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Anambra community where two monarchs celebrate new yam festival

Yam is celebrated with much honour in Igbo culture because it is recognised as the king...

Ikem-Ivite, an agrarian community in Anambra East Local Government Area, Anambra State, on Saturday celebrated its New Yam Festival with two recognised monarchs.

The festival, which is celebrated with glamour and pomp, remains the topmost traditional celebration among the Igbo-speaking people.

Yam is celebrated with much honour in Igbo culture because it is recognised as the king of crops whose period of cultivation and harvest must be ushered in with thanksgiving, offering and prayers to the creator of the universe.

Culturally, it is the duty of traditional rulers (Igwe or Eze) to perform the ritual before it could be eaten or used for any official purpose by any native or resident of a community.

However, in Ikem-Ivite, the traditional ruler (Igwe) cannot celebrate the New Yam Festival until Akajiofor, a traditionally recognised ruler, has done that. The community still regards Igwe as a Warrant Chief.

The state government recognises His Royal Highness Igwe Aaron Uchenna Obiora as the traditional ruler of Ikem-Ivite, while the traditionally recognised and crowned ruler is the Eze Akajiofor of Ikem-Ivite, His Royal Majesty (HRM) Ideh Ignatius Adireajani. Both exist for different purposes and accord respect to each other as custom demands.

Speaking with journalists during Ilonmo (New Yam Festival), Adireajani said the Akajiofor is the most powerful institution in the community.

“I am the owner of the whole land. I am the one that crowns Igwe. Akajiofor is the most powerful institution in our community. The tradition empowers Akajiofor to crown or dethrone Igwe accordingly. I rule with other kingmakers. After me, comes Okpala, then Ndichie which includes the ancestors. It is followed by Ojiani,” he said.

According to him, Igwe is not hereditary but Akajiofor is hereditary, exclusively reserved for the most elderly or spiritually chosen son of the Ihekwuiro family.

He said having Akajiofor and Igwe in Ikem-Ivite is a major reason for the existence of peace and prosperity in the community.

Adireajani said the two traditional rulers act as checks and balances, and whoever commits evil would be killed by the god of the land unlike many communities where “warrant chiefs” empowered by government sometimes engage “in abominable acts like land grabbing and killings”.

He said the festival is very important because the community is blessed with great farmers who cultivate yams in large quantities.

The event, which was also attended by Igwe Obiora and other illustrious sons of Ikem-Ivite including visitors, featured cultural displays like Ijo, Nkponani (gunshots), Mgba (wrestling by youth), onya (special dancing by women), and others.

Igwe Obiora on his part said the festivity is not idolatry, noting that he would hold his own New Yam Festival at a later day.

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