Achina, a community in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, was in an upbeat mood recently during the celebration of Idegwu Day Festival.
Idegwu, the ancestral identity of the community that dates back to over 1,000 years, brings the entire community together every three years.
Achina is made up of three large quarters, Eselle, Umueleke and Umuezeiyi. The community is known for its historic war exploits, education and success in commercial ventures.
The festival was culture at its best, with several masquerades on display. The famous Ezekoro Spring Water, which has 245 steps, was a tourist centre. The beautiful maidens from the community who participated in a beauty contest fetched water from the stream to the admiration of many tourists.
Activities lined up for the festival commenced with an evening procession at the Ezekoro Shrine, where 84-year-old Nze Nnebelam Onyetusionu, with representatives of the three quarters, poured libations and prayed for the continuous blessing of the people and their advancement. This was followed by a procession of young masquerades who paraded the Oye market in large numbers.
The grand finale was an enthralling event with nonstop fun. Heralding the event was a 21-gun salute as early as 5am, before an interdenominational church service.
The arrival of the traditional ruler of the community, members of the Igwe-in-Council and the town union executives at the Amaiyi field, venue of the festival, set the tone for the day’s activities. Next was the arrival of former Chief of Air Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, representative of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, and the senator representing Anambra South in the National Assembly, Emmanuel Andy Ubah.
The march past by various branches of Achina Town Union, including the women’s wing, was spectacular.
Chairman on the occasion, Chief John Bosco Onunkwo, an engineer and politician from the neighbouring community of Umuchu, lauded the harmonious relationship existing between Achina community and its neighbours. He described Achina as a town blessed with many people with good leadership qualities and prayed that the town and its people would continue to grow from strength to strength.
Chairman of the planning committee for the Idegwu Day, Chief Modestus Umenzekwe (Onwa Achina), expressed joy as the people assembled for the triennial celebration. He noted that Achina people never played second fiddle to anyone or group and urged the people to remember where they were coming from.
Describing the event as the arrival of the day of glory, he charged the people to seize the opportunity to chart a new course.
“While we embrace modernity, our past cannot be thrown away. History never alters much in its texture. If you do not know your history, blame not anyone when things fall apart and the centre fails to hold. Our resolve should be to move as one because unity is vital. We must market ourselves. Beyond turning Ezekoro Spring Water with its 245 steps into a tourist site, some financial gains will also accrue from doing business with the spring water.
“When we say Achina-di-egwu, it means a lot and we must believe in ourselves. Achina should also be politically-correct in the present dispensation. It is no cheery news that, almost three decades after, we have not produced a senator,” he said.
President-general of Achina Town Union, Chito Ezeani, a lawyer, explained that the celebration also marked 18 unbroken years of a post-crisis town union and its synergetic and harmonious blend with the traditional institution. He counselled the people to desist from creating camps and enthroning parochial concepts of “we and them” in the governance and affairs of Achina.
The traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Godwin Obiora, described peace as the bedrock of every human achievement. He noted that the prevailing peace in the community made it possible for the people to gather and celebrate every three years in commemoration of the great achievements of their forefathers.
Former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, in a goodwill message, congratulated the people of Achina on the successful celebration and prayed that God would continue to give them glorious outings and opportunities.
Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Fashola, also described Achina people as “great.” He noted that, from what he had seen at the festival, the people had built themselves into a sophisticated socio-cultural and political system using various values as tools for development.
Catholic Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Most Rev. Hillary Okeke, in his own message, expressed confidence that the occasion had renewed the fervour for authentic development of the people and their culture. He urged the indigenes to remain faithful also in pleasing God, while assuring them of his constant prayers.
With a scintillating musical performance by Chika Okpala, a renowned gospel singer and an indigene of the community, Oledibe Chinelo was crowned the Ada Idegwu while 10 others were recognised as pillars of development in Achina community for their critical interventions. They include Chiefs Oliver Uba, Bonny Ezeaka, Martin Okpala, and Modestus Umenzekwe (road construction), Chief Emeka Obieli (streetlights), Modestus Umenzekwe and OCJ Ezechukwu (politics) Prof. Elisiobi Ndiokwelu (education), Chief Tounnel Ezeunala (hall), Chief Malachy Ezeoke (network) and Chief Cyril Okpalaohanu (sports).