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Celebrating New Yam Festival the Hilton way

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie, Abuja
23 September 2018   |   3:50 am
As part of its contributions towards promotion of Nigerian cultural heritage, the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, during the week, held its 2018 annual New Yam Festival.

His Royal Highness, Eze Obidiegwu performing the symbolic cutting of New Yam while MD/CEO, Transcorp Hilton, Chief Ozigbo watches on… recently.

As part of its contributions towards promotion of Nigerian cultural heritage, the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, during the week, held its 2018 annual New Yam Festival.The celebration, which held in the hotel premises, brought together friends and customers of the hospitality outfit to an evening of cultural performances.

Some of the guests include the traditional ruler of Obodo Ukwu Kingdom, Imo State, Eze Jude Obidiegwu, the Vice Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Professor Joseph Ohaneku as well as former Nigerian professional footballer, John Fashanu.New Yam Festival, an annual event observed by the people of South East geo-political zone of the country between the months of August and October, was adopted by the hotel few years back as one of its arts and culture promotional packages.

Since then, the event has continued to attract personalities of distinct tribes and religions.Welcoming his guests, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Transcorp Hotels Plc, owners of Abuja Transcorp Hilton, Chief Valentine Ozigbo, highlighted the significance of the festival to the hotel.Being a respecter of culture and tradition, Ozigbo noted that the hotel has found it necessary to commemorate the day annually.

The M.D, who gave a brief history of the festival also emphasized the socio-economic importance of yam, which he described as the king of all crops.He said: “New Yam festival has come to stay. It has been there for decades and centuries and it is a symbol of the great things our God has done for us.“It helps us to mark the end of a farming season, reaping of the harvest and the beginning of a new one. It is a cycle that keeps us going, especially in Igbo race and community.

“And it has come to be, not just a regional event, a national event but now, an international event. I was told that recently, Professor Wole Soyinka celebrated New Yam festival in Ife, and it is being celebrated all over Africa and the world at large.“It is something we are extremely proud of because of the symbolism of yam – the crop that our people showed their strength in and our God blessed us with. We call it the king of all crops, and we at Transcorp, being respecter of culture and tradition, find it necessary to commemorate a day like this each year.

“This will be the last time that it will witness a small gathering. Next year, we will ensure that every customer in the hotel takes part in it. It is important to underscore the importance of this day.”For the VC, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Professor Ohaneku, the yam tuber is not revered as the king of crops for nothing. According to him, the tuber, beyond its economic value, is equally nutritional and medicinal to humans..He however warned that if the crop was not given the desired attention, especially by the younger generations, it may suffer extinction.He therefore urged Nigerians, particularly the Igbo, to ensure that their children understand the significance of yam crop.

“I am happy that what we have started here will also re-enkindle our hope of food security in the country.“We should start doing the needful by ensuring that we go back to our root. I say this with a sense of commitment and appreciation that when we value what we should, we have our sense of identity.“What I see here tonight shows that we still have hope of preserving our identity. Someone coming here from another country will understand that we have a tuber that is grown here, eaten here, revered and celebrated here”, the V.C stated.

Also speaking was Ozo Gburugburu. He commended the hotel management for celebrating culture and uniting the nation.He informed that in the past, it was considered an abomination to eat new yam without observing the rites.And when speeches were over, the symbolic cutting of the new yam was performed by Eze Jude Obidiegwu, supported by Chief Ozigbo.He said: “We tilled the land, planted the crop, we nurtured it and we reaped the harvest, but before we eat it, we give thanks to God.

He therefore offered prayers on behalf of the management and staff of the hotel; for the guests and for the nation. With that, the Imo State-born monarch ushered in a bountiful harvest for the hotel as he cut the large, roasted tuber into two.Then, the celebration began in earnest as cultural dance groups performed while palm wine and yam delicacies were served to the satisfaction of the guests.