Chido Nwangwu writes about the celebration of Ikeji Aro festival to mark the harvest and commencement of a new yam season among the Arochukwus in South Eastern part of Nigeria.
Ikeji Aro is the special and festive event celebrating the harvest of new yam, in our ancestral home of Arochukwu and on different dates in Aro heritage communities across the entire Igbo land, parts of Nigeria, the Cameroons, and other related diasporan communities.
From Los Angeles to Dublin, from Ihiala to Ndikerionwu, from Atani to Ajatakiri, from Ajalli (Ujari) to Arondizuogu, the focus, clout and dedication of those who share in this heritage of the ancient Aro kingdom of Arochukwu are worthy and remarkable.
Today, in September, the Ikeji Aro — amid its assortment of yam, troops of masquerades, variegated ceremonies, medley of dances and cast of cultural celebrations — still remains one of the foremost manifestations of the durability of a key tradition of the Aro civilization.
The foundational components are, organically, rooted within our deep, regal and diverse heritage.
Consequently, the Ikeji Aro is a festival of cultural economics, social heritage as well as synergistic capacities.
Essentially, it is a worldwide festival of unity and strength for the Aro!
After all, the diaspora Aro personalities and communities have — for hundreds of years and across generations — been apostolic voices for entrepreneurship and industry.
In every community, they have remained catalysts for progress, education and fairness to all!
In every single Aro diaspora (Aro uzo) community (at least 221) across the entire south east, south south and around the Benue River and Nigeria’s Middle belt, they are productive and highly valued.
Therefore, to understand the rise of the Aro imperium, the growth of the Aro Confederacy, the dominance and the consolidation of the economic, cultural, spiritual and political juggernaut of the Aro nation by its core leadership who were mainly in their ancestral home (Aro ulo), you will have to know that it was the product of the sensible confluence of the administrative/organizational efficiency, deployment of —where necessary — coercive power by the “Aro Uzo”, the Aro in diaspora. And of course, the cognizance and concert of the ancient kingdom’s long reach from Arochukwu.
Along the trajectories of time and clime, the unifying Aro identity and purposes have been held high, aloft in joyful affirmations and authenticity. That is, despite the challenges at home and abroad — including the United States which I named ‘Aro America’.
We have to encourage ourselves and our families and friends to read such books as ‘Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta, 1830-1885: an introduction to the economic and political history of Nigeria’, by the foundational scholar of African history, Prof. Kenneth Onwuka Dike. It was published in 1956.
Prof. Adiele Afigbo’s books and contributions to academic journals are richly expository and authoritative.
Prof. Okoro Ijoma’s seminal work, titled ‘Igbo Origins and Migrations’, in 2010. Mazi O.P Kanu book titled, ‘The Pre-British Aro of Arochukwu: Notes & Reflections on a Vanishing Civilization’, which I had the privilege of serving as editorial publisher in December 2001, through USAfricaBooks.com
There is Rev. Prince Joshua Kanu Oji’s ‘The Kingdom of Arochukwu.’ He is one of the sons of legendary Eze Aro, late Mazi Kanu Oji.
The elder statesman and Owerri’s first town clerk, Mazi EAC Orji, has a vital book, ‘Owere in the 20th century.’ He highlighted aspects of the Aro influence and reach.
Also, worthy of note are ‘Eze Chima: An Ancient Aro Epic’ by Chike Nwaka; and a valuable book ‘Perspectives On Aro History & Civilization: The Splendour of a Great Past’ by Mazi Azubike Okoro and Mazi Ben Ezumah
Mazi O.P Kanu characterized the diaspora Aro as “those ebullient Aro who settled permanently in new homes outside Arochukwu. In pre-British times, they lived in some 200 Aro settlements (sometimes called colonies) which were founded between AD 1650 and 1900 in south-eastern Nigeria.”
I believe that in the next 100 years (2123), the Aro (at home and abroad) will embody and continue to manifest in the history of the world. We need more Alvan Ikokus.
We have to, proactively, empower new sets of young visionaries and algorithms scientists whose works on AI (Artificial Intelligence) will get our Aro Civilization and Aro Identity to stand for substantial achievements beyond Prof. Afigbo’s circumscribing description of its 18th and 19th centuries roles as being a “slaving oligarchy”.
Also, there is this ‘beauty’ from the warm but racially patronizing 1905 written notes by Frank Hives, the British Colonial Resident in the Owerri Province of Eastern Nigeria who, stated that: “The Aros were quite a distinct racial type from the indigenous inhabitants of the Ibo country …. People who came in contact with this section of the Ibo people found them so superior in intelligence and diplomacy that only European origin could account for such traits”.
“The Aros were quite a distinct racial type from the indigenous inhabitants of the Ibo country …. People who came in contact with this section of the Ibo people found them so superior in intelligence and diplomacy that only European origin could account for such traits”.
On this global issue of identity, I’ll give the world’s foremost hip hop mogul, artiste and poet, Beyonce’s husband Jay Z, the last words: “Identity is a prison you can never escape, but the way to redeem your past is not to run from it, but to try to understand it, and use it as a foundation to grow.” Who knows? May be, he’s an Aro.
Finally, to optimize and utilize our identity, we must challenge ourselves (inside the ancient kingdom or across the Aro diaspora communities) to the reality that we are the custodians, champions and facilitators of those worthy Aro civilization in a changing, transforming world!
Aro oke Igbo, nma nma nu o!
-Dr Nwangwu is the Founder & Publisher of the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper on the internet, USAfricaonline.com, and established USAfrica in 1992 in Houston.