The event of Igede Agba New Yam Festival which annually oscillates between 1st and 5th of September (usually on the first ‘Ihigile Market Day’ of September) is a cultural anniversary commemorating the progenitor of the Igede people; thanksgiving to God (Ohe) for bountiful harvest of new yams and further prayers for subsequent bumper yields. By divine providence, this year’s Igede Agba falls on Sunday, 1st of September, 2019 where many cultural displays would be showcased. It may not be an exaggeration to assert the Igede Agba is not a baby festival but a popular and age-long tradition.
Despite the popularity of the Igede Agba coupled with its age-long tradition, covert and overt displays of attitudes and actions indicate that there is a lingering controversy which this article is out to address. The commonly observed controversy that girdle the primordial underpinning of the Igede Agba Festival which this piece is out to unravel, is that, ‘the festival is a fetish, paganic, voodoo or hoodoo activity’. This is certainly untrue. It is absolutely free from ritual invocation and entreaty. It is recommended to all and sundry, not limited to Agba descendants as it is not a fetish activity as some persons have erroneously misconceived it to construe paganism.
To deal with the existing misconception and further delusional arguments about the Igede Agba construct, this piece is a must read by the youths, readers, Christians, traditionalists, teachers, students, researchers, Chiefs, politicians among other audience who may wish to tune and toss their minds in line with ethical reality in order to meaningfully construe the primordial construct of the Igede Agba New Yam Festival in Igede society.
A layman may define Igede Agba New Yam Festival as just a drinking and wining event; a period of slaughtering fowls, goats or cows for consumption. This is a very narrow view of our cherished cultural festival! It goes beyond that. Its observation is convoluted and hence, it is complex to connote in just a single definition. It is characterised by a time to travel to family home; getting closer to community, visit friends, buying new clothes, exchange of gifts, merriments, cultural displays, share, generosity, effort to alleviate hunger and designs of way forward towards Igede Development Agenda.
It significance lies in unity, purification, connection with culture and people of blood affinity; identity renewal in terms of knowledge, faith and relics of the tradition in view of the need to foot the young ones on the values, principles and pristine ethical standards of the society.
It is necessary to flash a light on Akpang avowal- declaration of new yams fit for commerce and consumption. There are certain disciplines, rules and procedures for doing Igede Agba New Yam Festival. By adopting such disciplines, an Igede man obediently maintains his moral, social and cultural well-beings. Obeying festive rules are a tool to keep the body and mind actively engaged in noble pursuits of the Igede Development Agenda. Sequel to the rules of celebration, harvesting of new yams before its proclamation is an odious taboo in the region. The totality of observance around the new yam eating express the people’s appreciation and renewal with the Ohe for making the harvest of farm yields successful. The rite of new yam is to re-enact a bounty harvest and wealth for the celebrants. It is however observed that modernism has swallowed the rites of new yam festival in Igede society coupled with decay of value system!
The yam is identified as masculine crop rich with Igede cultural identity and heritage. Various villages make yam declaration earliest about a month or latest a week prior to Igede Agba celebration. Thereafter, new yams can be harvested freely. Before its erosion, the cardinal role of Akpang deity in Igede Agba New Yam Festival was to make sure the Igede people do not eat up their new yams before they get matured and ready for harvest.
Is there any paganism in observing sustainability aimed at preventing food shortage during Igede Agba? No. Hence, Igede New Yam Festival is recommended for Christians, traditionalists, pagans, well-wishers and all who believe in celebration of achievement and harvest.
The readers may ponder and ask! Why is the earth god being acknowledged during Igede Agba New Festival? In response to this question, acknowledging the earth god means that the earth which houses the yam and other food crops needed to be recognised and petitioned for sustained bumper yields.
On the Igede Agba day, the people generally have feast with families and friends. The typical food is pounded yam with egusi soup and sometimes mixed with obono. The event of new yam festival which uses pounded yam as its fundamental dish is primarily an occasion for thanksgiving to God (Ohe) for successful harvest of new yams; and to commemorate the progenitor of the people just as the feast of Christmas and Easter holidays by the Christians and the seven sacred annual feasts of the old covenant in the bible (Deutronomy 16: 1-16 and Exodus 23:14-17).
As we celebrate this year’s Igede Agba New Yam Festival on September 1, 2019, I pray it will enshrine unity, love, hospitality, generosity, progress, and keep us on right tract in the quest for actualisation of Igede Development Agenda.
It is suggested that, while we celebrating the 2019 Igede Agba, we should not forget developmental challenges ailing our society. Some of the excerpts from the pool of challenges facing our dear Nation include but not limited to youth unemployment, marginalisation, underdevelopment, disunity and hatred caused by clannish difference, insolvent political difference, fabrication for political gains, ignorance, poverty, dishonesty and deplorable roads.
On basis of the forgoing, the following suggestions were made:
1. Igede is an egalitarian society. Hence, promotion of cultural, democratic and social harmony; and a conducive environment for growth of the community should be the blood in our arterial pulmonaries! Like the kind hearted Igedes are doing, we should always look inward in the direction of issues affecting community development and efforts should be made towards providing solutions to the same.
2. In Igede society, those who bag awards at one time or the other in life are personalities with sterling qualities who have contributed to humanity but not those who take solace in the backwardness of their God-given relatives. The gist is that, we should make contributions to community development via employment, empowerment or encouragement, if he/she must command respect of both the young and old.
3. Above all, the quality of any society is directly linked to the significance of the shared values. Values such as honesty, perseverance, love, commitment, selflessness and hard-work cherished by our forefathers should be enshrined and instilled among the citizens. To be completely at peace within ourselves, there must be conformity between our deepest values and how we actually live. Thus, we must be committed to our deepest values and seek to live according to them in the pursuit of our personal agenda or Igede Development Agenda.
Do have a splendid Igede Agba, as we celebrate it with Igede Development Agenda running in our arterial pulmonaries.
All non-Igede speaking tribes in Nigeria are invited. The date still remains September 1, 2019.