The Onitsha Traditional Council has decided that in order to comply fully with the Covid -19 safety and hygiene protocols, the community will fulfill its annual traditional and ritual obligations in a modest way. The council will ensure that members of the community do not take any action in contravention of extant laws and regulations during these festivals.
A proclamation 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”.
A major outcome this development is that the Ofala, the highpoint of Onitsha Ceremonial Cycle, which is scheduled for 11 October and 12 October, will be held without the homecoming of Onitsha indigenes, display of royal dances, tributes, parades, and music in addition to the associated events which have come to characterise the festival.
The low-key approach was very evident in the celebration of Ajachi on 29 June. The first on the ceremonial cycle, Ajachi occurs at the peak of the famine (ugani) period when 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. His Majesty marked Ajachi in strict compliance with Covid-19 safety and hygiene protocols. Ndichie (redcap chiefs), Ndi Diokpa(spiritual heads of kindred groups), Agbalanze (titled men), and all householders/family heads also be celebrated Ajachi in adherence to the Covid-19 safety and hygiene protocols.
Other festivals are Umatu which is the thanksgiving to God on the first harvest of the year, namely maize which is scheduled for August 1; Owuwa Ji, the celebration of the new yam harvest, which will run from 29 September to 26 October; 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. All the festivals are to be marked in the constrained manner arising as stipulated in the guidelines for the prevention of Covid-19.
The Onitsha traditional Council hopes that the situation will return to normal and that the festivals will be celebrated in the usual manner.