By Justina Uzo
Scores are basking in the praise of their kith and kin, who have come from all walks of life to rejoice and celebrate with them, at a ceremony to mark their rite of passage in Akanu Ohafia today.
Today, the ‘D’ day, Izu-Uche celebrants will share camaraderie with their colleagues for having an opportunity for stocktaking and thanksgiving, anchored on a successful first half of life.
The custom of Izu-uche, Igba-ota, Omu or Igba-uche age-grades, as it is referred to by the four clans of 26 villages/towns in Ohafia, South-East Nigeria, is a very significant milestone in the life of an adult male and female in Ohafia. The age-grade institution in Ohafia is a system which organizes citizens of an area into groups whose age differences range from one to three years. The system forms a major basis for community development.
A special day like Izu-Uche is a life-time event comparable to becoming an elder citizen in a society. It is therefore an opportunity for members of Oka-Omea and Okezia age grades ‘noo- ogo’ (special outing) to reflect upon questions of how and why.
The likes of Group Managing Director of LUBCON, Chief Emele Kalu Onwunta, former Aviation Marketing Chief of Mobil Oil Nigeria, Mr. Sam Okpanku, Prof. Silva Ezema Kalu, United States- based, Mr. Okey Iweogu, Engineer Udo Okoro Udo, Mr Goddy Obasi, Mr. Awa Uduma, Mrs. Uchanma Idika Uduma, Mr. Ezekiel Odo Uchendu of both Okezia and Okeaome age grades, among other celebrants, are considered wise men and women for they met all kinds of requirements from the community.
The celebration, which began since December 27, has enabled them to display part of their achievements, their contribution to the community by what they have collectively undertaken to develop the village/town.
The celebrants normally give the community, through self-help projects, amenities such as road, hospital, hall, or something that at least the community acknowledges as one of the things that they need. Okezia age grade, it is understood, will present a town hall to Akanu- Ohafia during this celebration.
At Izu-Uche, the celebrants have to show they are able to provide the kind of thing that sustains the culture and tradition of the people. In return, they are excused from so many levies placed on the younger age grades. They are allowed some liberties, and they can sit around. Basically, they have to provide judgement, security and some kind of counsel to the younger ones who are in the active age grades within the community.
The celebrants, whose ages are usually from about 64 to 68 years, take pride in being a part of that contribution to economic and socio-development of their community after selecting and executing a project before the ceremony.
To share the joy in being able to attain that age, they invite friends and associates who may present gifts of all kinds in the village square where food and drinks are served.
A former Minister of Finance, Chief Kalu Idika Kalu said even though the Izu-Uche celebrants are officially acknowledged as joining the body of the elders, “they are not tired”, as they can still contribute immensely to the various groups or society they find themselves outside.