By Brown Chimezie
Joy and excitement pervaded the air recently when the people of Ihembosi, a community in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State celebrated the New Yam Festival.
Daily Sun gathered that like it is done in all Igbo communities in the South East, the community regards the yam so highly, hence the reverence it accords the crop. It was, therefore, a moment of joy when the people gathered to mark yet another celebration of the new yam. The celebration started at 6.am, when the people gradually started trooping out to the city centre, venue of the event, which also featured various cultural troupes, which fought hard to please the crowd and outshine one another. It was a display of the best of Igbo culture as the talking drums were heard kilometres away just as the flutists took their act a few notches up, their tones rising above the drum beats in sheer praise of the town’s high and mighty and their guests.
Daily Sun was told that Ihembosi town traces the origin of its eight clans with the arrival of the yam crop. According to the town’s mythology, as dramatised to the admiration of all during the festival, ji (yam) was discovered by the town’s progenitor in the course of a hunting expedition. Failing to kill any game as the story went, the hunter was about returning home to his famished family when he noticed a bunch of shrubs being rocked by the wind. He became curious, thinking that he had seen a trapped game. Nonetheless, led by the spirit of his ancestors, he harvested the shrubs, which he took home with their roots. This he discovered to be edible and tasty. He took some portion and shared among his eight children and directed them to cultivate them in different parts of Ihembosi town, urging them to reside there to nurse the delicate crop and to protect it from wild animals. The children departed and effectively settled in these hamlets and later founded the eight Ihembosi clans.
Ihembosi New Yam celebration this year came with many attractions such as traditional wrestling, singing, dancing, football and beauty pageant. The celebration was witnessed by the Onowu of Ihembosi, Professor Anthony Camen, who implored the people to show the light wherever they found themselves. Also in attendance was Rev Fr Cajetan Obodozie who urged the people to always fear God whom he appreciated for His blessing on the community and its citizens.
The President-General of Ihembosi, Eze Ebuka Onunkwo aka Odozi Obodo, who holds the title of Ihe (light) of Ihembosi, in his welcome address, commended Governor Willie Obiano, for the peace and security in Anambra State, which made it possible for people to return en masse to join in the celebration. He said he could not hide his joy that people could now come home and sleep with both eyes closed. He said the reason for the festival was to strengthen the bonds of unity of its citizens and to seek the town’s peace, progress and prosperity.
The highlight of the event was the cutting of the new yam by the youngest tribe, Umuohi, in Ihembosi, to officially end the farming season, as demanded by the ancient tradition of the people. At the end of the festival, Adaobi Okoye emerged the most beautiful girl of Ihembosi. She received a cash reward and promise of sponsorship to the annual Miss Anambra Pageant from Eze Ebuka Onunkwo. Other contestants in the other categories of the events were also rewarded handsomely by Eze Onukwo who was the sponsor of the celebrations. Eze Onunkwo, who is also the Eze Ndi Igbo of Benin Republic, said he decided to sponsor the annual event to continue to bring his people together to always speak as one body. He promised to site an industrial oil blending plant in Ihembosi to generate employment in the town. He urged the youth to see agriculture as a viable means of employment and advised the government to go back to agriculture, which has always been the country’s main economic stay, noting that the oil that the country relied on solely would soon lose its value. He informed that Americans were already on the threshold of a new and non-fossil oil-based auto technology.
He promised to continue the payment of all the school fees of all the secondary school students in Ihembosi, in spite of the biting economic climate at home and internationally. Eze Onukwo, who is also President- General, Ihembosi Progressive Assembly (IPA), said the solid foundation laid for him by his parents was the reason behind his simple life. Earlier in his remarks, Mr. Leonard Obiajulu, a lawyer and Secretary-General of the IPA called on sons and daughters of Ihembosi in the Diaspora to always think home with the ultimate goals of making the area the light of Anambara State. Among the dignitaries who attended the event was Mr. Onyebuchi Offor who represents Ekwusigo constituency in the Anambra State House of Assembly.