The parlous state of the road has hindered the food basket of Anambra state from transporting their farm produce to the urban areas.

Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha

OMOR, an agrarian community in Ayamelum Local Government Area, could unarguably pass for the food basket of Anambra State. Reputed for rice production, the Omor-Adani axis of Anambra-Enugu states is easily the largest rice-belt in the South East.

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A silent agricultural revolution is ongoing there through the Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Programme Phase-1 (ATASP-1) funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Federal Government in partnership with the AfDB in 2015 launched the ATASP -1 with commodity value chain development alongside infrastructure development as some of its key components in four staple crop processing zones including Enugu and Anambra states.

To show the strategic place of Omor in the rice value chain in Nigeria, the community hosts the Lower Anambra-Imo River Basin Development Authority.

But painfully, the community lacks access road as the Otuocha-Omor-Adani federal road which traverses there has remained a nightmare due to its dilapidated and deplorable state.

The coronation of the new traditional ruler of Omor, Igwe Chris Chidume, precisely a year ago, brought some remedial work on the road, though it was short-lived as the whole thing was washed away during the last rainy season.

Regardless, the maiden Ofala festival of Igwe Chidume which took place on December 13, 2018, has exposed so many things about the Omor people particularly their culture and agricultural prowess.

In preparation for the Ofala festival, the state government did some palliative work on the road to enable visitors attend the rich cultural event. It was gathered that the road would have been impassable if the event held in the rainy season.

From far and near, people from all walks of life, within and outside the state, attended the colourful ceremony. Chairman of South East Traditional Rulers’ Council and the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe led an array of rated monarchs including Igwe Alex Onyido of Ogidi; Igwe Chidubem Weka of Obosi and Igwe Roland Odegbo of Nteje, among others to grace the occasion. The festival attracted businesses for the people of Omor; they had bumper sale as several visitors to the community took time to buy rice and other farm produce directly from the source.

At the Ofala ceremony, Igwe Chidume welcomed the warriors of the town who came to the palace as early as 7am to notify him that the community was safe for the fiesta to hold. Our correspondent was told that without their nod, the Ofala would not hold. The warriors marched round the town singing war songs with women and children following them and finally converged on the palace, before the ceremony commenced in earnest.

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Expectedly, the community showcased the best of their cultural heritage with native dance groups, masquerade display, while live bands from within and outside the community also entertained guests.

In addition, some prominent people were conferred with chieftaincy titles during the event including former President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Ahmed Yakasai.

As the Igwe retired into his palace with his cabinet and Ndichie (elders); various groups, clans, villages, communities and well-wishers paid him homage with cow, ram, goat, tubers of yam, and assorted drinks while he prayed for them and gave them royal blessings of the year.

Some cabinet members, Chief Francis Onwuachi, an Onitsha-based legal practitioner, Chief Paul Obiora and Chief Peter Chiamogu commended their traditional ruler for the much he has done in attracting development to the town, in the areas of restoring peace, education, job creation, banking, electricity, among others, in just one year on the throne.

Addressing the large crowd of natives and guests, Igwe Chidume cried out to the Federal Government to rehabilitate the Otuocha-Omor-Adani federal road that connects the agrarian community to other towns and states. The parlous state of the road, he said, has hindered the food basket of Anambra state from transporting their farm produce to the urban areas.

“If the road is fixed, it will allow movement of farm produce from our town to other parts of the country where we will access a bigger market and at the same time, unlock the economic fortunes of the region and further encourage inter-regional exchange of goods and services. This will bring boom in both agricultural and commercial activities in these communities and beyond, thereby discouraging rural-urban migration.

“I call on the state and federal governments, to note that what we are facing today is where we have rural-urban migration of people, who do not have any usefulness to the urban area, rather constituting nuisance. Introducing the people to agriculture with a sustainable enticement will go a long way in stimulating agriculture value chain which is one of the core pillars of the government of the day under the leadership of Governor Willie Obiano,” the monarch stated.

He further called for the resuscitation of the Lower Anambra-Imo River Basin Development Authority, saying that this will enable farmers engage in three-season-per-year rice farming which will in turn create a multiplier effect on the economy of the community and its neighbouring towns as well as expedite the Federal Government’s resolve to end rice importation.

Harping on the culture and tradition of Omor, he noted that colonialism had altered almost everything, while stating that an Omor man, just like any other Igbo man had a well-defined culture, his thoughts, actions, behaviour and general disposition were guided by the natural laws.

Regrettably, he declared that “Today, we are witnessing changing times brought about by globalization and industrialization. Consequently, these changes are gradually affecting our tradition and the way we relate with one another.

“Nevertheless, we still recognize the fact that before you have harmonious co-existence in the community, you must have respect for rule of law.”

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