Ikeji Aro 2016 Cultural Dances

Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, PhD

Ikeji Aro 2016 has been rated as the best by the Arochukwu traditional council in the last 40 years history of the cultural festival. The rating was based on quality of attendance, concept and content development of the event, organization, diversity, originality of cultural dances, quality of entertainment and other considerations. The 19 Villages in Arochukwu Kingdom and Aros in the Diaspora made the Ikeji 2016 clearly unique with spectacular performances.


Asaga Village staged a unique traditional dance presented through Theatre/drama. The dance drama directed by Emmanuel Theatre Academy featured the Arochukwu – Ibibio War of the ancient times . It was a contribution of Asaga Movement for Arts and Culture. The dance drama entitled The Other Side of the Mask has a clear message “to restore the dignity of the Aro man’’. The origin, style, content and dimension of the dance drama remained one of the surprises made Ikeji 2016 the best in the last 40 years. Asaga Village took the first position and won the President General Nzuko Arochukwu prize.


Oro Village where the Aro royalty resides arrived the 2016 Eke Ekpe with its original native cultural dance Mkpo AKwokwo-Ejegi-Ije,ona-agba Oso. The cultural dance was shrouded in myth, mystery and entertainment. Its lyrics and dance steps spoke eloquently of royalty, honour and prestige reflecting the place of Oro as the seat of Eze Aro. The dance made public appearance at Eke Ekpe 2016 for the first time in a very long time. Making its debut at the 2016 Eke Ekpe was therefore quite historic.


Ugwuakuma is arrived Amaikpe with a native traditional dance called Kokoma. The dance was a product of long standing cultural and business relationship between Ugwuakuma and the Efiks in Cross River State. This explained why Kokoma is song, presented and danced more in Efik than in Aro dialect. The sound of Koko is inviting, captivating, melodious and thrilling while the dance steps are something else.


Ujari Village presented the popular Uyari war dance. The dance has same origin with the ancient Ohafia war dance. Uyari is consistent with the character of Ujari Village as warriors dating back to ancient Aro history. At that time, history recorded Ujari as one village that was bold and courageous to defend Arochukwu in times of war. The Uyari war dance was used to motivate the people at the war front and celebrate victory when the battles have been fought and won. The Uyari is a dance of the brave, the strong and conquerors. In those days, the weak and cowards watch the Uyari usually from their hideouts with fear. The last time Uyari war dance made major public appearance was in 2013. Ujari Village is staged the dance this year to reinvent history for the benefit of the younger generations.


Over the last 14 years, Amoba Village was like a house divided against itself. The village was overwhelmed by series of internal disputes and squabbles over several problems including Eze Ogo leadership tussle. It is great to learn that all is now history as the conflicts and internal squabbles have been amicably resolved. Peace has now returned to Amoba with the intervention of their prominent sons led by Dr. Kanu Ohuche. It is noteworthy that during those challenging times in Amoba, the women remained united and neutral. The noble example demonstrated in Amoba helped a great deal during the reconciliation process. In celebration of what has been achieved, Amoba stormed 2016 Eke Ekpe with what they have branded a unity traditional dance Uri Ochanja Amoba. It is a dance of peace open to all folks -men, women and children. The dance demonstrated the ascendancy to the throne of Eze kanu Oji as Eze Aro of Arochukwu at the age of 12. He reigned for 72 years and became the longest monarch in black Africa by the time he died in 1988. Amoba took the second position with this dance and exceptional performace.


Information from Agbagwu suggested that the village had several choices. While some favoured bringing Kokoma to Eke Ekpe, others thought of notable dances for which the village is known especially Samba dance. Aro watched and waited for Agbagwu at the 2016 Eke Ekpe, and saw both Samba Dance and Kokoma on stage. The dances were a combination of beauty, colour and entertainment.


Amukwa Village is arrived Eke Ekpe 2016 with an old, agelessly unique cultural troupe known as Ekerenkwa. This is one of the most prestigious dances known in Amukwa Village. The dance comes out only once in a very long time except on special request. Traced to people and events that followed the Arochukwu – Ibibio war of ancient times, the Ekerenkwa dance is similar to the Ohafia war dance except, as the village explained, no sample of human skull is advertised. The dance made its last public appearance in Arochukwu during the burial of the late Eze Aro, Mazi Kanu Oji over twenty years ago. The Eze Ogo Amukwa is particularly proud that Ekerenkwa made another historic appearance at 2016 Eke Ekpe as part of the contributions of Amukwa to the revival of Aro culture.


Ugbo Village brought one of its biggest masquerades, Agwo-Turu-Mbe. The name of the masquerade literally means ‘the snake that bites the tortoise’. This complex masquerade is a product of business engagements, cultural union and exchange between Ugbo and Nkerrefi, another ancient town in the present Nkanu of Enugu State. Many Ugbo families migrated to Nkerrefi in the days of trans-communal trade. While some have returned to Aro, others have found permanent home in Nkerrefi – married, inter-married and internalized the people’s culture over many generations. The special Agwo-Turu-Mbe masquerade was ushered in to Eke Ekpe by its followers, other dances and numerous initiates. Agwo-Turu-Mbe (Okee Muo Neche Obodo) is acclaimed by its followers to possess certain special powers that guide Ugbo from external aggression and any misfortune. The last time this big masquerade made its public appearance was at the burial of late Eze Aro, Mazi Kanu Oji.


Obinkita Village, the center of festivities in Aro presented a well-known cultural dance Ojojo. The brand of Ojojo is an indigenous regal dance of Nde Akwaeke, performed only at important ceremonies like Eke Ekpe, coronation, burial rites of important men and women. Obinkita brand of Ojojo is specially produced from local instruments and performed by creative dancers that share joy and excitement to all and sundry.


Amankwu Village, the ancestral home of Arondizuogu in Aro supported their “children” ndi izuogu when they arrive at Eke Ekpe 2016. The Village came with three different big masquarades.


Egwu Youth is an all season dance from Utughugwu. It is a mass dance open to men, women and children but celebrated widely by the youths. Egwu Youth in Utughugwu is used to entertain guests at marriages, burials, big ceremonies and during sporting events. The dance helps to build bond of unity and strength among the youths to enable them accomplish very challenging tasks. This Dance will led Utughugwu to Eke Ekpe this year.


Atani Village attended this year’s Eke Ekpe with Ugbo-Ala. This traditional dance is a child of long standing historical relationship between Atani and the Ikwerre people of Rivers State. The rhythm, dance steps, costume, and shaking of waist reflect largely a culture imported to Aro from Ikwerre land. Over the years, Atani blended the traditional dance to reflect the Aro in content, rendition and presentation. The late legend of Aro music Mary Kanu is an example of Atani brand of Ugbo-Ala.


Ibom has a good track record of attending Eke Ekpe every year with variety of traditional dances. 2016 was not different as the village stormed Eke Ekpe with the powerful Obam war dance and thrilled the spectators. The dance is only available to celebrate great events, great men and women. It is also a dance used by the Ibom community to make statements of achievements when the going becomes tough!!!


Amasu village came to Eke Ekpe 2016 with a unique traditional dance known as Ajamaja. The dance is performed by men and women in a boat with their paddles; displaying their cultural heritage as people living by the riverside and who engage in fishing, farming and trading as major occupations. The dance featured a wonderful performance of how Mary Slessor who sojourned in Aro stopped the killing of twins through evangelism and moral persuasion. With this exceptional performance, Amankwu took the 4th position at the Eke Ekpe 2016.


Amanagwu has a strong tradition of attending Eke Ekpe in grand style. The village did not just come; it won top prices on many occasions as a result of its performances. In 2016, we received notice that Amanagwu is staging once again,the Amarigwe dance.The dance is as old as the history of Amanagwu- a dance used to mobilise the people to war in ancient times and celebrate victory when the war is fought and won.


Ugwuavor Village stormed Amaikpe with the famous Atu-eje-ogu masquerade. The masquerade made public appearance in Eke Ekpe since the last five years. The Atu-eje-ogu is as old as the history of Ugwuavor Village. In the olden days of inter-communal wars, the masquerade only makes public appearance if Ugwuavor is under major threat of aggression. At such tough times, the masquerade is immediately summoned to mobilise and lead the village towards self-defense. Atu-eje-ogu is noted for its charisma, electrifying and dazzling movements, dignity and humour that send the spectators into a world of ecstasy and wild jubilation. For the masquerade, the meaning of each step is defined by the usakpa man who plays the flute. The Usakpa man dictates and reminds the masquerade of its past exploits and the challenges ahead. Atu-eje-ogu is the famous Ugwuavor masquerade staged to celebrate success in battles, achievements in the midst of obstacles. Apart from very important festivals, the masquerade also attends burials to honour great men and women with outstanding achievements that touch the lives of humanity.

Ugwuavor Village is proud to present Atu-eje-ogu masquerade at 2016 Eke Ekpe as its special contribution to the revival of Aro culture. It is one of Ugwuavor’s biggest and toughest masquerades that demonstrate courage and bravery in tough times.


As usual Isinkpu Village is stormed Eke Ekpe 2016 with its popular cultural troupe Eketensi also known as Abaa. Eketensi dance is Isinkpu and Isinkpu is Eketensi. Isinkpu has recorded consistency in staging this dance at every Eke Ekpe in the last 10 years. The dance is dynamic in form, content and style of presentation, while the followership has continued to grow each year.

Arochukwu was reliably informed that this year, Abaa or Eketensi will be appearing big; a crowd puller any day, it is a dance that appeals so much to the younger generation. All Isinkpu at home and in the diaspora hardly miss the Eketensi in action at Eke Ekpe. In the past, they danced clutching machetes in their hands to show their courage and war-like disposition, but all that has now been reformed. Machetes and dangerous weapons are no longer allowed for safety of the dancers and their admirers. Eketensi is known for its numerous ‘magics’ that keep the spectators guessing and asking for more. It is a physical dance that draws sweat even under the rain.


Amuvi Village came to the 2016 Eke Ekpe with a powerful masquerade called Ajimegbo. The masquerade is making another public appearance in Amaikpe since 2013. Ajimegbo is one of the biggest masquerades in Arochukwu and its exploits are traceable to courage, bravery in conflict protection, prevention, management and resolution in olden days in Amuvi Aro history. The masquerade makes public appearances only during big festivals and at tough and challenging times. Amuvi Village will be ushering the Ajimegbo big masquerade with a large army of followers supported by the special Ojojo dance by another group of men, women and children. Ajimegbo masquerade is usually watched by spectators from a distance whenever it storms Amaikpe . Eke Ekpe 2016 was not different.


Amangwu is coming to Eke Ekpe with the Aro cultural dance Ojojo. The Amangwu Ojojo is special in appearance, outlook, rendition, dance steps and presentation. The Ojojo Amangwu reflects the people and peculiar culture of the village.



Arondizuogu, an Aro community in Imo State is returned to their ancestral home Arochukwu with another awesome masquerade Egbe Bere Ugo Bere, with origins traceable to Nkanu in Enugu State. The masquerade has been adapted to Aro in the diaspora culture and is rated as an important communal tool; not just for entertainment but for conflict prevention, management and resolution. It is a very big masquerade that speaks eloquently of Aro ndi Izuogu as a home of entertainment, culture and tradition. The arrival of Arondizuogu on stage is expected to be hilarious at this year’s Eke Ekpe.


Aro Ajali in Anambra State returned to their ancestral homeland, Arochukwu with one of its biggest masquerades the Ikuku Ekuo. This is the biggest Agadi Mmanwu in Ajali. The origin of the masquerade dates back to 1932. Ikuku Ekuo masquerade is a group of masquerades of all sizes that enters the stages in order of hierarchy. One of the masquerades in the group is the popular Mgbadike, from ndi eni assa, Ajali. All spectators are advised to watch the masquerade with excitement from far.


The climax of this year’s Eke Ekpe cultural festival was the public appearance of Ekpe Arochukwu. This was a historic outing since the burial of Late Eze Aro Mazi Kanu Oji. Ekpe is the Arochukwu traditional government. Ekpe is both a myth and a mystery, and it shall remain so. The sound of Ekpe music sends notice of order, dignity, honour, and royalty. The procession is a beauty to watch; it is better seen than imagined. The procession is only for those ‘‘To Whom It May Concern’’. Ekpe star performance was the end of discussion in this year’s Eke Ekpe. The appearance was a milestone to revive Aro culture and civilization

Finally, the Chair and members of the Ikeji 2016 Organizing Committee wishes to place on record our debt of gratitude to this special Aro sons and organizations for their kind support to their respective villages. The support made it possible for the villages to prepare and put up great performances at the Eke Ekpe 2016. These individuals and organizations donated their money, time, energy and resources to encourage their respective village cultural troupes. On behalf of the President General Nzuko Aro and his team, we thank them especially for their service to Aro. Please find below the names of these individuals and organisations.

Village Sponsors

Amukwa Amukwa Improvement Union:
Engr. Ikechi Okoro –President Gen.
Rev. Clinton I. Okoro Sec.
Eze Ogo Amukwa – Mazi Nwosu Bassey Nwosu

Ugwuakuma Ugwuakuma Development Union (UDU):
President Fidelis Onoh & the Exco.

Ujari Ujari Progressive Union (UPU):
President Leo Okoronkwo Asonta & the Exco

Ugwuavor Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji (Ikemba Aro)
Mazi Ikokwu Okpo & Mazi Francis Agbafor

Amangwu Mazi Mike Irogbenachi (Chairman Amangwu Guest House)
Mazi Enerst Onwumere (Ugwuaro)
President Gen.& Exco – Amangwu Dev. Union.

Oro Barrister Kins Nwosu

Utughugwu Utughugwu Development Union
Mazi Kanu Orji.

Amasu Amasu Progressive Union
Mazi Emma Okoro Egbeukwu (Ugwuaro)

Amannagwu Nzuko Amannagwu – Sam Achinivu President Gen.
Mazi Chimere Ikenga
Mazi Joyce Nkemakolam

Amoba Dr. Kanu F. Ohuche
Mazi Nkuma Okoronkwo

Ugbo Ugbo Dev. Union – John Okoro President Gen.
Mazi Chijioke Okoro (SAKABO Group)
Pius Okpo Okoroafor
Ogbonnaya Agwu Jr.

Obinkita Obinkita Progressive Union
Hon. Chima Nwafor
Mazi, Sunny Anicho Okoro

Amuvi Amuvi Welfare Union
Eze Ogo Amuvi – Mazi Thomas N. Okoroji

Atani Atani Welfare Union – Chekwas Oti – President Gen
Mazi Chikwendu Udensi ( Ugwuaro)
Mazi Otumchere Oti ( Ugwuaro)
Mazi Ik. Onu

Ibom Ibom Union-Kanu Uwa:President-Gen
Engr.Chinedu Oti

Isinkpu Isinkpu Progressive Union:
Mazi Uche C. Oti ( President Gen. )
Bar. Okezie C. Uche ,
Mazi Okoro Oti & Ikenga Chidi Oti.

Asaga Nzuko Asaga
Mazi Kanu Ivi (Ugwuaro)
Bar. Oscar Okoro.

Agbagwu Mazi Ukoha Ojukwu

Amankwu Mazi Okereke Okpara Ugwuaro


We wish to thank our sponsors the MTN & Nigeria Breweries Plc for their faith in Ikeji Arochukwu.

About author

Orji Ogbonnaya Orji

Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, a well-known Nigerian broadcaster, journalist, political economist and development communication specialist sits on the Editorial Board of Aro News, a leading community news channel of the Aros, south east Nigeria. Orji writes its popular column “Amaikpe”.  
He is currently the Director of Communications and Advocacy at the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the Presidency, Abuja. NEITI is the Nigerian chapter of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international organization with 53 member countries which leads the global campaign for transparency and accountability in the management of extractive resources in resource-rich countries around the world. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji was named NEITI's acting Executive Secretary/ceo in 2015, a position he held briefly until 2016.  
Dr. Orji represents NEITI on Nigeria’s National Steering Committee of the global Open Government Partnership (OGP) and chairs the extractive sector thematic group in the country’s OGP.  
Prior to his current job at NEITI, Dr. Orji was a special adviser to Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Communication on Strategic Development Communication. Between 2004 and 2006, he worked with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as a national consultant on public procurement reforms. At the UNDP, he worked with other development partners such as the World Bank and USAID on institutionalizing public procurement processes in Nigeria, by articulating a bill on public procurement for consideration and passage into law by the National Assembly. Following the passage of the Bill into law and establishment of the Bureau of Public Procurement on the June 4, 2007, Orji headed the media and public affairs department of the Bureau.
He served as Special Adviser to the President of the Senate at the National Assembly from 2000 to 2003. During this period, he provided technical support to develop the institutional framework on strategic media/civil society relations and engagements with the country’s legislature emerging from years of military rule.
His career in the media industry began at Radio Nigeria where he was groomed and worked in various capacities, rising through the ranks to the position of Deputy Director at the headquarters. The highest point of his career at Radio Nigeria was his posting to the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock (Nigeria’s seat of power) as the Chief State-House Correspondent, attached to Nigeria’s presidents. Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji served with courage and distinction during five different regimes, part of which were under the military from 1993 to 2000, when Nigeria returned to civil rule. The job at the Presidential villa took Orji on regular entourages of Nigerian Presidents to many countries of the world for the media-coverage of key global events, including several sessions of the United Nations' General Assembly in New York.
Orji Ogbonnaya Orji began his early life and education in 1970 at the Presbyterian School, Amanator Isu, Ohaozara in the then Afikpo Division. He attended Ishiagu High School Okigwe for his secondary education from 1975 and obtained his West African School Certificate from the school in 1980. He later proceeded to the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu where he graduated with a certificate in Mass communication in 1987. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Abuja, Nigeria in 1999, a master’s degree in political economy and development studies in 2004 and a PhD in the same discipline and from the same University in 2012.
He attended the Senior Executive Fellows program on public policy and communication at J.F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is also an alumnus of Blatvanik School of Government, University of Oxford, England, Thompson Foundation Institute of Advanced Media Studies Cardiff, United Kingdom, the International Law Institute, George Town University Washington DC, the Institute for Public and Private Partnership, Arlington Virginia, the World Bank Institute, the African Development Bank Institute, and the Lagos Business School. Furthermore, he is a recipient of professional fellowships from the US State Department and from the governments of Germany and the United Kingdom.
Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji is married to Dr. (Mrs.) Esther Ogbonnaya with three children: Nnenna, Orji (Jr), and Chinatu.

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