It was jubilation and excitement for Umu Aro at home and in the Diaspora on the September 22, 2019 as they celebrated Ikeji Arochukwu festival with friends, neighbors and well-wishers.
It was the day Umu Aro from all walks of life converged on the venue – Amaikpe Square – in great numbers, to participate in the grand finale of Ikeji Arochukwu, and to welcome the traditional New Year.
Thousands of people trooped into the arena to watch various villages in Arochukwu and Aros in the Diaspora display cultural dances, masquerades, drama etc, and to meet and greet.
Before the event began, people were left in absolute suspense as no one knew what the other village would present, therefore the expectation of teeming spectators, observers and judges was high. As early as 6:00am, the organizers went into last minute preparations trying to tidy up the arena, to make it wear a new and beautiful look before the arrival of guests. In a little time, the whole scene had become a glamorous one.
The Chair, 2019 Ikeji Organizing Committee, Dr Azubike Okoro explained the innovation in the sitting format: “First, we introduced a raised platform where dignitaries could sit and view the arena, we tried it last year, it didn’t work perfectly because the weight on the stage was too much. So this year we introduced a second iron stage, one for Ndi Eze, Nzuko Aro excos and patrons, and special guests of honour, while the other was for distinguished Umu Aro – Ugwu Aro, Ikemba Aro, Ada Ukwu Aro, and other dignitaries plus the judges and it worked perfectly. We also introduced TV screens to help minimize the surge as people watched the show live at different locations. Again, last year we had about 25 canopies which were not enough to accommodate people, but this year we increased it to about 30.”
The ceremony started formally at about 2pm with the royal entry of the Eze Aro, Eze Ibom Isii, Eze Ezeagwu accompanied by Ndi Eze Ogo and Nzuko Aro exco members. They were led into the arena by the troupe from Arondizuogu.
The traditional presentation of kola nuts was observed immediately as the President-General of Nzuko Aro, Mazi George Okoronkwo Ezuma, assisted by the Chair, Nzuko Aro patrons, Professor Okoro Ijoma coordinated the ceremony.
After the breaking of kola nuts, Eze Aro representative and the Arianzu, Mazi Oji Kanu Oji in the company of Eze Ibom Isii and Eze Ezeagwu performed the traditional prayers and pouring of libation.
Arianzu prayed for continuous growth, peace and development of Aro Kingdom, asking Obasi di n’elu to prosper and unite Umu Aro at home and in the Diaspora. Mazi (Elder) Isaac Okwara Onoh, Eze OgoAgbagwu, also prayed for God’s favour and prosperity upon the land.
In his opening remarks, Mazi George Ezuma expressed gratitude to God for making Umu Aro see another Ikeji and yet another Eke Ekpe. He hailed the efforts of the Organizing Committee for working tirelessly in making sure that this year’s event was better than last year’s. He urged villages to be at their best performances, in order to lift the trophy. He used the opportunity to thank Umu Aro for electing him and his team for a second term and pledged to continue the good work they have started.
Similarly, the Chairman of the occasion, Sir Chikwe Udensi (Ugwu Aro), remarked that Aro has witnessed a high level of development in the last few years because of the unity and peace that the Kingdom enjoys.
As the theme goes “Culture for Development”, he urged Umu Aro from all walks of life to come together to rebuild Arochukwu.
Senator Mao Ohuabunwa congratulated Umu Aro on the auspicious occasion. He said that as an Aro man, he has always been bothered about Aro affairs and has always answered when called upon. Promising to continue supporting Arochukwu Kingdom to the best of his ability, he noted that even after the election, he was still carrying out projects.
He also donated cash prizes to villages that emerged winners of the competition.
Some of the highlights of the event were the traditional “Iwaji ovuru” (cutting of the new yam) by Ndi Eze and prominent Umu Aro, plus cultural parades by villages.
Agbagwu village, Amangwu with their Odu Mgbede cultural troupe, Amankwu came with three masquerades from Arondizuogu, Amannagwu stormed the arena with their Amarigwe war dance, Amasu, Amoba, Atani came in a different and unique way with a big artistic Enyi (Elephant) which is the symbol of their village. People were more stunned when their President-General, Mazi Chekwas Oti pulled out his head from the open roofed elephant and waved to the cheering crowd. Other villages were Obinkita, Ugbo, Amukwa, Asaga stole the show when they arrived the arena with a crafted tiger and a scintillating performance by the Emmanuel theatre Academy, Ugwuakuma came with Kokoma, Ibom, Ujari came with Ekpo masquerades, Amuvi and Ugwuavo stormed the arena with a seasonal masquerade called Inyi Agbaoku and Atuejeogu. Isimkpu, Oror and Utughugwu were merely represented.
The judges were Engr. Goddy Okoronkwo, Mazi Ogbonnaya Okereke Akumah and Comr. Obasi Praise Genesis and they performed the task without fear or favour.
The following villages emerged top 5: Asaga 1st, Atani 2nd, Amoba3rd, Amangwu 4th and Ibom 5th. As villages received their cups and cash prizes, and were advised to do better next year. Asaga village has remained on the number one spot for three consecutive times. The youths took over the arena few moments later with the Arochukwu Got Talent and Face of Ikeji Aro (Mgbede Aro contest) 2019.
In a fun and party mood, hundreds of youths gathered to watch the show and witness the crowning of the first Mgbede Aro Okeigbo.
Dance, comedy, music, rap and drama competition were highlights of the night show as young people took the opportunity to show their talents.