The Imo State General Purpose Committee on Festivals and Cultural Events has commenced its assignment with a visit to Arondizuogu. In the course of the visit, the committee observed Ika Ikeji (traditional scheduling of the Ikeji Ceremony) and interfaced with Arondizuogu Royal fathers and the Arondizuogu Patriotic Union (APU) regarding the Ikeji Festival 2022. The Committee also took some time off during the trip to visit and assess some historical monuments and places of tourism interest in the community.
Led by Special Advisers to the Governor on Culture and Creative Arts, Paddy Obinna and Bobby Michaels as well as the HOD of the Culture Department of the Ministry, Mrs Josephine Oguike and other members, the Committee was received at the APU headquarters at Ndiakeme Uno by the Vice President General, Mazi Emma Ofor and other officials of the union. Thereafter, the Committee paid a courtesy call on the Eze Ozuomba of Awa Izuogu Autonomous Community, HRH Eze Oliver Dike III where the Committee was warmly received.
The Committee proceeded to observe Ika Ikeji at Obi Iheme, the ancestral homestead of the Iheme Clan, one of the two clans that make up Izuogu na Iheme. There, it was announced that the 2022 Ikeji Festival will hold on April 28, 2022. That day, known as Oye Egbugbu, involves thanksgiving and feasting in various homes. The usual masquerade carnivals follow from April 29 to May 1, 2022 in designated arenas. The Committee was warmly received at Obi Iheme by Eze Ndiheme, HRH Eze Sir K Ndubuisi Kanu and the Lord Mayor of Arondizuogu, Dr. Innocent Ezuma, popularly known as Zumex.
As explained to the committee, the Ikeji festival is celebrated by Arondizuogu people in Ideato North, Okigwe and Onuimo Local Government Areas of Imo State with an influx of visitors and enthusiasts from many states in the South East, South South and from the Diaspora. The festival lasts for four days.
The Committee as part of its assignment visited the homestead of late Igwegbe Odum, the OMENUKO about whom Pita Nwana wrote in his classical book, Omenuko, the first Igbo novel. They also visited the exotic country home and tomb of sensational first Republic politician, foremost nationalist and statesman, Dr Kingsley Ozuomba Mbadiwe. The Committee was impressed with the state of the former Minister’s house popularly known as “Palace of the People” and thanked Amb. Greg Mbadiwe for granting access to tourists and for extending kind hospitality to the committee. The Committee later visited the home of another nationalist, First Republic Legislator, famous boycott king, Mazi Mbonu Ojike of the “boycott the boycottables” fame.
Speaking to members of the Committee at the Arondizuogu Patriotic Union, APU, Secretariat earlier, on behalf of the Local Organizing Committee for 2022 Ikeji Arondizuogu, Mazi Emma Offor, the First Vice President-General of APU, in company of Mazi Obinna Okpareke and Mazi Francis Akamnonu, etc, said that Ikeji Festival originated from Arochukwu, the ancestral home of the people of Arondizuogu. He said while the festival was celebrated in March, April or May in Arondizuogu, it was marked every September in Arochukwu.
According to Mazi Emma Offor, the objectives of Ikeji include promoting peace and reconciliation, resurrecting the spirit of harmony and unity, and paying homage in ascending order and to the elders, especially the eldest in the families in what is called “IBU IHU”. He disclosed that Ikeji, which is not fetish but a feast of thanksgiving before the planting season.
Explaining further, he affirmed that the highlight of the Ikeji Festival is the masquerade performances stressing that that non-initiates were not expected to join the masquerades and their performances.
He commended the Imo State Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts led by Mazi Uche Ohia for identifying with the preliminary stage of 2022 Ikeji Arondizuogu festival and appealed to Government to construct a befitting stadium or cultural arena for the celebration of Ikeji in line with the festival’s rising profile and global acclaim as a major event in the tourism calendar in Nigeria.
Responding, the Chairman of the Committee, Mrs Josephine Oguike, commended the Local Organizing Committee for 2022 Ikeji Arondizuogu for their hospitality and for the efforts to plan a resounding festival for the year. She enjoined them to continue to promote and preserve Igbo culture for posterity.
In his remarks at Arondizuogu Town Hall, the Special Adviser to Imo State Governor on Culture and Creative Arts, Paddy Obinna, expressed Governor Hope Uzodimma’s profound best wishes to Arondizuogu people, and the willingness of the Commissioner for Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, Mazi Uche Ohia, PhD, to partner with them to promote and preserve their culture. Hon Paddy Obinna commended the rich cultural heritage and values of the people of Arondizuogu.
It will be recalled that the General Purpose Committee on Festivals and Cultural Events was set up by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts to, among other responsibilities, appraise the festivals and cultural events in Imo State with the view to streamlining their activities through providing rules of engagement to ensure that the festivals and events are devoid of any repugnant dimensions, and stop the pollution of our culture and festivals by imprudent youths who introduce inappropriate acts, destroy economic trees, molest individuals and block public roads in the guise of celebrating cultural events.
Other members of the Committee in the entourage included Mrs Assumpta Akujobi, Director, Imo State Council for Arts and Culture, ISCAC; Mrs Adaeze Nzeogu, Head of Department of Creative Arts, Imo State Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts; and Mrs Beatrice Amaefu, who acts as Secretary of the committee