On behalf of His Royal Majesty, Mazi Ogbonnaya Okoro, CFR, the EzeAro of Arochukwu Kingdom, Ndi EzeOgo, the President-General, Nzuko Arochukwu World-wide, the National Executive Committee, Villages, Sponsors (corporate and individuals) and the entire Arochukwu community, it’s my privilege to welcome you to 2018 Ikeji festival and Ekekpe Arochukwu. The current leadership of Nzuko Arochukwu came into office two years ago and immediately rebranded Ikeji festival to a very enviable status. The 2016 and 2017 editions are still being talked about with nostalgia and the 2018 event is planned to build on the successes achieved in the last two ceremonies.In the very least, it shall serve as a home-coming opportunity and period of‘rebirth’ and reconnection amongst Umuaro in various abodes. Your presence at Amaikpe today signify preparedness and willingness to support Arochukwu cultureas a vehicle for societal development. My Committee recognizes and appreciates this exceptional sacrifice and implore you to sustain the practice for a greater posterity. Welcome!
The corporate sponsorship by MTN, Nigerian Breweries in the past two years, and the advert support byindividuals and groups, including numerous assistance by umuaro, friends and associates have greatly enhanced the branding and uplifted the status of Ikeji Arochukwuto the admiration of the citizens. Consequently, the entire community and its immediate neighbors, including kith and kin in diaspora, as well as those residing overseas that watch the event online, eagerly await it annually. The 2018 festival shall be live on websites (www.nzukoarochukwuworldwide.com, www.aronewsonline.com)and YouTube for accessibility by Umuaro everywhere, especially those residing overseas.In essence, its business proposition is being greatly enhanced, thus better opportunities now exist for entrepreneurs to tap into the infinite commercial value it presents. We welcome partners who are willing to exploit this economic chances. But, what is new in Ikeji2018? Few are worth mentioning.
Opportunities for Startup Entrepreneurs and new Theme
Aside from expanding the commercial frontiers which presents bigger opportunities for businesses to key into the annual Ikeji project; particularly via multiple media and online global presence; the 2018 Ikeji features other significant innovations. For example, there is a new theme, “Ikeji Arochukwu: Culture for Development”, which provides focus for all activities. Why is a new theme important, does it mean that there was something wrong with the previous theme? At times, new themes are needed to make new points,emphasize different aspects of facts, take a cause a notch higher, etc. Indeed,past themes were perfect for those times and seasons. In literature, theme refers to the main idea or moral of the story. At times, it is stated directly or indirectly,thus the reader has to think about the main idea. In effect, themes assist convey the intended lesson, conclusion,message, or central characterization in an activity. The essence, usually,is to teach an important lesson and direct community thoughts and energies towards what shall propel or trigger collective survival and growth. How does Ikeji provide a lever or basis for the development of the kingdom? That Arochukwu is a great and historic center of culture is not in doubt. That our forebears achieved great exploits in expanding the frontiers of our noble civilization which earned the kingdom great repute in the past is equally not in contest. However, how has that enviable status attained over years of hard work by generations past been sustained? Do we see concrete evidence of forces threatening to destroy efforts to reposition the community on the path of peaceful development? Doesn’t this call for new attitude to rediscover ourselves and redirect our energies towards a commitment to achieve the objective? This is where culture has a major role to play and the cultural revival which ikeji signposts is the surest bet.
Cultural Renaissance and Community Development
For a variety of reasons, scholars avoid getting too closely involved with the concept of culture and its relationship to societal development. However, there is a general acceptance that culture must have a role in guiding a population along a particular path. Already, the forces of globalization are diminishing the role of geography, climate, and natural resources and gradually giving way to knowledge, education, and access to new technologies as the key drivers of growth. Indeed, education and the acquisition of knowledge and skills are fast becoming desirable development objectives and experts opine that the role of culture in development is multi-layered. According to Karolina Tylus, the impact of culture is visible in areas such as creating intellectual potential and building human capital,popularization of cultural diversity, social integration, national identity and bonding, etc. Therefore, culture is a strong part of people’s lives. It influences our views, values, humor, hopes, loyalties, worries, fears, etc. and its aggregation and channeling towards a common goal ensures quicker attainment of results. In essence, a strong cultural identity is important to a people’s well being and when a people have a strong sense of their own cultural history and traditions,it promotes unity and progress. Given that the society is in a constant stateof flux and culture is not static but progressively adjusts to the imperatives of new social order, and, as long as culture is the biggest tool for the development of mankind; Ikeji Arochukwu remains the biggest platform in our life and times to achieve cultural rebirth and renaissance such that would engender development in the kingdom.
Youth Empowerment and Pre-Ikeji Fun Shows
A related development to the new theme in the conscious effort to assign a significant role to our youths in the Ikeji activities. Granted that the youths are integrated in most of the stages as they accompany the elders to various ceremonies, the imperatives of modern civilization dictates that youth empowerment program should be a structural component of the Ikeji circle. In most communities,young people make up the bigger piece of the population which indicates the crucial role they play today. With the number advantage on their side,youngsters could do so much in our communities if properly harnessed. In the very least, engaging the youths constructively can help reduce the risk of becoming involved in unsafe activities, thus reduce social malaise. The 2018 Ikeji Organizing Committee under my Chair, therefore, deemed it necessary for the total development of Arochukwu kingdom to incorporate the youths in the Ikeji program by creating the pre-Ikeji fun shows, a variety night which aim to empower and bring out the best in the hidden talents of the youths. This shall occur the evening a day before Ekekpe in collaboration with the National Association of Arochukwu Students (NAAS). In this wise, I want to thank the current exco of NAAS, led by Genesis Praise Obasi, for quickly appreciating the need for this innovation and working hard with his team to actualize it. The Ikeji local Organizing Committee (LOC) and the national Ikeji Organizing Committee shall work in concert with NASS to ensure the attainment of the goals of active participation of the youths by providing a platform to showcase their talents and creative energies aimed at the advancement and growth of the kingdom.
Ikeji Kick-Off Ceremony with Ndi EzeOgo
Also, for the firsttime, we deemed it necessary to deepen consultation with villages through Ndi Eze Ogo ahead of ikeji to ensure that the previous event was exhaustively appraised and pitfalls identified avoided in the future. The kick-off ceremony occurred on Saturday July 14, 2018 at Atani Hall and it saw in attendance all Eze Ogos, presidents of village welfare associations, representatives of significant groups, etc. It also afforded opportunity for formal inauguration of the Local Organizing Committee headed by the president of Nzuko Arochukwu Home Branch, with the Nzuko Iyom fully represented. The forum provided opportunity for interaction and clarification of modus operandi of the 2018 Ikeji Organizing Committee. The Eze Ogos were highly elated and they promised to work jointly with other groups to ensure the success of the Ikeji ceremony. According to them, it was a remarkable innovation as they were never in the past given such honor of contributing to shape the activities that occur during the annual festival. The Organizing Committee promised to make it a regular feature having seen its impact to ensure that every segment of the community is relevant in the scheme of things.
Recognition for Outstanding Cultural Performances
One of the importantlessons in the past two years of managing ekekpe is the fact that there are fewcultural groups such as masquerades, ndiabaa, etc. whose rare appearance add somuch glamour to the ceremony, and spectators are always longing to have them appear and perform. However, the assessment of these category of troupes for award of prizes is usually difficult as they do not fall within existing criteria being used by judges to determine winners. Assessment criteria most times rely on indigenous cultural dances, aspects of civilizations at the risk of going extinct that is displayed for education and socialization purpose and remarkable traits associated with ancient and historic traditions of the kingdom. Consequently, these groups are, year-in and year-out, left out without award of prizes whereas their presence set the whole environment afire with excitement and joy. We equally reckon that villages incur a lot of costs to ensure that such rare performances are showcased at ikeji arena. We therefore,noted the need to create a special category of honor to recognize such groups and ensure that their presence is fully appreciated. Specially designed flags,cups and cash prizes are being considered and a mixture of them could be deployed to demonstrate our commitment to carry every segment of the society along during Ekekpe.
Program for EkekpeDay
As earlier indicated,we shall build on the successes achieved in the past two years. Accordingly,activities shall start at 10.00am prompt and we expect diverse culturaltroupes, including masquerades, from the entire 19 villages who shall competefor honors. Invitations were equally extended to Aro diaspora and we expectthat few may be in attendance. The Ekpe Arochukwu will, as usual, grace the occasion and assist usher in the royalty to the arena. Consistent with our resolve to use culture to cement good neighborliness amongst our immediate communities, we expect appearance by some of these communities at the arena. Amaikpe shall be closed to vehicular traffic from 8am to 7pm on Sunday September 23, 2018 based on approval from the government and we implore all citizens, including VIPs to use the alternate routes created for the purpose. We sincerely appreciate our partnership with government agencies, businesses,groups, traditional authorities and individual, which has in the past assisted to ensure a successful event – the royalty, the police, army, local government authority, banks, sponsors, advertisers, hotels, okada riders associations,vigilante groups, clubs, etc. This is in consonance with our resolve to use the Ikeji festival to build partnership, friendship, collaboration and community development.
Wecontinue to savor the honor and privilege of working with the palace, ndiEzeOgo,patrons, village associations, clubs, iyom, traditional, administrative andpolitical elites, agencies of government in our community, special guests, Umuaro,etc., and our kit and kin in diaspora to rebuild our kingdom to an enviable status. I enjoin Umuaro to, in our characteristic manner, extend courtesies to all guests and conduct themselves orderly. In a special way, I appreciate members of the 2018 Ikeji Arochukwu Organizing Committee, including the LOC,whose onerous sacrifices made us to succeed. When the curtain falls on Ekekpe 2018,we shall depart peacefully as the grace of the Almighty shall be our portion. Itis a great privilege to serve, so let us enthrone a new order for the benefit of the present and future generations. Indeed, Aro-Okeigbo is standing on the threshold of greater possibilities. Happy Xmas in advance. Ako Bu Ije.
Mazi (Dr) Azubike Okoro, Ikemba Arochukwu
Chair, 2018 IkejiArochukwu Organizing Committee