How Onitsha celebrated Ofala, Igwe Achebe’s 20 years on the throne


IIt was like a classic movie last Saturday as the ancient city of Onitsha celebrated its 2022 Ofala Festival and the 20th anniversary of its traditional ruler, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, on the throne.

Ofala, which is highly celebrated in Onitsha, the commercial center of Anambra State, is deeply rooted in spirituality. This is usually the time for the monarch, Obi of Onitsha, who is the chief celebrant, to fulfill certain obligations. This is the time when the monarch appears in public to negotiate the fortunes of the kingdom with his subjects. The monarch also reviews his army and obtains assurances of the loyalty of his red cap leaders (Ndi Ichie).

In the past, the monarch was rarely seen in public; this is why Ofala gave the opportunity to his subjects to see him and pay him homage. This tradition has continued over the years.

The festival lasts for two days, during which the royal dance is displayed, among other traditional activities. The first day, known as Iru Ofala, is mainly reserved for the monarch. He is followed by red-capped leaders, while the monarch, dressed in full regalia, parades through his palace on three different occasions and performs a war dance in full view of those present.

During this performance, his subjects, visitors and other interested groups pay homage to him.

The second day, Azu Ofala, is for his subjects, consisting of various societies and in their uniforms, to be displayed. Each group will dance and pay homage to the monarch.

The annual event, sponsored by Globacom, International Breweries and others, attracts dignitaries from all walks of life.

Among the VIPs who attended this year’s event were Vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ifeanyi Okowa, represented by the Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines Company Limited, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, Governor of Anambra State, Prof. Charles Soludo and Senator Ndii Obi.

The program started with the session of the village of Ndi Ogbe Ndida, the parents of Igwe Achebe, followed by members of the Agbalanze society and their wives, Otu Odu, who sat separately from their husbands. Ndi Ichie entered with dance steps, and finally, Igwe Achebe entered.

Achebe entertained the crowd with his royal dance moves as he entered the arena, as the people rose in a thunderous ovation until he was seated.

After the monarch was seated, the Otu Odu women came in their white finery and anklets at entertain guests, Ndi Ichie, Igwe and others.

This was followed by Ndi Ichie, who came to entertain people with their dance moves.

Igwe Achebe in a royal dance with his Ndi Ichie

It was a scene to behold as men in their 80s and older moved about like young lions. They danced around a large square greeting various groups.

The carnival also allowed many people to display their wares; therefore, the place turned out to be a place of exchange for the visitors who came to attend the event.

After the dance, people from the Igwe village presented her with kola nuts to give to her guests. Traditional prayers and the breaking of the kola nut followed, according to the Igbo culture.

Achebe’s 20 years on the throne

Igwe Achebe, the Agbogidi, described his 20-year reign as the traditional ruler of Onitsha as a journey of leadership change with the sole aim of rapidly advancing an old traditional society into the 21st century.

He said there is no end to positive change because change is an ongoing process.

“We must anticipate and follow the change, otherwise the change will overtake us. Upon assuming the throne, I defined a personal guiding philosophy of “peace and reconciliation based on truth and transparency as the foundation for sustainable development.” From this philosophy, we have shaped a vision of reinventing and repositioning the Onicha Ado N’Idu kingdom.

“We have applied modern principles of management and leadership to traditional governance and the gradual evolution of the culture of our people,” he said.

He said there was a need to reposition and restore trust between people, especially through the resolution of long-standing conflicts within and between families and villages, as well as to reform and refocus aspirations and l youth energy.

He also said there was a need to redevelop the palace as a symbol of change, redefining the community and promoting the pride and spirit of the people of Onitsha.

The monarch said the vision has been pursued through various initiatives over the years, including youth development workshops, physical and virtual town hall meetings, think tank strategy sessions, engagements with indigenous Onitsha outside the community, annual conferences.

Igwe Achebe further said that the focus has been bolstered by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC)’s endorsement of Ofala as a premier Nigerian festival, enhancing the opportunity to bring the world to Onitsha. to discover its rich cultural heritage, which in turn promotes the growth and development of the community.

He said this year’s celebration was special because he ascended the throne of Ezechima, the founding father of Onicha Ado N’Idu, 20 years ago, precisely on May 14, 2002, which was by coincidence his 61st birthday.

“Thus, I have chosen to mark this landmark anniversary officially with the Ofala Festival 2022 as the bedrock of thanksgiving and celebration,” he said.

He also thanked the main sponsors of the festival – Globacom and International Breweries, saying, “Our relationship with these bodies over the years has contributed in large measure to the growth and development of Ofala.

“Several people also made important contributions to this year’s celebration. We warmly thank these donors and supporters. We will individually recognize your generosity.

“Special mention should be made to the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation for not only endorsing Ofala as a major Nigerian festival, but also for issuing a specific mandate for its support. We look forward to continuing this collaboration.

“We also commend the Anambra State government led by Governor Charles Soludo, who recently pledged to deliver Onitsha’s urban renewal.

“We also appreciate our visitors who have come from far and near to rejoice with us despite the challenges of the journey. We don’t take your friendship for granted. We look forward to opportunities to reciprocate your kind gesture. We pray for God’s protection as you travel back to your destinations.

“Our gratitude also goes to the various state security agencies, who collaborated tirelessly and efficiently to ensure a smooth celebration,” added Igwe Achebe.

He also thanked God for a successful Ofala and the last 20 years on the throne.

Also speaking on the occasion, Governor of Anambra State, Prof. Charles Soludo said there is a need to valorize the rich cultural heritage of Ndi Igbo.

The Governor, accompanied by his wife, Ms. Nonye Soludo, said he had attended the Ofala festival three times in the past 20 years.

He said: “I am very happy to be here for this celebration. Onitsha has a rich culture. Agbogidi is the only traditional ruler in the state who has two local government areas under his care.

“I thank the Agbogidi for your work in Igbo land. You are the Chairman of the Council of Traditional Leaders of the South East, the Council of Traditional Leaders of Anambra and the Obi of Onitsha. It has been 20 years of impactful leadership. I was amazed that you ascended the throne at the age of 61 and even now you still look young and strong.

“Our culture is our identity. Our culture as Igbo people is diverse. I listened intently as the Agbogidis called for us to return to our culture, redirect our values ​​of hard work, perseverance and honesty.

“I urge all traditional rulers to have harmonious relations with their elected council and municipal unions.”

In addition, the PDP Vice Presidential Candidate and Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, represented by Professor Obiora Okonkwo praised Igwe Achebe for organizing a colorful Ofala festival.

“I saw wise leadership in Igwe Achebe. Onitsha is blessed. He has a lot of wisdom. The followers are loyal and I have no doubt that in the near future, Onitsha will hold its place in Nigeria’s cultural calendar,” Okonkwo said.

He also called on other Igbo societies to emulate what is happening in Onitsha.

“I am a promoter of the Igbo culture. I brought back the New Yam festival in a grand style that had never been in Anambra. It now runs in every family in the state. I am happy that Ofala is over with a difference,” he added, and urged other monarchs and communities to join in showcasing Igbo and African cultures.

A former Governor of Abia State and Chief Senate Whip, Dr. Orji Kalu, described the Obi of Onitsha as a committed and patriotic statesman with a passion for growth and development.

He called on other rulers to emulate the exceptional leadership qualities of the Onitsha monarch, who he said brought unprecedented development to his domain and surrounding areas.

“The Supreme Leader has continually made unbiased and objective contributions to the national discourse. His giant strides on the throne are worthy of praise and emulation. The monarch is a rallying point for Ndi Igbo across the world,” Kalu said.


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