By Steve Unegbu
The Iwa ji / Iri ji festival in Igbo land has been described as an important aspect of Igbo tradition and custom which the Igbos inherited from their fore fathers ,which they use to thank God for keeping them alive to see and witness the harvest season of the year .
This disclosure was made by the Traditional Ruler of Elu Elu Old Umuahia autonomous community in Umuahia South local government Area of Abia state ,HRH Eze Dr John O.Onuzurike ,Amara nke Ato of Elu Elu,during the 2019 Iwa ji / Iri ji festival ,held at his palace.
Eze Onuzurike pointed out that there is nothing fetish about new year festival ,saying it is God that gives man strength to plant yams and “we need to thank God for giving us plenteous harvest” ,noting that it calls for celebration, even as he revealed that from next year ,” our community will be encouraging our young farmers ,by way of incentives and awards to highest producer of yams ” he said.
He warned against any act of violence during the celebration ,saying ,” we want peace ,I told my subjects to curtail any act of violence during the celebration ,other Traditional Rulers also need to call our sons to order “
In his speech ,Eze Dr Obioha Oluocha ,Oparaukwu one of Obodi who came to celebrate with his friend ,noted that it is always a thing of joy to harvest and celebrate whatever we planted in our farms,especially when they grow and produce well ,adding that “New yam celebration is part of Igbo culture that we feel glad to celebrate”
In his speech, HRH Eze Juwel O Udenkwo ,Eze Udo Ndi Ishi ala Umudi in Nkwere of Imo state ,who is also the Managing Director of Udenkwo furniture and Shangrila hotels ,revealed that the Igbos all over the world are known by the Iri ji festival, urging them to continue to uphold that important culture and tradition of our people,even as he encouraged those in diaspora to use the opportunity to visit their communities and support the festival.
Addressing Newsmen ,Chief Ogenna Nkemakolam ,Odozi Obodo 1 of EluElu Old Umuahia autonomous community ,described Eze Onuzurike as a charismatic leader ,saying the people of EluElu are very happy to have him as their Eze.
Chief Nkemakolam pointed out that in Igbo land , “we use the opportunity of new yam celebration to thank God for good harvest “,adding that it brings joy and prosperity while warning that it is not an opportunity to display hooliganism ,hence “we advised our people against violence during the celebration ,as it contradicts the essence of the celebration” he said.
Speaking at during the festival, Prince Godwin Okwudiri Duru ,Iheanto Obi 1 of Ideato ,who came to witness the festival ,expressed his happiness over the festival ,saying in those old days ,great farmers are known by the number of bans of yam they produced ,noting that the Iri ji ceremony is an important Igbo custom which helps community to grow ,while Hon.High Chief Dr Mrs Maria Mbanuzuo ,described the festival as a nice one ,adding that ” we love yam and encourage the Igbos both the men and women to cultivate yam “
In his speech ,Sir Chief Emma Nwabuba ,Owa of Okija ,revealed that he left United States of America because of the celebration, adding that the celebrant Eze Onuzurike has been his old friend ,hence he decided to come and celebrate with him.
He pointed out Iri ji festival celebration is a means of gathering the people together as well as an opportunity to showcase the traditions and customs of Igbo people.
Earlier on the Traditional Preminister of EluElu old Umuahia autonomous community ,High Chief Akandu Solomon Kanariochi ,pointed out that it is wrong to buy yam in the market to celebrate Iri ji festival, saying the essence of the celebration is to thank God for new harvest season, revealing that from next year recognition will be giving to those who produce yam in larger quantities,