper, inside the Igwe’s palace, men and women of various ages, dance to the beat of traditional drummers. The climax of the festival was the Igwe’s grand entrance in royal regalia with adorned with crown and beads dancing in the process. He was led into the arena accompanied by his queen and traditional trumpeters. This royal dance is usually the highlight of the Ofala festival. He was followed by the red-capped chiefs in their splendid regalia, each arriving independently and accompanied by their community drummer. The chiefs then proceeded to the Igwe’s seat in order of seniority paying homage to the royalty. The beat also changes in accordance with their respective titles and positions.
However, the Obi, in his speech, lamented the decay in social values fuelled by unemployment among the youths which has led to increased corruption, cultism, drug addiction, armed robbery and called for urgent measures to curb this malaise.
Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano congratulated Igwe Achebe and Onitsha people for upholding the tradition of their forefathers and for the display of their rich cultural heritage.
He commended Igwe Achebe for his dedication to the upholding of the people cultural heritage and sustained development of human resources in his domain, especially the youth.
A monarch, the Omorula of Ondo Kingdom, Oba Victor Adeibokilade, was full of praises for Onitsha people and expressed his delight to be part of the celebrations. He was also full of praises for Igwe Achebe for turning the fiesta into a global festival.
The Ofala festival was rounded off on October 8 with a royal banquet in honour of Igwe Achebe.
A procession PHOTOS:
A section of traditional title holders
Women group at the festival