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Ogugu Aro Umueri: Rekindling the flame of Ancestral worship

Chief Peter Edochie

By Nkiru Nwagbo

Nollywood superstar Chief Peter Edochie was in his element when he attended the Ogugu Aro festival of his maternal home Umueri in the Anambra East local government area.

The festival which is over five hundred years old was yet another opportunity for the community to X-ray the past and make a foray into the future as the land.

Edochie’s dance steps painted the picture of those days when valor and great spirit held sway across Igbo land. According to Edochie who also graced the occasion said that this festival is over five hundred years old and it is performed every year to mark the end of the year and the beginning of a new year.

Edochie who appeared to have re-echoed the words of late Prof Chinua Achebe in one of his books where he said” the Igbo market days are four, but the white man says it is seven” ;“You see Ndigbo has ten months that make one year and not twelve months as the white man claims. Of Continuing Edochie said; ” During the Ogugu Aro festival the Chief Priest after going into spiritual hibernation for days without eating, drinking or having contact with the outside world comes out spiritually strong to make predictions and what is expected to happen the year to come and last two years he had predicted a strange illness that would befall the land and he also predicted that it would claim lives.

“Today we have COVID 19 pandemic and that is what we are facing today. The predictions could also be a year of a bountiful harvest from our farmlands and it could be a prediction of impending doom about to fall on the land.

“This is an age-long tradition that is not anti Christianity because for you to enter the shrine, you must be clean and devoid of blemish. he added.

The Chief Priest, Ajeh Uchechukwu Nwabunwanne while breaking the traditional kola nut, revealed that the year 2021 would produce a bounty agricultural harvest adding that more solutions would be found for mysterious illness across the land.

He further warned that families and villages should endeavor to eschew bickering over land as according to him may spell doom for the people.

Also speaking the senator who formerly represented Anambra North Senatorial zone, Senator Emmanuel Anosike explained that,” This is not a joke. This is the tradition of our people and the position of a Chief Priest is the sole decision of the deity and it has nothing to do with age and as you can see the current Chief Priest is a young man and even the traditional ruler of Umueri cannot break the kola nut during the festival of Ogugu Aro because it is his right to do so.

This tradition is over five hundred years old and because the deity stands for justice and equity, people would always reverence it.

Mr. Jude Nwoye whose home is opposite the ancient shrine recalled that three persons who went on hibernation inside the shrine died following their uncleanliness before the deity.

“This place signifies purity and cleanliness and this is not a comic thing or an amusement park but serious spiritual activity and people visit the deity to also obtain justice when they cannot get one among their kith and kin and it works.

You must be sure that you are innocent of the allegations leveled against you and when you seek justice you must make a promise of what you can afford to thank the deity for vindicating you and not what you cannot do because it also has grave deadly implications that you would not find funny, he said.

The occasion also was an opportunity for the Odimma Umueri; a foundation set up by some elites of the community to announce a scholarship scheme and vocational training scheme for the youths in the area.
According to the coordinator of the foundation and former President General of Umueri General Assembly Chief Godwin Obidike “We have set up a foundation for our youths who would be trained in school and other vocational studies so that crime rate would be reduced in our town and most Umueri elites are keying into it and we are targeting about 150 youths this year alone.

For Ogalagidi Pete Edochie it was yet another platform to encourage the sustainability and missionary of Igbo traditional beliefs, culture, and religious practices which according to him was made manifest in the Ogugu Aro festival.

It would be recalled that the Ogugu Aro festival in Umueri mythology was traced from when the descendants of Eri the fifth son of Gad, the seventh son of Jacob migrated from Israel and settled in a place known today as Umueri.

The mythology also has it that Umueri is the most ancient community in Igbo land and this is one of the reasons they are addressed as the cradle of the Igbo race.

It is also being canvassed that the Jewish traditional mode of worship is still widely in practice in the Umueri community which includes gathering stones to form an altar, animal blood sacrifice on the altar of stones, burnt sacrifices, and cleansing with a pure animal.

The Ogugu Aro festival occupies a prime position in the life of the average Igbo man due to various factors which include the Divine nature that comes out of the festival.

This Divine nature depicts what would take place in a given year – Oracular utterances of the priest in regards to what to expect during the harvest seasons and to this the Igbos hold dear and sacred.

A festival of this nature that attracted men and women from all walks of life needs the encouragement, support, and sponsorship of the Igbo race who can leverage this development to evangelize the rich cultural heritage of their people.

As the Umueri community awaits the blessings of the new year and its challenges, the Igbo mythology indeed brings to the fore those ancient history and beliefs and practices that would go a long way in protecting and securing the Igbo tradition that has suffered the erosion of Western Civilization.
It is also instructive that government and stakeholders in the culture and tourism sector tap from the values and socio-economic advantages of the Ogugu Aro festival in Igbo land.

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Augustine Aminu

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