Home ARTS & CULTURE The 1971 Ofala Festival

The 1971 Ofala Festival

by Austin Areh
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Thousands of Onitsha people assembled at the palace ground of the Obi of Onitsha to witness the first Ofala festival of His Highness Ofala Okagbue I. Regardless of the midwestern state, a delegation of 41 Chiefs were sent to honour this Special Traditional occasion.

Organisations including the Hausa communities in Onitsha attended. Chief C.O Nebe, the Ichie of Awka and other chiefs from neighbouring towns and villages arrived in style to watch the cultural pageantry.

The administrator of the East Central State, Mr. Ukpabi Asika and Mrs. Chinyere Asika and many eminent personalities from Onitsha and other parts of the East Central state have all come to witness the first Ofala festival of the new Obi of Onitsha.

Richly adorned in the customary ceremonial robes, the traditional chiefs arrive in grand style. Then one by one, other first ranked chiefs followed. The Ogene of Onitsha, Chief Nwokedi danced to the egwuota, the royal drum played to announce the arrival of the Ofala festival, and the six first ranked red cap chiefs of Onitsha.

The Odu of Onitsha, Chief Mbanefo with all the Ndi Ichie or Red cap chiefs then assembled, danced to the egwuota and to the sound of the royal canon that heralded the imminent appearance of the Obi.

The story of Ofala in Onitsha is as ancient as the Institution of the Obiship itself. The festival performed early in October of each year. Involving days of … a period of deep devotion, meditation and institution of the Obi . Then followed the crowning days of merriment , pageantry and of general celebration when the Ndi Ichie and all the citizens of Onitsha head for the Inland town congregating at the royal ground for the grand Ofala, the one great festival that ushers in another; the Iwawaji or New Year festival.

Dressed in his full royal regalia and attended by his special retinue , it is usual for the Obi to make three public appearances in higher to inspect his subjects and to acknowledge the homage and greetings of his people .

Following his first appearance, the Obi …. then all the Ndi Ichies dressed in casual ceremonial robes , their heads adorned with crowns danced to the throbbing beats of egwuota and advance in descending order of crowning to pay homage to the king.

During the second appearance, the Obi parades at the centre of the arena followed by the Ndi Ichie who continue to chant traditional tunes . Later he returns to his throne to recieve the homage of visiting delegates , members of the Agbalanze society and other important members of the community.

Towards the end of the first day, the Obi makes a final appearance before retiring into an inner throne where he receives the homage of his relatives, but this is usually not the end of the Ofala festival. For on the second day, the Azu Ofala follows. This is the day of the Age grade of Onitsha. The Obi without his ceremonial robe is on the throne to recieve the special homage of his people.

Groups of men and women dance at the court before the throne chanting tunes to the Obi while the presidents of other societies in their elegant costumes heightened the days ceremony.

All the age grades are present including that of the administrator, Mr. Ukpabi Asika . By general consensus, all sons and daughters of Onitsha without any regard for status are obliged to join their age grade and contribute to the splendour which attains the remarkable annual social heritage: the Ofala festival.

Click here to watch https://youtu.be/f4u55-te94A

InlanTown! 2020

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