His Royal Highness the Agbogidi of Onitsha Celebrates his Ofala in Style The Obi of Onitsha; Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe comes out in gra
The Onitsha Ofala festival dates back to about 700 years ago, at the time of Eze Chima, the first monarch, who migrated to the area, now known as Onitsha (Henderson 42-46). In those early days, the King of Onitsha, referred to as, Igwe-Onitsha, was always confined to the palace. He did not have any business going anywhere because the responsibilities of administering the community was assigned to his lieutenants, who are the elders, known as the Ndi-Ichie, and other rank and file of the community. The Igwe, also known as the Obi-Onitsha, only made public appearances during the Ofala festival. It is pertinent to note here that the Ofala festival is celebrated only once a year, precisely in the month of October, the period that is the climax of the celebration of the new yam.
Four days before the festival, the Igwe goes into seclusion. He retreats to commune with his ancestors, and to thank them for protecting him and his subjects for the past one year as well as pray for peace and prosperity in the year to come.On the day of the festival, the Obi makes three appearances. After the early morning rituals, the trumpeters announce his entry before he shows up, fully dressed in his royal regalia, highlighted with the royal crown (okpu ododo), acknowledging the crowd that would have gathered by waving at all the directions to the people and then returns inside.
During the second outing, the trumpets are blown again and the Obi comes out and seats on his throne. This is followed by the entrance of the red-capped chiefs (ndi-Ichie) also well-dressed in their traditional attires in batches, according to their village music and in order of seniority, proceed to pay homage to the Obi by kneeling down to bow before him and sing his praises, after which he now performs the function of Iwa-ji (celebration of the first yam) to mark the official declaration of harvest season. After this, the Igwe (Obi) returns into the inner chambers before he finally comes out the third time.
At the third entry, the royal music plays and sets, the rhythm for Obi’s dancing (egwu ota) as he makes his appearance, amid cheers and praises from the crowd, he steps into the arena and dances to the tune of the drummers. He dances in turns with his first wife, his first son and first daughter and returns to his throne giving way to a parade of dances by different groups such as titled men, the Otu Odu Association, age-grade groups, friends and well-wishers all dressed in colourful traditional apparels.
It serves as a rites of renewal of the king or Obi.The term ofala, is derived from two Igbo words – ofo (authority) and ala (land).The festival is celebrated within two days mostly in October by the king or Obi.