How Arochukwu celebrated Ikeji festival
The traditional ruler of Arochukwu Kingdom in Arochukwu Local Government Area of Abia State, Eze Aro, Mazi Ogbonnaya Okoro, on Sunday, September 23, 2018 led other traditional rulers of the 19 villages that make up Arochukwu and indeed the entire community in a solemn procession into Amaikpe, the ancestral square where Aros assemble for major events to celebrate Ekekpe, the highest activity of its three-week long new yam festival.
Others who joined in the procession included the President-General, Nzuko Arochukwu World-wide, Mazi George Okoronkwo Ezumah and his exco and several prominent sons and daughters of the ancient kingdom, including the kit and kin from Arochukwu in diaspora.
A statement from the chairman, ‘2018 Ikeji Organizing Committee’, Dr. Azubike Okoro, said Ikeji festival is celebrated annually to mark the end of the year.
Okoro said: “It started about 912 AD in Arochukwu, the ancestral abode of Arochukwu people worldwide. It is observed in over 350 Arochukwu communities, including those residing overseas, culminating in the grand finale in the ancestral home, Arochukwu, Abia State, Nigeria. The Aro monarch releases the calendar following the indigenous lunar calendar that often coincides with the month of September, but at times spills to October.
“This year’s festival started on Wednesday September 5. Ekekpe is the climax of the festival. It is a season dedicated to showcasing Aro’s rich cultural heritage, renewing of ancient covenant that unite Arochukwu kingdom and thanksgiving to God for a successful year.”
Prominent personalities from all walks of life, including local and foreign tourists, would participated in this year’s festival.
Okoro further explained that the current leadership of Nzuko Arochukwu which came into office two years ago rebranded the Ikeji festival to a very enviable status, and attracted MTN Nigeria and Nigerian Breweries among many other corporate and individual sponsors to brand it.
“This third edition shall build on the successes achieved in the last two years, and especially serve as a home-coming event amongst umuaro (children of Arochukwu) in various places. The annual cultural festival presents a unique opportunity to celebrate Arochukwu tradition and culture in its pure and original form. It is also a platform for infinite entertainment, commerce and tourism as it features huge homecoming, rare masquerades, traditional dances, cultural displays and so much more. Arochukwu indigenes who may not make it home, especially those overseas, watch the events online,” Okoro said.
Activities marking the event commenced at 10.00am prompt with diverse cultural troupes that competed for honors, as the popular EkpeArochukwu as usual, graced the occasion and ushered in royalty to the arena.
In line with the peoples’ resolve to use culture to cement good neighborliness, there were appearances at the arena by troupes from some of their immediate communities.
Amaikpesquare was closed to vehicular traffic from 8am to 7pm and all citizens, including VIPs, were advised to use alternate routes created for the purpose.
This year’s event, aside from expanding the commercial frontiers which present bigger opportunities for businesses also featured other significant innovations. For example, there is a new theme, “IkejiArochukwu: Culture for Development”, which provides focus for all activities thereby directing the community’s thoughts and energies towards what will propel or trigger collective survival and growth.