Friday, 9 October 2015


Rt. Hon. Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Enugu State Governor
In the last one month, the Nike Kingdom in Enugu East Local Government Area of Enugu State has been in the festive mood. The people of the kingdom have been celebrating their new yam festival across the various communities that make up the ancient clan.

But the festival got to its climax in the penultimate Sunday, when the monarch of the Nike Kingdom, His Royal Highness, Igwe Julius Nnaji, and his people rolled out drums to mark the 2015 new yam festival. On that sunny Sunday of September 27, the palace of Igwe Nnaji was filled to capacity before 2:00p.m scheduled for the beginning of the celebration.

The atmosphere was ecstatic as the natives regaled in their various uniforms while waiting for the arrival of the Enugu State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who was the special guest at the occasion.

As soon as the governor arrived, by 3:50p.m, the popular Igede music started playing, which heralded the presentation of kola nut to him and his entourage. This was followed by the presentation of several yam tubers by the women in uniform to Igwe Nnaji as proceeds their husbands harvested from their farms in the last farming season.

According to Igwe Nnaji, the presentation was to fulfill their tradition as he pointed out that the tubers to be eaten at the festival have already been roasted and the sauce equally prepared with Igbo fowls. He, however, called his wife, the Ugo Eze, to collect yam tubers from the ones presented by the women to go to the kitchen and cook food for the guests.

By 4:10p.m his wife returned with the roasted yam tubers and the Igwe rose to bless the yam, saying that “those who will eat the yam will enjoy peace, unity and progress.” After the blessing and cutting of the yam, his wife served him with one piece as the Igede music started to play again.

Having eaten, the traditional ruler rose from his throne to go round the expansive arena, spreading the roasted yam on the floor in symbolic traditional rite and belief that “if you did not eat the new yam, you will march on it on foot” as the crowd applauded his majesty, his wife and the cabinet members.

When he returned to his throne, Igwe Nnaji said that the eating of the new yam in his kingdom has effectively marked the end of the last farming season and ushered in a new one. He thanked Governor Ugwuanyi for finding time to come to the festival with some members of his cabinet, saying that his coming has demonstrated his love for his people. He gave the governor one cow and 11 tubers of yam for his wife to prepare his own yam when he gets home, urging him to continue in his good work in the state.

While speaking to newsmen at the occasion, the Nike Town Union President, Chief Ify T. Nnamene, said: “Yam is a very big thing in Igbo land, so we pay very big respect to yam. He disclosed that the festival in Nike was celebrated in the kingdom between July, August and September every year. Yes, the majority of the Nike community will start from today to eat their new yam in their homes. The Igwe is the king of the Nike clan, so he has opened the gate to all Nike indigenes to start their own new yam festival. The significance is that today and in the other days to come the farmers will use the new yam festival to rest, to thank God, to thank Anikewawa, the Nike god, for giving them a bumper harvest as the case may be.”

Also speaking, the Chairman of Enugu East Local Government Area and young brother of the traditional ruler, Prince Cornelius Nnaji, popularly known as Ike Nike, thanked Governor Ugwuanyi for coming to celebrate with the people of their kingdom.

He said: “Our new yam festival is a ceremony we do once in every year to thank God for the food, to thank God for good health, to thank God for long life and prosperity.”

Prince Nnaji who is also the Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) said that the new yam festival has helped to unify the various communities in their kingdom.

In his own words: “Today is the conclusion of the new yam festival in the entire Nike Kingdom. Other autonomous communities have been doing their own new yam festivals for the past months, but today Igwe Julius Nnaji is concluding it in his palace which is attended by His Excellency, the governor of Enugu State, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.”

“Why the women brought out the yams that were presented to the Igwe, saying the women are in-charge of the food in the house, men can go to the farm with the women, but the women are the ones to cook the food. So, what you saw there was the culture of our people being demonstrated. The men had gone to the farm to produce the yams and the women today brought out the yams to showcase to the public and cook it for eating.”

The ALGON boss also said that the festival would in the evening enter into the second phase which is the dancing of the masquerades.

He said: “That will be the climax of the ceremony today. The Igwe will go out to the village square with the elders of the community to do this. Today, the Igwe is concluding the new yam festival in Nike Kingdom, nobody can do any new yam festival again in Nike Kingdom after today.”

Prince Nnaji expressed optimism that in the years ahead the Nike Kingdom would use its new yam festival celebration to attract tourists, saying: “This is in progress, from today, we are growing, and this is the first time a governor is attending the new yam festival in Nike Kingdom. By next year we pray we will put in new programmes that would attract tourists.”

Other dignitaries who attended the ceremony included Senator Ben Collins Ndu, the Vice Chancellor of Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Prof Luke Anike, former House of Representatives member and now Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Chief Hon. Chijioke Edoga, Commissioner for Information, Dr. Godwin Udeuhele, among others. (sun)