Onicha Ugbo agog, as Ine Festival peaks today
The bustling town of Onicha Ugbo in Aniocha North council of Delta State has been beehive of activities marking this year’s Ine (New Yam/Traditional New Year) festival, a key component of the norms and value of the town. Though the festival, which brings the people of the community together, has already strated, today will be the highpoint of the colourful celebration.
Activities for the festival began with Ika Ine ceremony, where, once a year, the Obi, the Ikpala Ani (senior Ozo title holders), the Onotu/Akpukpo awolo Chiefs (War Chiefs), Olinzele Obi (Palace Chiefs) and the Omu (Queen Mother) assembles at the Ogwa (the meeting court) of the Onishe (the most senior Ozo title holder and number two citizen of the town) to determine the dates of major ceremonies and events that constitute the festival.
The date when agreed upon under the stewardship of the Onishe, are recorded and passed on to the Okwelegwes of the various Ogbes (Villages) for dissemination to the public.
This year’s Ika Ine ceremony was held on Tuesday, August 9, 2016, at the Ogwa of the Onishe of Onicha Ugbo, Chief Godwin Omu in Umuolo one of the four villages that make up the town.
There are over 17 ceremonies that preclude the Ine festival, starting with Iloh Nze Ani and Iloh Fejokwu Ani. This is followed by the Iwaji Umundu (children), which held Wednesday, August 24, 2016, then the Ima Osisi (striking of the staff) ceremony, which the Obi, the Princes, Chiefs and Ozo title holders in the town, march through the entire kingdom with ceremonial Osisi staffs. This was held on Tuesday, August 30, 2016.
The Obi, His Royal Majesty, Agbogidi Obi Victor Chukwumalieze 1, led the heads of the various Ogbes (villages), Onotu Chiefs (war chiefs), Ndi Olinzeles (Palace Chiefs), and Ozo-title holders on a 20-kilometer march across the length and breadth of the Kingdom. During the ceremony, traditional songs are sung amid rhythmic striking of the staff on the ground
In pre Christian times, the king visited all the shrines in the kingdom, offering prayers to the various deities. But with modernity, the king visits the various Ogbes and a few Idumus amid chants and striking of staff on the ground, offer prayers and blessings at strategic places and at each community asking for a fantastic New Year, blessings, prosperity and a great harvest in the coming Year. As he marches and prays, he throws the symbolic Nzu (white chalk) powder as a sign of peace, and chants Akaine Ahoine, meaning happy New Year, and the people respond with Ahondu enwe ogwu, meaning may the years of life never end.
The ceremonies will climax today with the very popular Ine Efifie celebrations. The Ogbanigbe (vigil) ceremony takes place on the eve of Ine Efifie, with the Uwolo of Onicha Ugbo, High Chief Matthias Asielue (usually his representative) dances all night through the kingdom with his followers and revelers visiting the homes of various chiefs and other notable individuals in the kingdom. This took place on yesterday, together with the Ilochi Agba ceremony, where the Obi pays his annual homage to Eze Agba.
Though enclave within Onicha Ugbo kingdom, Agba is not regarded or treated as an Ogbe (village), it is accorded a semi-autonomous status as it has its own ceremonial monarch (Eze Agba), who in turn has an Iyase as his sole Onotu (War Chief). It never developed into a town; instead, it became a part of Onicha-Ugbo, subject to the overall administration of the Obi of Onicha-Ugbo. This fact was emphasized by the ancient popular expression: ONICHA AKA OGBE ANO (meaning Onicha-Ugbo of four villages). It is however, now treated as an Ogbe for administrative purposes.
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