‘Igbo yam festival to celebrate Ghana-Nigeria relations’ (Part1)

September 16, 2021 By 0 Comments

Eze Chuks during the interview

The Igbo new yam festival this year will be more than just about yam. It will be about building bridges, more importantly and specifically people-to-people bridges between Ghana and Nigeria, Eze Jude ChukwudiIhenetu, the EzeIgo of Ghana, tells MARTIN-LUTHER C. KING in this interview.

He said this year’s event will bring together Ghanaian royalty, including kings and queen mothers, as well as top government officials, in a celebration of relationship between the two sister countries.

Read excerpts below;

Q: You have built cultural bridges between Ghana and Nigeria, using specific Igbo festivals. One of them is the New Yam festival, which you are celebrating this month, specifically on September 19. What is the significance of the new yam festival? And why is yam so important to the Igbos?

A: Whenever somebody says this is our tradition, and tradition is how you structure your home. Someone can say, in my house this is where we will be keeping all our car keys. So even when you have a new house-boy, you tell him, this is where all our car keys are. If that new house-boy removes the car keys from there, it means he has defaulted the tradition of the house.

Because everyone that comes in will make sure the keys are there, that becomes the tradition of the house. As your children are growing, they notice what their father always does at home andthey repeat the same thing in their various houses later.

Among the Igbos, yam is a crop that our forefathers respected a lot and among all the crops that they planted, they had so much love for yam. They saw yam as a saviour that can be turned into various menus like; pounded yam or utaraji and yam porridge among others.

Yam could also be used to bless other families, by giving them, maybe, twenty or thirty tubers of yams to plant during the next planting season.

When you give somebody twenty tubers of yam and he plants them, the twenty tubers can give you multiples tubers of yam in future. Automatically, with yam, you are sure that there will be no hunger among various families. So, when you give somebody tubers of yam, that means you are starting something agricultural for him or her.

Our fore fathers saw the importance of yam and respected yam as the king of crops. And life is a continuum. One generation follows and learns from another. Our children are watching us as we celebrate yam festival. Every year people are sewing new clothes hoping that Eze Igbo Ghana and the elders will celebrate new yam festival and even without invitation, people are planning to attend. Think about it: as they are growing up with it, and we are also getting old; in the next twenty, thirty, fifty years, or whatever, this our generation will fly out.

The following generation will then take it up from there. So, it’s something that we inherited from our forefathers and there is no way how we can stop it. Because, if I have a family of four or five children, maybe one person out of those four or five boys might love tradition. So, yam is what Igbis cherish a lot as king of crops.

Q: What are the plans for this year’s event? 

A: Preparations are going on very well. Our planning committee is seriously working so hard. This year we will display a lot of masquerades, we will display a lot of Igbo women traditional dancers, we will display a lot of our youth and traditional dancers. We will display yams and show our people in Igbo farming attires. We will also display our food.

We also intend to use the new yam festival to strengthen the tradition and cultures of Nigeria and Ghana. You will see a lot of Ghanaian kings and queen mothers that day, because tradition is what every African cherishes a lot. Through tradition we build serious bridges.

So, you will see a lot of Ghanaian kings, you will see a lot of Ghanaian government officials who will attend the event on that day. Because we are not just celebrating yam, we are also celebrating relationship between the two countries, Ghana and Nigeria. So you will see a lot of things on that day; the expectations for that day is very high.

Q: How will this year’s event be different compared to last year’s?

A: We have reached out to many people who have hitherto not been attending the event.The Igbo New Yam festival is virtually the same every year and everywhere. It’s all about yam, yam, yam. What makes one different from the others is the kind of people you invite from one event to the next and the kind of display you put up. So when new people attend, when many more people come in, that means that well and are extending the frontiers to many other kingdoms here in Ghana for them to know what we are doing. So, these are some of the new things you are going to see this year.

Q: Which tribes in Ghana would you say share similar cultural traits with the Igbos?

A: The Ewes, they also celebrate yam festival. Togbe Afede and his kingdom among others, for instance, also celebrate the new yam festival. There is also this king from Techiman. Two years ago, he brought about 200 to 300 tubers of yams for me and they also celebrate yam festival. So there are similarities in so many areas. Africans are the same, migration of our peoples notwithstanding.

Take, for instance, here in Ghana, we try to let our people understand that we have become Ndi Igbo Ghana. I married here in Ghana so we are part of the system for ever. It’s not everybody that we give birth to here that will eventually go home; some will remain here forever. But that name ‘Igbo’ will forever be running in our blood. So, if we are growing with that name and our tradition is established very well, the way we are working hard for it now, that means that in future you will see this kind of similarity.

If you go to Equatorial Guinea, for instance, there is Ndi Igbo in Equatorial Guinea. The third largest community in Equatorial Guinea are Igbos; they speak Igbo there. These are Igbos that travelled during the time that country needed more farmers. They went there for farming, and stayed there. They still display all Igbo culture. I’m even planning to link up with these Igbos of Equatorial Guinea before the end of 2022, I assure you that we will make contact with them to see how best we will move our culture forward. That’s a discussion for another time. But what I’m trying to say here is that we are doing this because we want the relationship between Ghana and Nigeria to remain strong traditionally.

Q: Kindly assess the condition of Nigerians and Igbos in your domain?

A: Nigerians in Ghana are comfortable, generally. It’s easier for a father of two to provide food and control the children compared to a father of five or seven children who will likely have difficulties taking care of them such as; feeding them, clothing them, paying their school fees, paying utility and other bills. There will always be a challenge. Among the 5 to 7 years children, one or two might be stubborn, might not be listening to daddy’s or mummy’s instructions but when they are two, it’s more likely that the fear of the parents will be there.

Nigerians in Ghana are no longer just few in number; they are many.

To be continued 

By Martin-Luther C. King