Unizik Igbo Village marks historic ‘Igu Aro’ festival
By Lawrence Nwimo
It was an Igbo carnival at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State as the Directorate of Igbo Village and Centre for African Civilization (IVACAC), held the Igbo annual Igu Aro festival on Saturday.
The event presented Unizik as the first institution to organize the respected Igbo festival and drew the presence of dignitaries including Igbo elders, traditional Chieftaincy holders and traditional rulers of communities in the state as they gathered to perform the annual ritual.
The Igu Aro in Igbo traditional system represents the time taken by the moon in its orbital rounds around the earth about the sun. It is a lunar calendar that measures the time from new moon to new moon and as such differs from the Roman, Julian and Gregorian calendars.
The annual event in Igbo tradition, affords Igbo tribe the opportunity to take stock of the past year and commit the New Year to God in prayers. Each year, during the festival, the people pray for the year’s season, hoping for a bountiful harvest.
For the dignitaries at the UNIZIK’s Igu Aro, it was symbolic as it marked the first time a university is carrying out such exercise, hence, was made colourful with musical renditions, huge turnouts and performances by students of the institution including the Nze Na Ozo titleholders, among others.
The Igu Aro Festival Guest Lecturer and Traditional ruler of Enugwu-Ukwu and Umunri, H.R.M Igwe Ralph Ekpeh said the traditional exercise is the proclamation of the year and what each month of the year holds for the people in a more positive direction.
Igwe Ekpeh, present at the 2021 Igu Aro Igbo Festival and Unveiling of Igbo Calendar by the Directorate of Igbo Village and Centre for African Civilization (IVACAC) in partnership with Anambra State ministry of Diaspora, Culture and Tourism, harped on the distinction between Igu Aro and Ofala festival in Igbo culture and the need to give each its place.
He decried that most people have confused Ofala Festival with the Igu Aro ceremonies, stating that the latter has all the ingredients as found in the former. He further explained that Igu Aro is Oracular, spiritual and ritualistic especially as Eri Monarchs are entitled to make statements of future events and about truths through it.
Chairman of the Occasion, Chief Tommy Ezeonwuka represented by Chief Jude Mascot Obiagu said the event serves to address problems mitigating the development and spread of Igbo culture and tradition, especially in the anglicisation of names.
Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, disclosed that it was ideas from UNIZIK’s IVACAC that gave birth to the collaboration to host the event in the institution, adding that it will promote the culture among the teeming students who form a huge chunk of the youths of the society.
Obiano, represented by the Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, Indigenous Artworks, Culture and Tourism, Hon. Kenneth Anierobi, said the event is in line with the ideas and programmes of his administration and urged institutions of learning to galvanize youths towards sustaining, developing and propagation of Igbo culture and tradition.
He said, “youths are the future of Igbo culture and if the youths are not carried along, portends danger for the Igbo culture. We try to get the youths to imbibe the Igbo language, fashion, food and artefacts as well as lead the charge for the preservation and propagation of our culture.
“The culture and tradition of the people is their identity, if you lose your culture, you lose your identity and if you lose your identity, you are gone,” he said.
The Director, Igbo Village and Centre for African Civilization, Very Rev Prof Bonachristus Umeogu said the festival is a foundational programme for the year and that such has not been organized in any citadel of learning except the novel exercise at the institution. “Unizik is the first institution to organize Igu Aro in Africa and it is a way of the gown speaking to the town.”
He said that Igbo village on completion will serve as a center for tourism in the institution and a place that would house Igbo Science and Arts cutting across different disciplines.
Meanwhile, the Vice-Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Prof Charles Esimone FAS, while lauding the Igbo Village for the historic event, said the university is not just supposed to be the custodian of culture and tradition but proper propagation of culture and tradition of the people.
“Nnamdi Azikiwe University has taken culture and tradition very serious because we recognize that the Igbo culture is vanishing and our youths are not familiar with what our culture protects.
“We want to institute in this university, Igbo village and centre for Africa civilization and one of the things I want to showcase is the richness and importance of Igbo culture.
“We are using the opportunity to unveil the infrastructural plan we have for the centre and we hope to have the structures put in place to serve as a place where people, all over the world would learn everything about the Igbo culture and tradition,” he concluded.
Also, the President General of the Enugwu-Ukwu community, Comrade Boniface Nkwuaku, while expressing his excitement at the cultural exhibition, said the event will inform the world about Igbo culture. He also encouraged the Directorate of Igbo village to continue the trend of propagating Igbo culture and not relent in training the youths to become purveyors of the tradition of this land.
High points of the occasion were the visitation to the proposed site of the Igbo Village, donation of the sum of N10 million naira towards the Igbo Village project by Dr Godwin Maduka, Accord party candidate for November 6th Anambra governorship election, display of the products from the Directorate; official launching and unveiling of the Igbo Calendar.