By Tony Okafor, Awka
The Obi of Onitsha,Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe has said that there is no discrimination against non-indigenes during Ofala festival in his kingdom.
He stated this on Thursday at a press conference to announce the itineraries for this year’s Ofala festival.
The Chairman Ofala Strategic,Marketing and Communications subcommittee, Chief Nn’emeka Maduegbuna, who represented the monarch said during the festivities both indigenes and non-indigenes were expected to troop out to witness the Onitsha rich culture and traditions.
On whether there would be public holidays during the period, Maduegbuna said only government had the prerogative to declare public holidays, stating that
the intendment of Ofala festival was to educate, inform and entertain residents and visitors alike.
The press statement read in part,”I am delighted to welcome you to this press conference to announce the details for this year’s Ofala. Our partners( Globacom and International Breweries Plc)would also be speaking on how they would be providing support to the Ofala.
“The Ofala is the high point of the Onitsha ceremonial cycle. The Obi of Onitsha is the celebrant of this spectacle which is rooted in deep spirituality.
The Ofala is an occasion for the monarch to fulfill certain obligations. It is primarily a celebration by the monarch and his subjects, of the monarch’s annual emergence from seclusion, during which period the monarch has successfully negotiated the fortunes of the kingdom.
“It is also a reenactment of the joy, which the monarch shared with his subjects, at the discovery that yam is non-toxic, and a valuable source of food.
“The annual Ofala has grown steadily over the years in terms of its scope, social glamour, and intrinsic meaning for us Ndi Onicha.
“An international art exhibition, a youths’ carnival, a marathon and a post-Ofala banquet have enhanced the content and attractiveness of the festival.
“A lecture series will be introduced this year. With the strides that the Ofala has made, it continues to receive both national and international recognition.
” The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) has endorsed the Onitsha Ofala Festival as a major Nigerian festival and issued a specific mandate in its support.
“The Ofala has also received a Certificate of Recognition for Excellence in culture from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. This is in recognition of its corporate contribution to the development of culture.
“We believe we are on course to achieving the objectives of the Ofala attracting considerable national, West African, and international attention, and attaining the status of a major event in the Nigerian, by extension in the West African cultural/tourism calendar.
“Globacom Limited and International Breweries Plc are the official sponsors of the Ofala. Globacom has been partnering with the Onitsha Traditional Council since 2011. Our partnership with International Breweries goes back to 2012 when the then Intafact Beverages Limited commenced brewing Hero Larger here in Onitsha.
“The relationship these bodies have had with the Onitsha community has contributed in no small measure to the growth and development of the Ofala.
Maduegbuna added,”In twenty-one years as Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty, Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe mni, CFR, Agbogidi, has made giant strides.
“These find expressions in a number of areas. They include a modernised and revitalised monarchy, and a leadership the aura of which today radiates beyond Onitsha to Anambra State, the Southeast region, Nigeria and beyond.
“Furthermore, His Majesty has also articulated a vision for communal transformation hinged on a new value system for lifting the poor and most vulnerable in his domain from consumption and dependency to production and self-reliance. This vision is animated in the work of the Onitsha Advancement Foundation.
He said this year’s Ofala is themed:Better; Stronger; Together.
He said,”The natural step is to consolidate on the breakthroughs that have been made from the onset. It is against this background that His Majesty has adopted Better. Stronger. Together., as the theme of the 2023 Ofala.
“It is a concept which whilst building on the gains that have been achieved, facilitates addressing the challenges ahead. In addition, it draws attention that this is “work- is- in-progress” and requiring that “all hands should-be-on deck.”
“This year’s Ofala and the associated events will run over a three-week period in the month of October. Even though celebratory, cognisance has been taken of the prevailing economic situation in the country in planning the various events. We therefore have no alternative but to be restrained in the modalities for the 2023 Ofala.
The Ofala of His Majesty, Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, mni, CFR, Agbogidi, Obi of Onitsha, which would be held here at Ime Obi Onitsha will span two days – Iru Ofala on Saturday, October 14 and the Azu Ofala on Sunday, October 15. The two ritual ceremonies leading directly to the Ofala, Inye ukwu na nlo Eze Onicha (spiritual retreat) and Ogbalido are scheduled for October 7 and October 10, respectively.
“Inye ukwu na nlo is the annual seclusion of the monarch, during which period he negotiates the fortunes of the kingdom. The monarch will after a successful negotiation emerge from seclusion, Inyepu Ukwu Na Nlo Eze Onicha on October 11. Ogbalido is a feast of atonement by brave men -Ndichie (redcap chiefs) and big game hunters. It is also a period for these warlords to rejuvenate themselves. Furthermore, Ogbalido provides each of the three senior redcap chiefs with an opportunity to review the redcap chiefs under their command. “