Yam is important to an Igbo man because it is his staple crop. The recent celebration of the new yam festival at the palace of the great Asagba of Asaba, Obi (Prof.) Chike Edozien, was great. Without the festival, the yam would not be harvested for consumption, particularly in the Asaba Kingdom. This year’s iwaji celebration at the Asagba’s palace, despite his absence, was a huge success as it saw in attendance traditonal fathers and mothers, different cultural troupes both the young and old, flute men and wrestlers.
Chief Patrick Isioma Onyeobi (THE IYASE OF ASABA) who was the Chairman of the occasion, disclosed in a addressed written by the Asagba of Asaba Obi (Prof.) Chike Edozien, that the new yam festival is like harvest that they celebrate in churches. According to him Iwa ji festival is celebrated annually at the palace to secure a good harvest of the staple crop. The festival is practised primarily in Nigeria and other countries in West Africa.
According to him, it is a huge ceremony which annually kicks off with the visitation of the Eze igbo, who goes to pay homage to the Omu in her place a day before he goes out to celebrate, followed by the Asagba of Asaba who also celebrates the new yam festival in his palace before the Obis, who are the red cap chiefs, will celebrate their own. This has been the culture for decades; even with the modern civilization and level of education, this culture still stands.
He said, the new yam festival event is the celebration of culture which has been defined as the totality of a people’s existence or their way of life.
His word “From time immemorial, our people have celebrated the arrival of the new yam. Simple as it may seem, yam is a very important food crop of our people and indeed all the Ibo-speaking people and many other tribes of Nigeria. That is why its arrival is celebrated because a year when the yam crop fails is usually catastrophic to the lives of the people as it means famine”
He appreciated the people of Asaba for being proud of their heritage and history, adding that, since the town became the capital of Delta State in 1991, it has gone highly cosmopolitan and the people stand the danger of losing their identity but the celebration of different festivals as the iwaji is one important way of maintaining their true identity and preserving their culture and tradition. He said, people without culture are dead people.
The Iyase, however advised that the Akwa-Ocha (woven cloth) usually tied round by any Anioma son or daughter at various occasions as the festival, is the true symbol of the Anioma people. He said that it is easier to identity them with it anywhere they are.
Highlights of the celebration was a special dance called EGWU-OTA performed by Chief Patrick Isioma Onyeobi, the diokpas and the red cap chiefs popularly called the OGBUESHIS from the five villages or quarters of Asaba who came to pay homage to the Asagba of Asaba and to celebrate the arrival of the new yam; this dance was displayed according to their order of seniority.
Also, special dishes of yam were served, as the festival is symbolic of the abundance of the produce.
Chief Patrick Isioma Onyeobi was also given an award of” Life Time Golden Achievement” for his effort in contributing to great development in Asaba and this award was given by the social media forum structured by Richie Omo.
He went further to shower accolades on all Anioma sons and daughters, he said, “Our women are moulded by God and very beautiful; our men are exceedingly handsome and our children are educated and intelligent. Our land is fertile, if you throw water with tomato seed, it germinates. Our land is where people find peace; we are peace loving- people, we accommodate others we do not call for war but if we cross it, we fight and we know how to fight and win. However, we give room for understanding”. Having praised the organizers for a successful cultural festivity, he affirmed that the Anioma people are more a well cultured, people. “Anioma People are the most cultured people with due respect to other nationalities. It is not open to interpretation or analysis; it is a statement of fact. We give a big kudos to the organizers for projecting, promoting and propagating our culture, our folklore, the essence of our language, our food, the essence of our existence, what God made us to be and educating our children our values of our purpose in creation. In fact, the festival encompasses all”.
The Iyase, who was filled with joy went on to praise the media for promoting Anioma culture and also being part of the huge success. “We wa
nt to thank the media because if we do all these and we don’t get them to tell our stories, then, we have not done anything. The media is indispensable to these cultural displays. She prayed, may your camera never stop shining, your pen would never stop writing and your voice would never go crack; may you actualize your purpose wherever you are working” he added.
The colorful festival is a spectacle of exhibited joy, thanks, and community display.