To join in living out the mantra of projecting the Igbo tradition, the Ojoto Development Town Union (ODTU) Lagos branch on Sunday, August 14, celebrated its first annual new yam festival in Okota, Lagos.
Many Igbo communities in Nigeria currently, are agog with the new yam festival celebration. It is an age-long traditional feast celebrated in Igbo land to mark the end of the planting season and the beginning of harvest, starting from August through October to December every year.
The event had in attendance indigenes of Ojoto, residing in Lagos including prominent traditional title holders from the town.
Ojoto is a town in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State.
At the beginning, the Chairman, Ojoto Development Town Union (ODTU) Lagos branch, Chief Alexander Okwudili Agwuna with a piece of kola nut thanked God for granting them life to see the new harvest year. As the tradition demands, the chairman also gave a piece of kola to the eldest among them who also made supplication to God, praying for long and healthy life and for the prosperity of the Ojoto people, the entire Igbo land and Nigeria in general.
The chairman thanked the people of Ojoto in Lagos for their active participation in the affairs of the association and prayed that all will be successful in their various endeavours.
Chief Agwuna appealed to the people to be peaceful and law-abiding while conducting their daily businesses in order to co-exist with people of other ethnic groups in the state.
In a chat with Prime Business Africa at the event, the ODTU chairman, Chief Agwuna said “We call it ufejioku in our own language. Ufejioku is to celebrate the new yam. Our people are also known for farming and the new yam festival is generally part of Igbo culture and tradition.”
Chief Agwuna said the festival is also a way of preserving the Igbo culture of marking the end of the planting season and the beginning of harvest. He explained that celebrating in Lagos just like other Igbo groups, is a way of bringing to consciousness of the people on the need to remember their route and identify with the culture so that it doesn’t die.
“It’s very good to know your culture. It’s good because the culture is what our forefathers started many years past and we cannot leave it behind. Culture is very good as it enables you to know your route; that is, where you come from and what they are doing there and be able to learn the right values and live by them.”
He further stated that organising the new yam festival provides an opportunity for the people to come together, know themselves and unite to protect their individual and collective interests.
Also speaking in an interview with Prime Business Africa, another indigene of the town who attended the festival, Chief Okey Obiugo, Ichie Nwanona-obi I of Ojoto, expressed appreciation to the organisers of the event.
Chief Obiugo who is also a cabinet member for Igwe Gerald Obunadike Mbamalu of Ojoto, stated that the town has celebrated the new yam festival on August 3 which he went home to witness as one of the custodians of the town’s tradition.
He appealed to youths, who seem to be alienated from the culture, to see the need to identify with their traditional values, and cherish and preserve them for future development.
“Most of the youths we have nowadays don’t even believe in all these cultural things. But we believe that by the special grace of God, and by the spirit of our forefathers, they must definitely come back. They have to understand that anywhere in the world, even in abroad, they maintain their culture. We have to come back to our culture and do things according to our culture. Ojoto people believe in culture,” Chief Obiugo stated.
Another indigene of the town who attended the festival, Chief Sir, Chidi Nwokedi, thanked God for the success of the event and prayed that all will go home and continue to excel in their businesses. He noted that celebrating the festival is a way of maintaining the cultural foundation laid by the forefathers.
Chief Nwokedi lamented that the younger ones due to their lack of knowledge of the cultural values and lack of proper inquiry, make a lot of mistakes when dealing with matters in their personal lives and the society as a whole that have implications on the culture and tradition.
Chief Nwokedi who spoke in the Igbo language said such ignorance of the positive values as encoded in the tradition, has led to indulgence in various kinds of vices by especially, the youths, such as armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, ritual killing, etc.
He urged the youths to imbibe the cultural values and follow the footsteps of the forefathers for us to have a better society that celebrates hard work, diligence, honesty, love, peaceful co-existence and value for the sacredness of human life.
On her part, the chairperson of the women’s wing, Mrs. Ogechukwu Nwani while speaking to Prime Business Africa said it is an opportunity for the women to meet, interact and learn from one another about good family values for a better society.
While expressing happiness about the success of the event, Mrs. Nwani stated that the association will find a way to make the event have more impact on the lives of the members and enable them to contribute more towards the advancement of the Igbo culture and development of their community.
She remarked that the way the women and their husbands attended the event, stayed and ate the new yam together signifies unity among families and the community in general.
“In future, we will try to incorporate more positive things into the event to make it more impactful and entertaining.”
The Women Wing of the ODTU, beautifully dressed in their uniform had a session where some members took turns to address them about the need for establishing a peaceful home and upholding all family values in Igbo land in order to have fruitful families for a better society.
Highlights of the event were the traditional cutting of roasted new yam, and collective prayer by all gathered for a prosperous future for the people and the Igbos, and the country in general.
The people sliced the roasted tubers of yam into pieces, and ate with oil together, a sign of peace and unity.
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