-Holds October 11 and 12 in line with COVID-19 protocols.
The Ofala Onicha, which is the highpoint of Onitsha Ceremonial Cycle, will be held this year without the usual display of royal dances, tributes, parades, music, and art, in addition to other associated events which have come to characterise the festival. Rooted in deep spirituality, the Ofala is primarily a celebration by the monarch and his subjects to mark the monarch’s annual emergence from seclusion, during which period he has successfully negotiated the fortunes of the kingdom.
This year’s low-key Ofala is in line with the decision of the Onitsha Traditional Council, that the community will fulfill its annual traditional and ritual obligations in a modest way to comply fully with the Covid -19 safety and hygiene protocols. The decision takes account of the general mood of the country and is a mark of respect for all persons in Onitsha and around the world who have been adversely affected by the pandemic.
A proclamation issued on June 18, 2020 by His Majesty, Nnaemeka Achebe, Agbogidi, Obi of Onitsha, which provided the rationale for the decision, stated that “based on current projections, the coronavirus is unlikely to be brought under control, and the country fully opened up, before the end of August and into September”. The proclamation also observed that “the adverse consequences for the economic and social lives of the country, will naturally have serious impact on our own community life in Onitsha”. His Majesty has recently announced a community-based Economic Empowerment Programme as part of a strategy for medium to long term sustainable interventions in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath.
The low-key approach was very evident in the celebration of the earlier festivals on the annual ceremonial cycle. These are Ajachi on June 29 and Umatu on August 1. At Ajachi, which occurs at the peak of the famine (ugani) period, every householder/family head makes offerings and prayers to his guiding spirit to intercede with the Almighty God to grant him a bumper harvest in the months ahead. Umatu is the thanksgiving to God on the first harvest of the year, namely maize. The community, led by His Majesty, marked these occasions in strict compliance with Covid-19 safety and hygiene protocols.
Other festivals : Owuwa Ji, the celebration of the new yam harvest, which will run from September 26 to October 26 ; and Ifejioku, which will hold in January 2021 and signals the end of the harvest period and the beginning of the preparation for the next farming season, are to be marked in the same constrained manner as stipulated in the guidelines for the prevention of Covid-19
The Onitsha Traditional Council counts on the understanding of the friends and well-wishers of our Kingdom and hopes that the situation will return to normal and the festivals celebrated in the usual manner in the years ahead.