-2020 Ofala Onicha holds in line with COVID-19 Guidelines.
Against the background of the ongoing construction of the Second River Niger Bridge, the commencement of operations at the Onitsha River Port, and the imminent completion of the Anambra International Cargo Airport, His Majesty, Nnaemeka Achebe, Obi of Onitsha, Agbogidi, has called for attention to also be paid to social and infrastructural development within the greater Onitsha metropolis such that these would be in tandem with the new projects. His Majesty was speaking during the 2020 Onicha Ofala which was held on October 11, 2020.
He observed that ‘’whist the Second River Niger Bridge, the ports operations, and the Anambra Airport, would lead to increased economic activity and prosperity in the metropolis, as well as in Anambra and the other South East States, they will also put pressure on an already dilapidated infrastructure in the metropolis.’’
His Majesty therefore called for the ‘’design and implementation of a massive urban renewal plan for Onitsha metropolis based on an updated UN Habitat 2009 Structure Plan for Onitsha and Satellite Towns.’’ He added that “the plan will not only address the current lack of city planning, high level of environmental pollution, and the absence of a well-designed sewer and waterfront and channelization system but will also help manage the outcome of the developments that would arise from the new projects.’’ He suggested that “such an ambitious plan would best be executed through the creation of a Greater Onitsha Development Authority, encompassing the city and its neighbouring towns”
This year’s low-key Ofala is in line with the decision of the Onitsha Traditional Council that the community would fulfill its annual traditional and ritual obligations in a modest way to comply fully with the Covid -19 safety and hygiene protocols. The decision took account of the general mood of the country and was a mark of respect for all persons in Onitsha and around the world who have been adversely affected by the pandemic.
The Ofala, which is the highpoint of Onicha Ceremonial Cycle, was 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 beauty and elegance of 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.
A proclamation issued on June 18, 2020 by His Majesty, 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, Umatu on August 1, and Owuwa Ji, the celebration of the new yam harvest, which commenced on September 26 and will end on October 17.
Based on governments’ review of the Covid-19 crisis, and consultations with the community constituent groups, His Majesty has issued another proclamation, with effect from October 18, to allow gradual resumption of communal traditional and social life whilst complying with the extant Covid-19 protocols on hygiene and safety.