Former Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka, recently invited David-Chyddy Eleke to the Obiora festival in Obosi, Anambra State, where he set a template for how the state could maximise the numerous festivals that abound to generate revenue
The Obiora Festival is one that follows the Iwa ji (new yam) festival of the Obosi people where the former Minister of Aviation hails from. The monarch of the community cuts the yam on a set date, and all the titled men of the community would be expected to hold small ceremonies to mark the festival in their respective homes. Chidoka is a titled man in Obosi community, and when he held his, it turned out as a huge ceremony, which he used to teach how the people’s culture could be used to generate revenue.
The event started like a small one, and villagers and dignitaries alike trickled in until the entire arena of the former minister’s expansive compound was filled to capacity. As if that was what was needed for the event to be kick started, masquerades of all sizes, shapes, height and build surged into the compound and the event was in full swing then.
If the colourful display by masquerades gave the event colour, then the entry of Chidoka finally nailed it. The suave, debonair and youthful looking former FRSC boss jettisoned his colourful dressing, but appeared from his inner room with a wrapper tied round his waist, a long red cap on his head to depict his traditional title, with a sleeveless white lace dress on. He capped it with a hunter’s bag hung across his shoulder, and the pomp that followed his entry sent goose pimples on the bodies of attendants.
Speaking with journalists on the place of culture in his mind, Chidoka said, “I am first an Igbo man, before I became a Nigerian, and anywhere I am, I feel like showcasing my culture first. I have a burning spirit to redefine the Igbo culture and explain it to Nigerians in our own way.” He called for the rejuvenation of Igbo culture to boost tourism in the South-east geo-political zone. He urged Anambra government to re-organise the traditional dances, masquerade and new yam festivals in various communities of the state, which from ages have made Igbo culture rich.
“This is something we have taken for granted for long now, government should re-establish the events. This will help to showcase our cultural heritage to the outside world. It is significant we develop Anambra to become also a centre of tourism. What I think the government should do is to harmonise all the festivals and make them out in such a way that they will help to boost the revenue base of the state. There is the masquerade festival of all the communities, which holds at various times, there is the New Yam festival and there is the Ofala festival of all the monarchs, and these are very colourful festivities.
What I think the government should do is to harmonise the date, such that there will be a set time for masquerade festivals, and people even from outside the state and outside the country will know that such period of time is masquerade festival of Anambra people, and they will troop in and watch masquerades in colourful settings from community to community.
“When it is Ofala or new yam festivals, it will also be at a given time, and that will help people to plan towards it, and as they come, they are coming with their money, they are eating our food and paying for it, they are sleeping in our hotels and paying and by so doing revenue is created. That is what I mean by creating revenue through culture.” Chidoka explained.
He also explained the significance of new yam festival in Igbo society and among the Igbos wherever they may live outside of Igboland, saying it has become essential. Across Igboland and among the Igbo of Nigeria in the diaspora, the month of August, as it is now, is laddened with the celebration of New Yam called Iwa ji and iri ji ohuru. This is best pictured in the framing of the ceremony by Chinua Achebe’s work as far back as in the 1950s. As Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) describes: “The pounded yam dish placed in front of the partakers of the festival was as big as a mountain. People had to eat their way through it all night and it was only during the following day when the pounded yam “mountain” had gone down that people on one side recognised and greeted their family members on the other side of the dish for the first time.”
According to Chidoka, yam is the centre of Igbo economy. “Everyman that is strong is known by the size of his barns of yam. It is always the defining ingredient between the rich and poor. It is Igboman’s identity. It helps to interpret the Igbo culture to outside world. It is our estimation and symbolises our richness. You can see how unique the old and young in Obosi community are celebrating yam with pomp and pageantry today. The New Yam festival is therefore a celebration depicting the prominence of yam in the social-cultural life of Igbo people,’’ Chidoka affirmed.
During the ceremony, the former Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC and Ex-Aviation Minister, Chidoka performed a symbolic feeding of 5,000 children with five roasted yams and two plates of garnished palm oil, similar to the Biblical feeding of 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish by Jesus Christ. Chidoka giving out a piece of yam to a child was part of activities that marked his annual Obiora Ike Obosi New Yam/cultural festival.
Some of the dance troops that featured prominently at the ceremony included the Igba Araba and Ajugwu musical groups, as well as great masquerades like the Ajo Ofia, from whose head flames of fire were oozing out. Chidoka who has a chieftaincy title of Ike Obosi (strength of Obosi), maintained that since our culture is our identity, we must always preserve and improve on it, irrespective of how educated or religious we think we are because according to him, “If we allow our culture to die a natural death, then we shall be wallowing in the desert like sheep without shepherd. I think that the whole idea of culture and tourism is something that we are taking for granted in the South-east.
The state government should work towards establishing that event as a significant portion of our culture. Tourism is a critical factor to every society and the society itself needs to improve to offer something valuable to the tourists.”
The celebration turned into a political event, with groups and stakeholders in attendance utilising the opportunity of the event to call on him to join the race for Anambra State governorship position in 2017 so as to fix the state. Speakers who made remarks at the event insisted that Chidoka was ripe for the governorship of the state and that he should not deny the state of his sterling performance.
A political organisation, G32 first caused a stir when they stormed the arena with a live sized banner announcing the entrance of the former FRSC boss in the Anambra governorship race, and was applauded by all. Another group, Dozie Anambra Initiative who were also at the event announced that no time was better for Chidoka to join the race than now that the state needed to be salvaged from bad leadership. The secretary of the group, Mr. Obi Okpala in an interview with journalists said the group was at the event to persuade Chidoka to reconsider his hard stance and join the race to salvage Anambra with his Midas touch.
Okpala said Chidoka has proven his leadership capacity both at FRSC and as the Minister of Aviation, and that he should be given the chance to fix the state once and for all. He said some of Chidoka’s advantages over other contenders, include that he is young, and has proven himself beyond doubts to be an achiever. Earlier in an interview, Chidoka admitted that Anambra State needed a fresh hand to steer the state off the hard times being experienced in the country today. He however admitted that he has severally been prodded by various stakeholders in the state to join the race with a view to giving it purposeful leadership, while admitting that he was waiting for God to direct his steps and would not hold back if urged to.