UPON witnessing how Ohafia people in Abia State celebrate the old and aging, you would feel envious of the citizens geared towards the celebration of long life prosperity and good health of deserving natives sources say the feast dates ancient times.
Though several communities in South Eastern Nigeria have their versions of such festivity the celebration in Ohafia is about entry into the fold of elders.
Ohafia is made of 21 communities with Ebem, Elu and Amaekpu Ohafia being called ‘Isima’ meaning central or centre of city. The three communities play host to major events in the town.
The programme is celebrated every four to six years depending on the conditional byelaws of the community involved. It entails the age groups involved taking up a particular task to handle in the community. For instance, they may decide to build a town hall or school blocks or embark on community service. The project ,must be one that would add value to the society.
On completion of the project. They are applauded by the elders’ council of the town usually, who in turn would announce their initiation into elders’ forum of the community. The age requirement is between 60-65years.
But Izu Uche is not the name all the communities call the feast. The name ascribed to it is different in various quarters of Ohafia. The Abriba, Ebem and Amaekpu Ohafia autonomous communities call it ‘igba ota omu’ while Akanu, Asaga, Amuke, Eziafor including Ndi Ibe Ohafia call it Izu Uche.
To begin the ceremony, the age grades involved a re split into two groups based on the age difference. The first set are to celebrate followed by the other age group difference. The first set are to celebrate followed by the other age group within interval of 4-7 days. The event begins with the celebrants meeting at the popular market square of their respective communities. On the first day, they are accompanied to the square by their loved ones under a large umbrella to weather harsh atmospheric conditions except if the byelaws of the respective community forbids it. The males get to be seated first before the women graceful dance performances.
A roll call is made and one after the other, and every participant is certificate. Thereafter, they walk around the whole the whole community phase by phase until the cover the major parts that make up their respective community.
While on the parade, they will pause at major spots and hail their elders in turn respond with love and kindness. It is a period of total jubilation as friends and family hook up with one another in joyous celebration. Often, there would be someone involved in the feast from a particular family in the whole community. At the end of the day, they are expected to go home and rest while anticipating the next day.
The night before the next day is tagged, “social night” in which the young generation of the celebrants seizes the opportunity to stage parties for their loved one. This is their own way of showing gratitude and love to their fathers, mothers, uncles, aunties or elderly friends who are being honoured in the festival. On the D day, every celebrant is expected to have secured a particular location for his or her event. The location is decorated with designs made of George clothing materials to taste.
It is expected that the man celebration begins at noon. Foods and drink are served to virtually everyone around. You don’t need to really know the celebrant before you’re served. The atmosphere is filled with joy and laughter. At this moment, the celebrant dances to music and favourite songs while family and friends respond with love by presenting gifts or spraying cash into the air. This continues till sunset or as the host wishes to stay.
Apart from commemorating advancement in age typically, Izu Uche festivity in Ohafia is a celebration of beauty and togetherness and a rich cultural heritage.