… matters arising
IS culture not the totality of a people’s way of life? It is a form of identity too. Every homogenous ethnic group has a distinct culture that distinguishes it from other ethnic groups.
A community may have a cultural practice that differs from those of other communities. And so, people of ancient Obosi kingdom have a rich cultural heritage, known as Ito-Ogbo celebration.
The Ito-Ogbo celebration dates back many centuries. It is the collective birthday celebration of octogenarians that is marked with pomp every three years.
The celebration of the cultural festival is marked by mass homecoming of sons and daughters of Obosi residing outside their community with feasting, merry-making and presentation of birthday gifts to the celebrants.
More so, cows are slaughtered for members of the age grade, marking their birthdays as a group and this qualifies them to be called ‘Ogbueshi’.
Ito-Ogbo festival underlines the Obosi people’s appreciation and thankfulness to God for blessing their parents and relations with longevity.
One’s attainment of the great age of 80, calls for elaborate partying when viewed against the background of low life expectancy in Nigeria.
So, not surprisingly, Nimo town, in Njikoka LGA, has started the mass celebration of birthdays for octogenarians with an innovative input. Their adoption of this cultural practice is proof that culture is dynamic and every cultural practice is in a state of flux.
In addition to marking Nimo Octogenarians’ birthday with fanfare, Nimo people have unveiled a welfare programme that will cater for the needs of those who have attained that golden age of 80 in Nimo.
“With this initiative, I have been able to place some of the elderly people in the community on the scheme, where I facilitate payment of monthly stipends to them.I decided to put the social security on ground in order to help them to have a sense of recognition,” said Frank Anthony Igboka, current President-General of Nimo.
“The payment of N5, 000 monthly to the Octogenarians in Nimo is a laudable initiative that I recommend to other communities in the entire Igboland.”
However, Obosi, the community where the Ito-Ogbo festival originated is yet to adopt such payment to its octogenarians and other elderly persons as Nimo is doing now.
Some stakeholders in Obosi who were interviewed on the issue have diverse views.
The President, Obosi Development Union, Uruowulu Village, Mr Emeka Ejindu, said: “In Obosi, octogenarians are exempted from the payment of all kinds of levies. They can make donations on their own volition, however. They are given periodic free healthcare services. More so, it behooves on members of the octogenarians’ families to contribute money for their upkeep.”
Mrs Ebele Anowi, an indigene of Obosi and an operator of a school bared her mind on the matter thus:”Old people who have attained the age of 80 are exempted from participation in communal labour, as well as payment of all forms of taxes and levies. We do not pay octogenarians monthly stipend, but we give them gifts on our own volition,” she added.
Mr Kene Iweka, a member of the Iweka royal family, said: “It is not within my purview to say or recommend that Obosi adopts Nimo’s praxis on social security for the aged. But each community may consider costs of social security programmes before embarking on it. Members of the community should factor in sustainability of programmes, embarking on social security services for the octogenarians.”
The Obosi Development Union Vice-President, Mr Emeka Chude, dismissed the suggestion of borrowing the practice of paying monthly stipends to old people from Nimo.
“Nimo people borrowed the Ito-Ogbo festival from Obosi and added some innovations to it. It has just started there. Incorporating the practice of paying octogenarians monthly stipend into the Ito-Ogbo cultural festival is no doubt commendable and a beneficial social security system. It will benefit old people whose children are too poor to take care of their parents’ needs. And, our implementing the programme will imbue the old ones with the notion that they are loved and wanted.
However, there are encumbrances that can hinder the adoption and implementation of the programme in Obosi.
“A great number of Obosi people have become octogenarians. And the town has no common financial pool from which it can pay the old people monthly stipend. Again, a meeting should be convened, where the issue should be exhaustively discussed, in order to get concurrence from the generality of the people.”
In Nimo town, the indigenes of the community living in the Diaspora contribute money into a common pool to sustain the programme. But does the community have a large number of Octogenarians like what is currently obtainable in Obosi? Can the welfare programme be sustained for a very long while? Time will tell.