• ‘Nothing fetish about Ekka, Ebonyi community’s cultural event’
From Wilson Okereke, Afikpo
The fabled Amalinze the Cat was the great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten, from Umuofia to Mbaino in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart.”
He was called the Cat because his back would never touch the earth. Though Okonkwo threw him and brought honour to his Umuofia village, happenings at the just held Mgba Ekka (Ekka wrestling) showed that even Okonkwo would sure meet his match in the Ekka community of Ezza North Local Government, Ebonyi State, if he were to participate in the traditional wrestling contest.
There were several Amalinzes on display, both male and female, during the wrestling activity. Ekka has become synonymous with its annual traditional wrestling, which usually attracts people from far and near.
The event is as old as the community in the sense that no living soul presently in the area could boldly say exactly when it started. The event is purely a game of strength. It is popular among youths from the 36 component villages of Ekka.
Daily Sun attended the cultural festival in the last three years that the immediate past member of House of Representatives, Ezza North/Ishielu Federal Constituency, Anayo Edwin, promoted it. The 2023 edition held on August 16, at the Oguji Mgba Playground, where the former lawmaker built a 1,300-capacity pavilion for the Mgba Ekka.
Seventy-eight contestants comprising 69 males and nine females took part in the event that saw Chigbo Ubian, emerged the overall winner. He went home with the star prize of new CG brand of motorcycle.
Chairman, Ezza North LG, who is also state chairman, Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Ogodoali Nome said the event was a core traditional exercise geared at uniting the people: “There is nothing diabolical or fetish about the cultural activity.
“I always identify with my people during the event. I participated in the exercise during my youthful days for eight consecutive years. It did not only serve as an avenue where the contestants would easily know their age mates but also makes them to respect one another.
“It is a unifying factor and an avenue for reconciliation.mlet’s assume that two persons are not in good terms before, once they meet each other at the wrestling contest, without hesitation, they will make peace and in the long run probably engage each other in the contest depending on the arrangement.”
He advised everyone to work towards its sustenance, while appealing to other communities not to ignore their important cultural identities perhaps because of westernisation or other religions.
The ALGON boss applauded the overall winner and appreciated the rest contestants for the vigour they exhibited.
Commissioner for Rural Development, Ikeuwa Omebe, opined that before the advent of Christianity, Ekka people had developed religious consciousness that generated admirable values such as respect to humanity and solid carnival which propagated peace and unity: “Other people accord Ekka community with honour for the fact, they are among the clans that are still sustaining their cultural identity in Igbo land.”
Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Oguzor Offia-Nwali, extolled Ekka people for promoting and preserving their heritage.
He advised people mostly the younger generation to uphold their culture because it would always speak much of their identity. Councillor of Ekka Ward, Onyemachi Nwankwo, explained: “The contest is usually held after eight Nkwo market days or nine market days after Okeaku Ezza, the New Yam festival of the entire Ezza Nation. For him, the event was the climax of the whole feast.
President, Ekka Town Union, Chief Oketa Francis: “It was the most important event in the social calendar of Ekka people and Ezza clans as well.”
Another stakeholder, Chief Chinedu Anyigor: “The event has continued to boost the economic life of the area. The community was also gaining more popularity.”
Anayo Edwin, represented by his Personal Assistant, Petking Alo, said: “The essence of the sponsorship is to enhance the cultural heritage of the people and encourage the youths to be part of the activity.”
Chairman of the occasion, Chief Chika Uhuo, other stakeholders and officials of the event, Nelson Nwefuru, Celestine Ikegwu, Mathias Unubo and Celestine Nwafor, were upbeat that some of the wrestlers would excel to the national and international levels.
He described the event as source of joy and happiness for the community and blessings to the youths as many contenders who lost out went home with consolation prizes.
The overall male winner, Chigbo Ubian and his female counterpart, Miss Ogechi Akpoke, thanked the sponsor, the organizers and the entire community for sustaining the age long tradition.