June 11, 2024

Central News

at the center of it

Iriji Mbaise festival shorn of politics

It is an annual cultural ritual of the Mbaise people of Imo State, nay all Igbo-speaking people of south-eastern and south-southern Nigeria. Year 2023 August was not different in Mbaise, except it added colour nearly beyond expectations of attendees, especially aboriginal Mbaise people including those in the Diaspora.

Invitees and distinguished guests from other lands outside Mbaise among them Imo State governor Sen. Hope Uzodinma, came to appreciate the spirit of homogeneity of the people of five indigenous sub-clans now grouped into three local government areas, display common cultural ambience.

A boisterous spectacle it was, people resplendently attired in native dress styles (others in “English wear” also) making merry at a jamboree that knew neither rich nor poor but respected age and culture. One very happy Mbaise man Hon. Samuel Otuibe tells CentralNews that Iriji Mbaise 2023 was worth its billing as a “Heritage”. The did a superb job of organisation, he said proudly.

This is one indispensable event in the people’s yearly calendar: a funfare for the people to thank God for yet another harvest season. Yam, ji, is the central essence of farming in Igbo cosmology. So, the people of Ahiara, Agbaja, Ekwereazu, Ezinihitte and Ngwuru (the five sub-clans) gathered to be hosted by their kith and kin in Aboh-Mbaise local government area to a most reverred trado-cultural merry-making.

The annual cultural festival is hosted in turns by the three Mbaise LGAs. Next year it would be the turn of Ezinihitte LGA to hold before Ahiazu-Mbaise LGA’s.

Politics does not come into play at Iriji Mbaise festivities. As one afficionado put it, “Our culture was always there before politics; and surely, the culture shall remain after politics.” That was how dignitaries from across all the political parties were without any signs that they were bitter rivals once each mounted the soap-box. Indeed when one aspirant in the impending governorship election in the state on November 11,2023 arrived at the event with a cacophony of voices from an unruly youth crowd bleating “onye na ga ichi Imo abata la” (the person who is about to become Imo governor has arrived) the mature audience showed displeasure, resentment even at the indecorum exhibited.

The way Hon. Otuibe put it was, “We must always differentiate between politics and culture. That day, with most knowledgeable Mbaise people, I stood with culture not politics.” For that matter, that intended distraction did not last or in fact many people refused to take notice. Instead everywhere people concentrated on the thanksgiving atmosphere, with large tubers of roast yam everywhere with fresh palmwine to go grandiose merry-making.

Hon. Samuel OTUIBE

Speeches galore was the hallmark of the festivities for which the organizers were grandly applauded. When yam had been consumed with gusto and washed with literally rivers of fresh palmwine all around, it was time to say the farewells with boisterious handshakes. You would wish you were there, if you were not.