The Igue festival is an age-long tradition of Benin Kingdom in Edo State where indigenes offer sacrifices of thanks to God for the New Year.
The tradition which started during the reign of Oba Ewuare I has transcend many monarchs of the kingdom. During the festival, the rich tradition of the kingdom is on display.
Daily Trust on Sunday’s findings revealed that the people use the festival to offer sacrifices for good health and prosperity while entering a new year.
The Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo Oba Ewuare II, commenced the 2022 Ugie, otherwise called Igue, with Ugierhoba rites, signaling the end of 2022.
Ugierhoba, it was gathered, is a ceremony where the monarch pays homage to the spirits of his ancestors (enikaro) in his palace in Benin City, with the rites performed on the Ugha-Erhoba altar dedicated to previous obas.
Performing the indoor ceremony, Oba Ewuare II, assisted by palace functionaries, poured libations at the Ugha-Erhoba shrine and used kola nut to offer prayers of protection to God and his ancestors.
Palace functionaries, including Chief Osuan, made supplications unto the oba in a special performance with his ceremonial sword, pledging their loyalty to the great Benin throne.
The Edion group led by Chief Edionwe Oliha, the Oliha of Benin, also played their various roles at the Igue festival which started at Ogiso Era in 40BC.
Chiefs and other palace guilds, including Ewaise (diviners), Ifiento (soldiers) cleared the way for the monarch, while a set of royal drummers took part in the traditional rites.
During the event, the oba, clad in white, led the procession by paying tributes to his ancestors at Ugha-Ozolua and Ugha-Erhoba in accordance with the dictates of the ancestors.
Traditional songs and performances by Ohen-Ebor Oba (priests and priestesses of different deities), along with Emehe (ancient royal praise singers), supplied spiritual renditions to the admiration of all.
The Ugha-Erhoba was followed by Ugie Emobo rites in which the monarch inspired royal fans who trooped out to participate in the blessings of Ugie Emobo in his palace.
The Ugie Emobo, held at the oba’s palace gate where different rites were performed, is designed to ward off evil spirits from Benin Kingdom.
During the rites, Oba Ewuare, clad red, engaged in dancing with his white ivory gong which he struck to ward off evil forces that might be hovering around any part of Benin Kingdom.
This was done after the Esogban of Benin, Chief David Edebiri, also known as the Odionwere of Benin, had performed the necessary rites that drove away evil spirits from Benin and thereafter prayed for the oba and left the scene without turning back.
On Esogban’s departure, the monarch with Chief Ihama, head of the Ihogbe group and Iwebo guild, exhibited a grand cultural dexterity during the spiritual rejuvenation and fortification exercise, while Ogbelaka Royal drummers supplied the impetus and rhythm for the dances.
In a rare display of royalty and splendour, the oba, with his ceremonial sword (eben) and ancestral staff (ukhurhe Edohia), proceeded to Argue-Edion (elders porch) where he offered prayers of protection and bountiful harvest.
As the festival was winding down, family heads preformed the Igue-Edohia rite to thank God and the ancestors for the outgoing year and usher in the New Year with good health and bountiful harvests.
This provided an opportunity for families to offer sacrifices of adoration and supplication to gods of the land, as well as the guardian spirits, for a prosperous new year, protection of the royal household and peace for the entire kingdom.
Chief Isaac Oghafua, the Oyorba of Benin, who spoke on the Igue-Edohia rite, explained that the ceremony was paramount to Benin’s customs and tradition.
He said the thanksgiving was key to receiving abundant blessings from the ancestors and Almighty God.
Cultural troupes, including Uhuala Ndiocha masquerades and Ugo cultural troupe from Ihete, Nasa, both from Imo State, South East Nigeria, also entertained guests.
A resident of Benin, Osahon Osasuwa, noted that the festival was very dear to the Benin people because it afforded them the opportunity to pray and offer sacrifice to God and the ancestors for reaching the year, as well as starting the New Year in good health.