BY SUNNY DAVID
The Ofala Onitsha, the highpoint of Onitsha ceremonial cycle, will be held this year without the usual display of royalty, pomp and pageantry.
Some of the royalties to be scaled down include dances, tributes, parades, music and the art, in addition to other associated events that characterise the festival.
This is contained in a re-issued Royal proclamation from the Ime Obi Onitsha as had originally been first issued on June 18 by Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha.
It added: “Based on current projections, the coronavirus is unlikely to be brought under control, and the country fully opened up, before the end of August and into September.
“Rooted in deep spirituality, the Ofala is primarily a celebration by the monarch and his subjects to mark the monarch’s annual emergence from seclusion, during which period he has successfully negotiated the fortunes of the kingdom.
“This year’s low-key Ofala is in line with the decision of the Onitsha Traditional Council, that the community will fulfill its annual traditional and ritual obligations in a modest way to comply fully with the COVID-19 safety and hygiene protocols.”
The Royal Proclamation notes: “the decision takes account of the general mood of the country and as a mark of respect for all persons in Onitsha and around the world who have been adversely affected by the pandemic.”
The Proclamation also observed: “the adverse consequences for the economic and social lives of the country, will naturally have a serious impact on our own community life in Onitsha.”
Igwe Achebe recently announced a community-based Economic Empowerment Programme as part of a strategy for the medium to long term sustainable interventions in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath.
The low-key approach was evident in the celebration of the earlier festivals on the annual ceremonial cycle. These are the ‘Ajachi’ on June 29 and `Umatu’ on August 1.
At Ajachi, which occurs at the peak of the famine (ugani) period, every householder/family head makes offerings and prayers to his guiding spirit to intercede with the Almighty God to grant him a bumper harvest in the months ahead.
“Umatu is the thanksgiving to God on the first harvest of the year, namely maize. The community, led by Obi of Onitsha, marked these occasions in strict compliance with COVID-19 safety and hygiene protocols.”
Other festivals: ‘Owuwa Ji’, the celebration of the New Yam harvest, which will run from Sept. 26 to Oct. 26; and ‘Ifejioku’, which will hold in January 2021 and signals the end of the harvest period and the beginning of the preparation for the next farming season, are to be marked in the same constrained manner as stipulated in the guidelines for the prevention of COVID-19.
It said that the Onitsha Traditional Council would count on the understanding of the friends and well-wishers of our Kingdom and hoped that the situation would return to normal and the festivals celebrated in the usual manner in the years ahead.