Ufuma Community Marks 2015 New Yam Festival Amidst Pomp and Pageantry

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BY Abuchi Onwumelu

The ancient kingdom of Uvume
(Now called Ufuma) in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State on Saturday 15 August, 2015 thrown into  atmosphere of ecstasy, glitz and glamour as the entire Ufuma Community converged at the palace of their traditional ruler, HRH Igwe S. Chika Uchime (Diji 111 of Ufuma) to commemorate the 2015 Egwu Otute (Ofala)  Cultural Festival.
Ufuma, one of the biggest communities in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State is endowed with rich cultural heritage handed down to them by their forebears. One of such traditional norms inherited from their progenitors is the New Yam Festival often used as an occasion to express profound gratitude to the gods of the land for bountiful harvest after having toiled in tilling and cultivation of the crop during the planting season.

Omega Aromatic Schnapps blended and bottled by Eastern Distilleries & Food Industry Ltd was the official brand of this year's Egwu Otute (Ofala) celebration. Libations were poured and prayers were made in honour of the gods of the land usually done by the eldest members of the family, clan, kindred and what have you inorder to request for more bountiful harvest in the next planting season while celebration rent the air as the new yam were cut and shared amongst the people and they all eat with gusto and relished the joy that came with the new yam.
That was the situation at the 2015 Egwu Otute (Ofala) festival spearheaded by the traditional ruler of the community, His Royal Highness Igwe S. Chika Uchime, who lifted the roasted new yam up in thanksgiving to the gods and ancestral spirits in Ufuma land for reaping bountifully for the little they put in the ground amidst cheers from the crowd that thronged the arena. Masquerade dance and other cultural performance added glamour to the event.
Speaking on the occasion, traditional ruler of Ufuma HRH Igwe Chika Uchime  said the 2015 Egwu Otute (Ofala) festival began with the display of new yams in Ufuma noting that he used Friday 14th August, 2015 as a day to perform the ceremonial cutting and eating of the new yam with local sauce in his palace.
He further stated that Saturday 15th August, 2015 second day  of the festival tagged Egwu Otute (Ofala) all the villages, clans, and kindred in Ufuma would assembled as he publicly declare the cutting and eating of the new yam for the people along side music and dancing.
He said Egwu Otute was part of the efforts towards protecting the customs and traditions of the people of Ufuma community and that the significance of the Egwu Otute (Ofala) festival was primarily to give praises to the gods for bountiful harvest and praying for the forth coming farming season to be better than the previous years. Igwe Uchime (Diji 111 of Ufuma) therefore stressed the need for people to embrace agriculture and strive for self-sufficiency especially as the state government currently placed priority attention on the agric sector.
His words, 'This year's festival began on July 17 with 'Otute Nkpaku' and ended on 18 August 2015 with 'Ogbugbo manu Otute.' Historically, the inception of Otute dated back more than two thousand years ago. Before then. yam was was a wild plant that usually irritated the palates when chewed raw.
'In a burnt bush one of the early ancestors of Uvume (Now called Ufuma) found a tuber of yam half buried in the soil with the exposed upper half roasted by a bush fire. When he dug out the yam and chewed the burnt part he discovered that roasted yam did not irritate the palates. He quickly rushed home to relate his experience which led to cooking, roasting and other forms of preparation of yam for eating. The people of Ufuma hold yam in very high esteem to the extent that their traditional ruler goes by the name Diji which means 'King of yam.' There are many monuments in Ufuma to show the importance of yam. 'Ohia Ihejioku' is an enduring landmark.
'With 9 villages and a huge population Ufuma junction is a beehive of activities. The events planned to showcase our cultural heritage will featured: Local wrestling, Dance groups, Agriculture shows, palm wine competition, Cooking competition, Masquerades etc.
Courtesy calls and conferment of chieftaincy title,' Igwe Uchime explained.
In his welcome address, the newly elected president-general of Ufuma , Sir Basil Onwunze described the as historic noting that Egwu Otute was most effective and efficient channels to showcase who they were as a people.
Addressing journalists, Director, Fidelity Bank, Esv. Ezechukwu Michael Okeke,  declared his intention to singlehandedly sponsor the maiden edition of Ufuma football competition to be contested amongst the 9 villages that make up Ufuma town.
The philanthropist, further announced that the overall winner of the competition would smile home with 500,000 Naira cash prize at the competition. He noted that similar competition is on now in his base at Abuja even as he said the footballing event would start immediately after Ufuma Abuja-based Football competition is played and won.
The consummate banker while reeling out his programmes for the good people of Ufuma kingdom, described football as veritable tool for conflict resolution and development.
Speaking on the essence of the celebration, the Fidelity Bank supremo said New yam festival was one out of the numerous cultural values that is peculiar to the Igbos and the occasion afforded a veritable platform for socialization and other forms of inter-personal relationship as people used the occasion to re-unite with families and friends, establish relationships, watch masquerade dance, wrestling competition, cultural dance displays to mention a few while others feast their eyes on other side attractions.             
In an interview, the chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Lady (Mrs)  Uchenna, Ifeoma Obi, daughter of Late Chief FGN Okoye MON, Chinyelugo 1 of Enugwu Ukwu Njikoka Council Area of Anambra, described new yam festival as cultural identity of the Igbo-speaking people. According to her, culture itself derived its definition from the food, language, marriage, clothing, values, morals, beliefs, taboos of a particular people which distinguished them from others. 
Lady Obi said the ceremony portrayed the fact that yam was indeed the king of crops and highly revered by the Igbo race and all those who acknowledged its significance.
Speaking on her political ambition, Lady Obi noted that she  was into politics to serve her people. I will use my contacts to better the lots of Orumba people. I have contributed enormously to the development of Ufuma.
My scholarship scheme is still on. I have empowered over 3000 widows and widowers in Ufuma and even beyond. With their prayers and support I will continue to contribute my quota to the development of Orumba North and South and by extension Anambra State,' she said.
The action-parked event had virtually all the illustrious sons and daughters of Ufuma community in attendance including the son of Chief & Mrs Eric Frank Chukwuenyem, first indigenous Executive Director of Nigeria Breweries Limited (NBL), Managing Director of Golden Guinea Breweries Ltd and Diamond Breweries (Brewery Executive Par excellence), Engr. Ike Obi whom the traditional ruler bestowed a Chieftaincy title as the Utuagbaigwe 111 of Ufuma ; Media and Publicity Chairman, Nze Chukwuma Henry Nnebe (Agunaechemba); Chief Ify Obinabo (Adaugo Ufuma) a legendary Master of Ceremonies, Broadcaster and presenter with Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) among others.
The Anambra State Government was not left out in the celebration as the State Governor Chief Willie Obiano “Akpokuedike Global” was represented on the occasion by the State Deputy-Governor Dr. Nkem Okeke while Hon. Okay Enekwe Chairman Orumba North L.G.A of Anambra State and Honourable Commissioner for Women's Affairs and Social Development, Dr. Mrs. Victoria Chikwelu represented other members of the State and local executive Council.
There were also visitors from other neighbouring towns , South-east States and the entire country who graced the occasion to savour the rich cultural heritage of Ufuma people.
The 9 villages included: Umuogem, Umuonyiuka, Enugwu Abo, Umuenenwanyi, Umuonyiba, Umueji, Umuaguosibe, Umunebo and Umuagu Ozegu-Umuelibu


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