19th August, 2011
The Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty Nnaemeka Achebe kicked off the celebrations of Ofala Festival with the performance of the prelude, Umato amidst the pomp and pageantry that is customary of the annual event, last Tuesday.
The Umato, a significant day in the cultural calendar of the Onitsha people, signifies the end of the planting and starvation season and the beginning of the period of harvest and plenty for the people of the kingdom. It is the day the Obi of Onitsha performs the traditional rite of declaring the period of dryness ended, and the beginning of the harvest season.
The 2011 edition of the age-long festival is being sponsored by the leading telecommunication company, Globacom, which penultimate Sunday at the palace of the Obi, signed a Memorandum of Understanding that would enable the company to sponsor the festival for three consecutive years, beginning from the 2011 edition, through 2013.
The year 2012 edition of the festival is particularly significant as that will mark the 10th year coronation anniversary of Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe as the Obi of Onitsha. Globacom, has promised to make it as memorable as the coronation itself.
Performing the Umato at the Ime Obi, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, decked in immaculate white attire and white shoes to match, personally served traditional corn meal to all the palace chiefs and those who witnessed the ceremony, thus signaling the commencement of the good season of harvesting. The Umato will also be replicated by other key families thereafter.
Globacom, it would be recalled, had while signing the MOU of Ofala Festival sponsorship, promised to give international impetus to the festival and make it the envy of all other festivals in the Black African race.
The Regional Director, Marketing Communications, West Africa of the company, Mr. Charles Jenarius, had at the ceremony reiterated that Globacom will deploy its spirit of invention and ingenuity to add more glitter to the gold that Ofala festival already represents.
Ofala Festival, otherwise known as the New Yam Festival, is celebrated yearly by the people of Onitsha to commemorate the fear expressed by their forefathers that yam, a non-native crop of the Onitsha people, could be injurious to man on consumption.
The festival is celebrated by the people to mark their triumph over the crop, which consumption in those days, started with the smallest community, but rather than killing the people, the people â€œkilledâ€ the crop by eating it and suffered no ill health thereafter.