Indigenes of Arochukwu Kingdom at home and in the Diaspora turned out in large numbers to their ancestral home – Arochukwu – to celebrate this year’s “Ikeji Aro” (new yam festival), which by their custom and tradition marks the end of the old year, and harvest of new yam. History puts it that this festival, celebrated annually by the Igbo nation, started at about 912 AD in Arochukwu, the ancestral home of the Aro worldwide, and also being celebrated in over 350 Aro communities in the Diaspora.
“Ikeji Aro” festival season is not only dedicated to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the people, but also renewing the age long covenant which unites the people, and thanksgiving to the Almighty God for a successful year; and good harvest. The grand finale of the 17-day festival is the ‘Eke Ekpe Aro’, during which celebrants from the 19 villages of Arochukwu, gather at the traditional Amaikpe Square, Obinkita, with cultural dances and masquerades to entertain, and many borrowed cultural dance would be appraised for prizes.
Addressing a large crowd of people at the Amaikpe Square, Obinkita, the President General of Nzuko Arochukwu, worldwide, Elder Nnamdi Udoh, stated that the theme for this year’s festival is “Ikeji Arochukwu, Nigeria home of tourism.” He said the theme, therefore, calls on governments at all levels in the country, as well as Abians, to partner with the people of Arochukwu in developing their rich cultural heritage, in order to promote tourism in the Kingdom. He listed some historic sites in the kingdom, which should be developed for tourism, including Ibini Ukpabi, Ogbiti Okoroji, Iyieke, Alvan Ikoku’s grave, Ikoro Atani among others.
He declared: “As we celebrate, let us reflect on the essence of the festival. We are celebrating the covenant that our fore-fathers entered into, that the Aro must remain one indivisible kingdom, to the glory of God.” Calling on the people to remain focused, peaceful and united, the President-General stated further: “In the spirit of the festival, I invite umu Aro to embrace peace, reconcile our differences to move Arochukwu Kingdom forward. Let us not allow our political differences to divide us as Umu Aro, the children of God.”
On the deplorable condition of the Arochukwu/Ohafia road described as the worst in the whole of the eastern states, the PG disclosed that discussions had been held with the members representing Arochukwu in the National Assembly, to take up the issue with the appropriate authority, assuring that in no distant time, and with adequate funds, the road will be fixed to save the people from further stress and embarrassment. He used the occasion to announce the end of his tenure as President-General of the town union, and thanked the people for their support of his administration in the last six years. He called on the people to support whoever emerges as his successor, in the task of taking the Aro Kingdom to a greater height.
Anybody that will emerge as President-General deserves our prayers.
He commended the Eze Aro, His Majesty, Mazi Vincent Okoro for providing the facility which accommodates the event as well as the local government council for refurbishing it.
Highlight of the celebration was the renaming of the hall ofthe complex to Eze Kanu Oji Hall instead of “Shagari Hall’’, as it was previously called. The renaming ceremony was done by the Arianzu, Mazi Oji Kanu. “Today, by the powers conferred on me as the President General, and mandated by Eze Aro, we are renaming this hall to a name that every one of us would be proud of. We invite Mazi Oji Kanu, Arianzu Aro, to come forward and rename it, “Eze Kanu Oji Hall”.
In the cultural dance competition, Amuvi village emerged winner with their “Ojojo” dance, followed by Amannagwu and Asaga villages who clinched second and third positions respectively. Leader of Amuvi cultural dance, Mrs. Gladys Azubuike, attributed the success of the group to hard-work and love for the culture of Aro- Okeigbo. She recalled that in 2011 and 2012 Eke Ekpe festivals, the group under her leadership came first in the cultural dance competition and has done it again in 2015.