From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Former Special Adviser on Science and Technology to former United States President, George W. Bush, Ken Emeka Nwabueze (Ajie Okpala Ogidi) has joined the league of Igbo personalities who celebrate the new yam every year.
The Igbo are gradually turning the eating of the new yam to an annual festival when the people gather to give thanks to God for bumper harvest and successful harvest season for the year.
Indeed, Nwabueze who is also the Chairman/CEO of Gist FM Station, Ogidi, at a a well attended new yam festival he held at his palatial resident in Ogidi kingdom, Anambra State recently said that the festival was a time to appreciate the goodness of God upon the lives of the people.
He noted that going to the farm with a little yam seedling and making a huge harvest at the end of the day was actually the goodness of God.
He noted that the festival was traditionally instituted by the Igbo in the beginning as their own way of thanking God for progress, having granted them a successful farming season with impressive harvest of cash crops and other plants.
He noted that “we use yam to represent the thanksgiving because it is viewed as the king of all crops.
“Traditionally, we have cassava, maize, vegetables and fruits in our farms and, of course, melon, but yam is used for thanksgiving because it is regarded as the king of crops, that is, why we call it new yam festival.
“We cut the yam to eat during the festival, we call upon God to show our joy and happiness at His goodness for keeping us alive and providing us with what we eat and what we drink all through the year and then ask Him also to maintain His kindness and blessing for the future, to grant us the mercy again to make impressive harvest in subsequent seasons.
“So, the significance of the festival is about giving thanks to God. And as normally obtained at a festival, there are other things such as cultural dances, highlife music, live shows, issuance of chieftaincy titles to people who deserve such based on the track records and what have you.
“You are aware that the traditional ruler of Ogidi Kingdom, His Majesty Igwe Alex Onyido (Ezechaumagha) of Ogidi conferred the executive governor of Anambra State a chieftaincy title during the first and general yam festival in Ogidi kingdom, that is what the festival is all about.”
The former United States presidential adviser noted that he was happy that succeeding generations in Igbo land have maintained the festival and even added more value to it by attracting the attention of government functionaries to it.
He used the festival, the first of its kind since he became the first son (Ajie Okpala of Ogidi), to appeal to the people, particularly the youths to humble themselves and embrace farming.
He urged the youths to invest their time and energy in cultivating and processing food, vegetables, fruits and livestock, pointing out that “farming remains a very good occupation as far as life is concerned”.
He said: “I’m a farmer and I can share good experience in that direction, so I would encourage our youths to join me to expand their views on farming and embrace it either in full time or add farming to some other things they do no matter how small and life goes on.”
Also speaking, a renowned businessman, Chief Sam Mendu said that the Ogidi people use the festival to remember the tradition and culture of their fore-fathers, as well as pay tribute to the Almighty God for keeping them alive, noting that it is also called Alomuo in their native tongue.
Medu disclosed that they also use the festival to make merry and enjoy themselves, saying “all works and no play makes jack a dull boy and jimmy a dull girl.”
Also speaking, the Commissioner of Police, Anambra State Police Command, Mr Garba Baba Umar, described the festival as part of the identity of the Igbo man, noting that the Igbo man comes to mind anywhere and anytime they talked about new yam festival.
The police boss said that he was impressed by the peaceful staging of the festival in Ogidi, commending the people for ensuring that peace reigned in the community even when they are in festive period.
Also speaking, the President General of Ogidi Union Nigeria, Chief Chuka Onubogu, said that Ogidi was overwhelmed with joy at the level of peace and unity existing among the people, noting that the massive turnout of people to the festival was a huge sign that there was love among the people of the community.
“The atmosphere shows that Ogidi is happy and peaceful, as you can see, we are enjoying ourselves, I am happy that somebody like Nwabueze and other eminent sons and daughters we have are dedicated to the service of Ogidi and we are reaping the fruits of their blessings,” he said.
Onubogu whose administration is credited for restoring peace in Ogidi assured that his administration is committed to bringing lasting peace to the community.
Other personalities that graced the occasion are the National Publicity Secretary of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Ifeatu Obi Okoye, Chief Obi Mbaekwe, the managing director of Gist Me FM Ogidi, among others.