IKWO NOYO NNESWEOHA FESTIVAL 2020 BY CHIEF OLIVER N. U. EZE
Friday 7th August, 2020 is Igboji Nnesweoha in Ikwo Noyo Clan of Ebonyi State of Nigeria. Nnesweoha is an annual event that is highly cherished and celebrated by any true son and daughter of Ikwo, wherever he or she is. Inherited from our ancestors, the festival is the Passover Feast of Ikwo people from the long period of famine for the year, into the New Year, Ekenwanekwa (the new yam festival), in the next four days being eke. Having survived without dying of hunger, the day is heralded with joy, celebration and thanks-giving to God and the spirit of our forefathers and mothers, who lived a good life.
Nnesweoha festival is not only meant to celebrate survival from famine season, it is also very significant for other social, political and economic values for which Ikwo people are known, such as respect for elders, visits and exchange of gifts with fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, relations and friends, obedience to the rules that bind the society together and assessment of one’s performance for the outgoing year, with a view to improving for better, come new year.
Mostly exchanged during the period of Nnesweoha festival are tubers of old yam, dry fish, bush meat, palm wine, a bunch/leaves of tobacco with potash to mix, etc. Nneswoha season is also special to the newly married couples because it is a time for them to visit, father/mother in-laws, to take dates for initiation into womanhood (Ugvuegirima/Ugvuoguruenya) of young wives, come the subsequent year. On yearly basis, married women cook the best of dishes and visit their parents, brothers and uncles. Young men and girls fetch firewood to grandmothers, grandfathers and other aged relation. Fathers, brothers and uncles also use the opportunity to shower gift to their visiting daughters and grandchildren, with assorted items such as tubers/pieces of yam, dry meat, coconut, money and abundant blessings.
The following items are used to celebrate on Nnesweoha day: Ngvuakpa in the morning, Oji with Ose Ukpara, Akpaka-ebebe/Akpaka atsutsu, Emma Okponku/Anuokponku in the mid-morning; Inne akahu nji in the afternoon and Utara with Ophe-Akpuruta, Ophe-Ukpa, Ophe Onunji etc, with akpuruiphe amumu as may be preferred, in the evening. Mme mini (Palm wine) and Karama (hot drink) are also used to wash these delicacies down the throat along the day with tradition music and dances of various types, such as Okpuruegede, Edege, Odabara, Ode, Okowe Ogbodogu Ayita, Ekwemgba, Egvumme Ikpobina, Igbiri, Nwogbaego, some visiting compound and others displayed for people’s admiration in the village squares, throughout Nwanoyo settlements.
It is the duty of those traditionally assigned in Ekpeli, the ancestral home of Ikwo, to keep, read the calendar of Ikwo and direct when Nneswoha and the new yam festival (Ekenwanekwa) are to take placed, on annual basis. Usually, the appearance of Ekpeli in Igboji, known as Ekpeli afua le Igboji, announces and marks the counting of Nneswaoha day, for the year.
Between Nnesweoha day and Ekenwanekwa (New yam festival) day, are two days, Ukatafa and Unuafa, marked as transitional days between the old year and new year. These two days neither belongs to the old nor the New Year, that any event, including death is not counted as belonging to the outgoing year, but shifted to the New Year. This is why the corpse of any deaths within these two days must be preserved for burial after Ekenwanekwa, the new yam festival and recorded as having died in the New Year. Ukata-afa is used to visit the yam farm, inspect the yams and do some weeding of grasses and thanks-giving to God, in preparation for harvest of new yam on Ekenwanekwa day. The third day from Nnesweoha , Unu-afa is a day of rest and opening of yam ban, to welcome the spirit of new yam that would be harvested and eaten the following day, Ekenwanekwa. Harvesting and eating of new yam by anybody, before this Ekenwanekwa day in Ikwo, is an abomination and attracts banishment in the land, for anybody caught, until he performs the cleansing rituals, as usually prescribed by the custodians of Ikwo culture of Ekpeli.
As the Caretaker Chairman of Ikwo Local Government Area, Hon. Chidiebere Egwu, the Chief Priest of Ikwo Noyo, the traditional rulers, the Ozo’s and the good people of Ikwo welcome all their sons and daughters at home and diasporas to the 2020 Nnesweoha celebration, in expectation of the new yam festival, it may be pertinent to appreciate God for having been so faithful to us by sustaining our existence and for His blessings. It may also please the Almighty God and our forefathers that we use the opportunity to reflect on our past, with a view to improving on areas of shortcomings, for a better future.
Most important of the areas of the identity of Ikwo, are peace loving, hardworking, love for one another and our neighbours, fear of God, respect for elders and constituted authority, mentoring and assisting the young to grow by the elders, brothers and sisters, mutual aides to each other and above all portraying cherishable exemplary life, for the imitation of our counterparts everywhere in the world. This if done, will go a long way to bouncing Ikwo, forward to its leadership position, in the society of the human. Wishing Nwanoyo children wherever they are in the world, happy Nnesweoha day.
Long live the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State, His Excellency, Engr. Dr. David Nweze Umahi
Long live the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State,c His Excellency Dr. Eric Kelechi Igwe.
God bless Chief Clement Nweke (PS)
God bless Hon. Nwuruku Humphrey (Chief Whip and member representing Ikwo North State House of Assembly)
God bless Elder Steve Orogwu (the serious incoming Ikwo LGA chairman)
Long live, the illustrious sons and daughters of Ikwo and all others who have contributed in no small measure to the well-being of Ikwo people
Long live the Caretaker Chairman of Ikwo Hon. Chidiebere Egwu for making this year celebration possible.
Long live the good people of Ikwo.