It was a glamorous fanfare at Egbu autonomous community in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State, last week, as indigenes and visitors of the community celebrated the 2022 Mgbugbuzo/Iri Ji of Egbu clan.
Celebrants clad in their beautiful native clothes as they merry and nourishing food embedded with fish and meat. Masquerades of several kinds were at hand to display alongside traditional dances to give more spectacular and scenic coloration or appreciation to the festivity, leaving the audience aesthetically entertained and emotionally relived.
The festival is celebrated annually by the 21 kindreds that constitute Egbu autonomous community who are effectively represented in Oha Egbu Council of Elders. Yam is chiefly eaten during the celebration, just as the sumptuously cooked maize (oka) salad with oil bean. The festival signifies peace, serenity and unity. During this period no one quarrels, fights or calls police for anybody no matter the weight of the provocation, because the community uses the day to eulogise God for giving them bountiful harvest, as well as keeping them alive to harvest and enjoy the fruit of their labour.
In his address of welcome, the traditional ruler of Egbu autonomous community, HRM, Eze Mitchel Uchenna Egbukole (Ochoronma V1 of Egbu Kingdom), explained that the festival is a long age cultural festival that was “handed over from generation to generation. It dates back to time immemorial. It is an annual festival that heralds the beginning of the harvesting of New Yam…That may be reason Maize, which is one of the crops that is due for harvesting at that time of the festival is used today in the celebration”. Eze Egbukola highlighted that the significance of the festival is peace, tranquility, reconciliation and unity, stressing that the Mgbugbuzo/Iri Ji Egbu cultural festival starts “with truce by the Oha Egbu Council of Elders which lasts for a period of 3 weeks.
The truce signifies peace, tranquility, serenity, reconciliation and togetherness. The end of the truce is then followed by the display of masquerades and other cultural dances while the grand finale is marked with eating of sumptuous cooked maize (oka) salad bean which is what the festival represents. There are also cultural displays and dances”.
The monarch, who remarked that the event is witnessed by people from all social strata given to its richness and wide acceptability, thanked the organizing committee, personalities and other natives for participating actively in the festival.
With the President-General of the community, Prof. Sidney Iheanyi Onyeagu, corroborating that during the period of 20 days of truce declared by Oha Egbu Council of Elders all sons and daughters of Egbu are expected to live in peace and harmony, pointing out that as the festival lasts “nobody quarrels, fights, no police case or whatever tussle or conflict. We are equally expected to keep our environments clean. This is the way we are expected to live, not only during the truce, but also after the end of the truce and Mgbugbuzo celebrations. There are 21 kindreds in Egbu who are represented in the Oha Egbu Council of Elders”.
Describing the Mgbugbuzo cultural festival as a rich tradition which has been cherished by natives of Egbu, lawmaker who represents Owerri North State Constituency in the Imo State House of Assembly, Hon. Philip Ejiogu, cheerfully thanked those who organised the event, the people of Egbu, visitors for participating in the festival, just as he appreciated the traditional ruler of Egbu autonomous community, HRM, Eze Mitchel Uchenna Egbukole, for being good to his subjects and strangers alike.
Ejiogu said he would continue to identify with the people at the grassroots in order to make them feel the impact of his quality and fair representation, just as he does to those at the urban and suburb areas, vowing that he would always use his position to affect the lives of his constituents positively in order to put smiles on their faces, reduce poverty, suffering, rancor, unemployment, violence and crime, saying when people are empowered through functional infrastructure such as electricity, good road network, functional healthcare, including quality and affordable education, good market environment and employment they will be productive and crime would reduce minimally.
“I will continue to be with the people of Owerri North especially those at the grassroots. I will always use my position to attract goodies for my people with a view to affecting their lives positively. Give me your mandate again in 2023, I shall do better and do more human oriented projects to advance goodness, healthy living and development”, Ejiogu maintained.
Thus, one of the elders of Egbu, Chukwuemeka Okoro, commented that “Mgbugbuzo is a revered tradition of yam eating by Egbu clan. We are celebrating the festival because we always appreciate God for keeping us alive after toiling hard during farming season. We are showing off to the entire world that Egbu people have a rich tradition which we revere. Mgbugbuzo breeds respect among young people to their elders. We are deeply happy for the festival”.
Advising youths of Egbu to always take part in the festival in order to preserve it for the future generation as their fathers and forefathers did, a culturally inclined youth from Umuofor village in Egbu Kingdom, Mr. Loveday Chieme Iheme, told them to “emulate the footsteps of our elders to enable us to uphold the rich festival. Mgbugbuzo is our culture kept for us by our elders as founded by our good ancestors”.
Iheme emphasized that “one good thing about Mgbugbuzo festival is that it is not fetish. It is geared towards praising God for a bountiful harvest and we are celebrating God’s handwork and blessings upon us. We are asking God to keep us alive to witness yet another Mgbugbuzo festival. Above all, we are indeed grateful to God Almighty for giving us life, as well as keeping us: we harvest yam, we eat yam, we give God glory for blessing our land richly.”