Day Afikpo Community Celebrated Traditional Age Grade Transition As Initiates Take Oath

May 30, 2024 - 13:26
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Day Afikpo Community Celebrated Traditional Age Grade Transition As Initiates Take Oath

By Judex OKORO

It was pomp and ceremony as the ancient city of Afikpo in Afikpo local government area of Ebonyi state celebrated traditional age grade transition. The city was agog with activities as prominent sons and daughters returned home to take part in the traditional change of guards held on Saturday, April 20, 2024.

The age grade transition (a.k.a change of guards) is a unique celebration in Ehugbo land (Afikpo) which takes place once in every eight years on a special Eke market day. The socio-cultural event not only celebrates the age-long traditional institution in the land, but celebrates traditional change of guards of the various age grades across the five communities of Nkpogoro, Uguwegu, Ohaisu, Itim and Ozziza that make up the Ehugbo Town Traditional Council.

It is a festivity of the antique that attracts indigene of the ancient town of Afikpo at home and in Disapora. Friends and well-wishers from all walks of life came around to witness the colourful transition to the various new age brackets of Ekpuke Eto, Ekpuke Essa, Ichie, Onikara, Hori and Rikweri’. The cultural beliefs were passed down by their progenitors and it has been maintained though with some modifications in line with socio-cultural trends. Afikpo is the second largest town in Ebonyi State, with about a million population.

On that day, the new initiates were all dressed in a colourful traditional regalia with loin clothes and long-tail traditional caps in different coluors and designs to match their new age grades. The initiates lined up at their various traditional village squares in procession to the Essay Traditional Council House at Eke Market Square where they were inaugurated and new traditional leadership were elected to pilot the affairs for the next eight years.

THE BEAGLE NEWS gathered that the town witnessed a beehive of activities and social gathering by various age groups, families and friends to herald the day. They were beating of the ikoro drums, gongs, shooting of nkuru ali (the firing of native guns), especially to celebrate the Hori and Rikweri’ initiates. Palm wine was served in native calabash at various village squares. These are reminiscences of age long traditions in Ehugbo community.  They were display of traditional dances and parade of different masquerades to usher in the new leadership of various age grades

Even the women groups, in various communities, were not left out as they cooked traditional cuisines including "Egusi, Oha, Ohe Nsara with moulded melon, Ogbono, and vegetable soups with some swallow including "Fufu, pounded yam, garri and native rice and stew to serve visitors, their husbands, uncles and niece who have graduated to new age grades as the case may be.

The economy equally witnessed a boom following the influx of people into Afikpo to celebrate their fathers, brothers and uncles who have weathered the storm to make it to the next age grade level. Within the celebration period, hotels and guest houses were fully booked as visitors came in from Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Onitsha, Abakaliki, Calabar, Uyo and Ondo to be part of the historical event.

As part of activities to make the event memorable, the Afikpo Town Welfare Association (ATWA), the leading socio-cultural group, in collaboration with Essa Traditional Council and an indigenous organisation, Veterans Media, held a public lecture with the theme "Age Grade System As Strategy for Rural Development in Igbo land: The Ehugbo Village Group in Focus." The Akpokoru Elia Ehugbo lecture was delivered by Dr. Ikenna Bismark Unya of the Department of History and International Studies, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike Ikwo (FUNAI) while the keynote address was delivered by Dr. John Otu on Friday, April 19, 2024 at Ukpa Civic Center Afikpo with Rt. Hon.Iduma E. Igariwey (Okpudo), representing Afikpo North/South federal constituency, as Special guest of honour.

Speaking during the event, the President-General of Afikpo Town Welfare Association (ATWA), Chief Ogbonna Okogwu (Sunny), said the traditional age grade transition is a celebration of growth, resilience and unity among the people, adding that it is also a reminder of the rich cultural heritage of the Ehugbo people.

Okogwu said: "We have hosted the world to this historical event. The change of guards signals the beginning of new traditional leadership in Ehugbo land. It is our own way of celebrating our culture and heritage. It is a day to remember as it marks the era of new dawn in our traditional age grade system. It is our own democracy day in which new leaders, to pilot the affairs of the Ehugbo community in the next eight years were inaugurated. We decided to mark it to honour our traditional institution and those graduating to the various new age brackets of Ekpuke Eto, Ekpuke Essa, Ichie, Onikara, Hori and Rikweri.

Briefing newsmen on the significance of the age grade transition, the member representing Afikpo and Edda Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Chief Idu Igariwey, said it is a way of celebrating the people’s culture and heritage and to mark the era of new dawn in the traditional age grade system.

He said: “The age grade transition ceremony in Ehugbo, is a time honoured tradition that serves as a reminder of the importance of community, tradition, and culture. The change of guards signals the beginning of new traditional leadership in Ehugbo land. We decided to mark it to honour our traditional institution and those graduating to the various new age brackets of Ekpuke Eto, Ekpuke Essa, Ichie, Onikara, Hori and Igweri.”

Also speaking, the former General Manager of Radio Nigeria, Unity FM, Abakaliki, Nze Okpani Nkama (Junior), attributed the sustenance of the age-grade transition and its longevity to the Spartan nature of the people, adding that “from the age of six, you have become relevant to the society, the male child is integrated into the male dominated system in the land.

“The initiation of the menfolk into manhood in Afikpo, which starts at the age of 10, is exactly what the Spartans practice in the upbringing of the male child. The practice has cemented our social values as the male children are being trained in a military pattern. It is only in Afikpo that we do customary canning.”