Kasie Abone writes that the annual Onitsha Ofala Festival, other than attracting people from all walks of life, also showcased the rich cultural heritage of the people of Onitsha
The moments glided on as the enthusiastic crowd awaited the coming out of the revered Agbogidi. Each of the Ndi Ichies, resplendent in their traditional regalia complimented by their plumed caps arrived, danced round the Iru Obi, to the cheer and praises of the enthusiastic crowd. As they danced, the royal drums announced their traditional titles. One by one, they danced, with their spears; and then they hung their caps and took their seats. The multitude of colours on the caps presented a beautiful sight to behold; more beautiful than the rays of the rainbow.
The women were all seated. The Police horse riders took position. There was feeling of good fellowship, brotherly love and camaraderie around the circle which bound them like a mystic cord, holding and binding these people together with jest and laughter.
Soon the Ndi Ichies arose; one by one they adorned their caps. It was time for the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, the Agbogidi and the royal father, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka, to emerge. They took vantage positions. Led by four young sword bearers, he advanced from his Ime Obi, on to the waiting Ndi Ichies. His emergence was welcomed with an esthetic cheer from Ndi Ichies. There was everything royalty about him. Towering above every Ichie and a more lustrous royal cap, the Obi advanced with graceful and regal gait.
The golden shimmer of Obi’s lace-work top and long skirt spread in soft falls of rich folds encircling his waist down to his ankle complete with the glow from the myriad of white stones which glittered like gems, his upper arms adorned with gold bangles while red beads adorned his wrists with an outstretched hand holding the golden sword completed his regal attire.
His appearance was gorgeous exuding an effect of power and splendor. As he advanced towards the arena packed full with people from different walks of life colourfully and beautifully attired, and Globacom banners adorning every corner (an indication of dominant sponsorship of the festival), shouts of Agbogidi rented the air. Pointing the golden sword forward in a majestic move and kind of royal twist, he swayed his waist sideways, each step aligning with the rhythm of Egwuota, the royal drums. As he emerged onto the open space he danced round the beautifully manicured open lawn, with his Ndi Ichies in tow. At the end of the ecstatic performance, he retired into the Obi in readiness to receive his guests as the Ofala kicked off properly with the royal father blessing his subjects.
Soon after taking his seat, more guests arrived. Chiefly amongst them was Anambra State Governor, His Excellency, Chief Willie Obiano, decked in his white traditional attire complimented with his traditional white horse tail. He stormed the event with an entourage of key government officials. The Ndi Ichies, Onitsha indigenes, friends and well wishers of the Agbogidi took turns to pay their homage.
In his Ofala address Agbogidi x-rayed the state, the national and global issues. While commending President Muhammadu Buhari on his push against corruption, inefficiency and profligacy, he noted that the distinct feelings amongst Nigerians on the current economic challenges bedeviling the nation demand a non-partisan solution to avoid a more serious calamity befalling the nation.
He commended Governor Obiano for his vision, tact as he works assiduously towards uplifting the fortunes of the state.
Accounting for his stewardship in the last year he noted that his kingdom achieved major breakthroughs bin the areas of youth development and peace building. Specifically he said over 3000 benefitted from Long Vacation Tutorial Programme under the care of 80 undergraduates, 77 out of 79 that participated in the Remedial Tuition Programme for WASCE came out in flying colours, 70 self employed youths were to benefit from Anambra State Small Business Agency (ASBA) approved loan up to the tune of N35 million while the anti-drug addiction programme with RCCG has yielded positive results.
The Agbogidi also paid glowing tribute to the key sponsor of the annual festival. He said “Our sincere thanks go to our overall sponsor, Globacom Nigeria Limited. We are particularly thankful for the personal commitment of the Executive Chairman of Globacom, Otunba Dr. Mike Adenuga Jnr, GCON, towards the success of Ofala Onitsha for the past six years. We pray God to continue to bless him to enable him continue to serve humanity.”
In his own remark, Obiano congratulated Agbogidi for a successful Ofala and the development and progress ushered into Onitsha by his reign. While assuring him of continued partnership with the state he further assured Ndi Anambra of his administration’s commitment to the progress of the state and development of the state for the good of all.
In his remark at the festival, Globacom Chairman, Adenuga described the annual Onitsha Ofala Festival as a veritable vehicle for social integration and an instrument for promoting peace and community development. He noted that the festival had over the years fulfilled the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) purpose for cultural initiatives.
The Globacom Chairman disclosed that the company’s support for Ofala “is also in line with our vision to identify with initiatives that empower us as a nation and raise future leaders who will not only be exceptional in their professional endeavours but will also be worthy ambassadors of our cultures and traditions. This was why we instituted the Glo Heritage Series to support festivals that help the realisation of this noble cause.” Adding that “This is in tandem with our goals of raising future Nigerians who will not only be icons in the field of education, but worthy emissaries, well grounded in culture and traditions.
He paid glowing tribute to the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, Agbogidi, whom he said had introduced unique initiatives to the festival by expanding its scope and scale.
An annual event sponsored by Globacom which is the prelude to this year’s Ofala festival was an International Arts Exhibition curated by a son of the soil, Mr. George Edozie tagged Ora Eze (the king’s crowd). The exhibition had over 40 professional visual artists drawn from Ghana, Togo, Republic of Benin and the Diaspora displaying their works at the exhibition gallery located within the Ime Obi.
The Ofala Festival was rounded off with match past by different age grades, youth music fiesta, beauty pageant and a royal banquet all sponsored by Globacom.
The winning age grades received cash rewards ranging from N100, 000 to N50, 000.
The music concert was attended by thousands of excited youths who defied the evening rains to have fun. Stars including Reekado Banks, Ikem Mazeli and Nabania crooner, Flavour, performed.
Also part of the concert was a keenly contested beauty pageant which had Odita Joy Ekene of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka crowned as Ofala Queen. She went home with the grand cash prize of N100, 000. The first and second runners up, Etukokwu Ifeoma Vivian, a student of Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri and Iwenofu Precious Chizoba, a 200 level Accounting student of the National Open University received N75, 000 and N50,000 cash prizes respectively.
Speaking at the royal banquet, Globacoms Head of South South Operations, Mr. Enekwachi Aja commended the successful celebration of the year 2016 Ofala Festival. He added that the relationship Globacom has built with the Onitsha Palace and by extension, the entire kingdom, in the last six years has generated an immeasurable goodwill for the network company among the people and has also helped make Glo a household name not only in Onitsha but also in the entire South-east region of the country.
“My Royal Majesty, we are aware of the tremendous contributions of the South-east to the national GDP, with Onitsha in particular being the bastion of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises. The Glo 4G LTE services will in a short while become active in the South-east, particularly in Onitsha, so that the people of the region can take advantage of the limitless opportunities of the service.
Chief Ngozi Okafor, said that the magnanimity of Dr. Adenuga had greatly enhanced the profile of the festival and boosted its tourism potentials.
Also in attendance at the Ofala were Hon. Linda Chuba Ikpeazu, top government functionaries, and other notable citizens of the state.