Nri community in Anaocha local government area of Anambra State has celebrated their annual OKIKE traditional festival.
The festival which is as old as the ancient kingdom is a time when the people gather to remember all the male children that died without attaining a ripe age.
The people during the festival also offer prayers, ask for forgiveness, and also pay homage to the chief priest who is the custodian of the Obu Alike Nri.
The event which could pass for an all male affair however witnesses the presence of women who attend the festival but are not allowed to eat any food cooked in the Obu.
However an arrangement is made for food to be brought from outside for the women and every other visitor that are not indigenes of the Nri ancient kingdom.
Various people visit the Obu with local fowls and rams to which the chief priest uses to perform supplications to the gods on their behalf.
The chief priest, Nnamdi Abana told Radio Nigeria that the Okike traditional festival in Nri is also used to recount and remember all the past traditional rulers of the ancient kingdom and all the children that died before their ripe time.
According to him, after the coronation of any traditional ruler in the town, the title of authority which is usually a staff is returned and kept in the Obu where it remains till eternity. While announcing that as at the last count, Nri community has had twenty six kings, the chief priest prayed for the progress of the people and Nigeria at large.
In an interview, the Men born in the community take their turn to pay homage to the custodian of the traditional shrine who offers supplications to the gods asking them to protect and bless all sons and the entire indigenes of Nri ancient kingdom.
Ram, local fowls, yam and other foods used as thanksgiving by the people are cooked in the Obu and enjoyed by only the male children of the community.
Women of the town and visitors are not permitted to eat from the food prepared with the supplication meats but however arrangement is made for food outside.
People come with different issues that they want the gods to solve for them while those whose prayers and wishes had been answered come with items for thanksgiving.
Youths were not left out as they were fully on ground to observe the age long tradition and offer services like cleaning the goats and fowls as well as other errands.
Okike is a festival is na age long event used to remember all still births and male children who could not express themselves before the cold hands of death captured them in one way or the other in the community.
One of the celebrants , Chief Okwuchukwu Nwankwor said immediately after the event, Ulaga masquerade will fall out later in the evening announcing that the festival has ended and that the children like masquerade will continue to feature till around the end of Christmas celebration to enable children who would be coming home for the yuletide to also have a feel of it.
An elder and chairman of tradition in the community, Prince Ifeanyi Onyeso said Nri is the name of god that was given to his representatives who introduced the community and commenced the Okike traditional festival as directed by the gods.
He noted that the event is all about giving back to god of creation (chukwu okike) from where the traditional event derived its name.
Prince Ifeanyi Onyeso noted that the people provoke the gods into action after the processions are concluded as the make pledges, offer prayers and renew their vow through supplications.
The colonial masters destroyed the festivals by declaring them outlaw and disencouraged the people who usually come from all over other towns for such celebration.
The Nri tradition Chairman remarked that sadly, evil acts and crimes started penetrating the communities in Igbo land after they began to abandoned their traditional festivals just because the colonial masters talked down on it and brainwashed them into believing that the Whiteman’s activities and God were more superior than that of Africa.
He therefore posited that if the people embrace their traditional values and cultural festivals like Okike, the level of evil, crime, and corruption in the land would be reduced if not eliminated.
Chief john Nebuwa Abana said the Okike festival has come to stay and will continue to be celebrated by the people especially the children who will after the event continue with the celebration of Ulaga masquerade. He noted that the ritual that are performed during the Okike traditional festival is also to ensure that all children born in the area do not die at infancy.
In an interview, a prolific writer, Prince Chidi Uyamadu from Uruorji village, Nri said Okike is also the celebration of the god of creation, as obtained in so many other ancient cities of the world.
Prince Uyamadu also agreed that the traditional and cultural festivals of the African people have been confused, brainwashed and ruined by Western Civilization which overtime cajoled the peaceful and protective cultures of the land.
He therefore called on the Igbo race to trace their routes and go back to their culture which guarantees love for one another, peace and corruption free society devoid of killings and all that.