June 25, 2024

Central News

at the center of it

FEATURE – Obiwuotu turns ‘Ihe-Ebiri’ mega-feast rite into community dev recipe

By Chukwuemeka OKORO
WHAT for decades has been seen and know to be a feast extravaganza in an Ahiazu-Mbaise local government area of Imo State setting is turning into a community development platform.
“Ihe-Ebiri” or “omugwho” in Odu-na-Izuoha of Amuzi autonomous community, was recently turned into a recognition-of-merit fete, thanks to Obiwuotu No. 11 Age Grade.
Here is how the very expensive but unprofitable festivity has worked across the age grades in the past:
Membership of the age-grade system is compulsory; as the sociocultural group comes of age, it’s members start to mark “omugwho” – at least two per year.
The age group would usually task, tax, or levy members to raise resources for a cow with which to “support” the celebrating member. That “celebrant” is required to lavish money on food, drinks and consummate merry-making paraphernalia.
Indeed, at the feast, he would need to prance round the arena with his wife in tow and his son who would be required to bear the severed head of the cow, dancing to the adage-laden tunes of “Abigbo.”
When all the lavish feasting ends, everybody goes home satiated, “happy” but with no tangible thing earned.
This last year, it was estimated that an adult cow would cost between N600,000 and N800,000. The celebrant could need another N700,000 to N800,000 for the other components of the extravaganza. This often happens around year-end and the start of New Year.
This season, Obiwuotu No. 11 Age Grade of Amuzi named one of its members, Hon. Vitalis Chikere as planning committee chairman for “Ihe-Ebiri 2023” festivities, and “omugwho” takes an entirely mode.
Chikere, who is also the state government-appointed president-general (P-G) of the community development association (CDA) and CEO of his private business VIFORT CONCEPT, already feted the age grade for “Ihe-Ebiri” years earlier.
Yet, he was not thinking personal costs knowing that as fingers are not all equal, many members of the age-grade may never be able to afford that lavish jamboree.
Now, in the saddle, he brought his sagacity in business to bear on what many have come to tag “wasteful egocentricism” which benefits neither the individual nor the community. Better to raise funds and husband same for tangible social infrastructure than fritter the same away on mere merry-making.
In Chikere’s savvy, turn the fete into an occasion to recognise achievers across board, with eyes on the honoureds “appreciating” the age grade materially: proceeds to be applied to community development rather than consumerism.
Jibes went back and forth but planning went ahead although that committee to plan was set up barely three months to the Yuletide.
First, the Chikere Committee set out parameters for the programme; built an overall budget of N521,200; approached nominated honorees; and set the ball rolling after getting Chief Patrick Obi to accept chairmanship of the occasion held on December 31, 2023.
Some of the high-profile invitees-cum-honorees, all of who attended, include president of CDA P-Gs in the local government area, chairman of Ndi-Eze in the LGA, and member representing Ahiazu-Mbaise state constituency in the Imo State House of Assembly.
It turned out to be a superb way of celebrating “Ihe-Ebiri” or “omugwho”. In all, 32 personalities were honoured in several categories, with certificates of merit.
It would appear obvious that the leadership of Obiwuotu No. 11 Age Grade, Odu-na-Izuoha, Amuzi autonomous community, Ahiazu-Mbaise LGA, Imo State is certain to be proud at the turn of events for the following preliminary financial report:
Two days after the event was stock-taking. It transpired that at the event ground, N128,550 cash was collected, another N165,000 in promissory notes “redeemable within 24 hours” stood in the books, while pledges amounted to N1.9 million.
On this day of stock-taking, the age-grade heared that all the promissory notes had been defrayed, and more than N300,000 of pledges already remitted through bank transfers.
The icing on the cake was that, of the initial budget of N521,200, the Vitalis Chikere Committee disbursed only N513,200 leaving a surplus on budget of N8,000.