Chief Collins Anibogwu, the Traditional Prime Minister of Obosi kingdom, in Anambra, has called on state governments in the South-East to harness the huge tourism potential of the age-long New Yam Festival to generate revenue for the area.
Anibogwu made the call on Monday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in his country home in Mmakwum Village, Obosi in Idemili North Local Governmnet Area of the state.
He said that new yam festival as a cultural heritage from their forefathers had tourism potential, which should be developed and improved upon with the aid of technology.
He said, “Igboland is densely populated and if its rich cultures are properly articulated and harnessed by appropriate government agencies, it would help to create jobs and yield revenue to the zone by attracting tourists from other tribes in Nigeria and across the globe.”
He urged Ndigbo to uphold their culture “no matter where they reside, and be proud of their language and other customs, like masquerading, local wrestling and hunting, among other cultural heritage.”
The traditional prime minister said that Obosi people had different types of cultural celebration, including the Agwu and Idemili, which were usually celebrated preparatory to the mega celebration of the new yam festival, called ‘Iwaji’ or ‘Obiora’, in Igbo parlance.
“The Igwe, who is the custodian of the custom, is the first to perform the Iwaji festival after which all the members of his cabinet would individually celebrate theirs to mark the year’s harvest.
“It is worth doing for younger people to see and appreciate,” he said.
He said that the Iwaji festival was being celebrated at different times in Igboland as thanksgiving to God for a fruitful harvest.
Anibogwu, who is also the Iyasele of Obosi kingdom and an American-based philanthropist, said that he came home to celebrate the annual new yam festival to further accentuate his call for the sustenance of the Igbo customs and culture and speaking of the Igbo language.
He said that his advocacy was intended to ensure that the Igbo identity was not lost from generation to generation.
Anibogwu said that during the festival, it was expected that people, who converged for the celebration in the house of the celebrant, would be given a tuber of yam to go home with to demonstrate love and oneness among the people.
“This singular act binds the people together and reinstates the spirit of sharing, which the forefathers had in the past to maintain healthy relationship amongst them.
“We need to sustain such ideas and practices for greater confranternity,” he said.
He said that it was usually exciting to play host to a large number of relatives, friends and wellwishers from across the state during the celebration.
He described the exchange of gifts during the festival as amazing and advised that both the government and Igbo people should endeavour to sustain the culture.
Anibogwu said that the life of an average Obosi man was deeply rooted in the Igbo culture and tradition with the Iwaji festival at its centre.
He therefore appealed to parents to ensure that their children learnt and practised the Igbo culture, in spite of the influence of the Western culture on them.
He said that the new yam festival remained the pride of Ndigbo all over the world as well as a symbol of Igbo culture and tradition and unification, not only in Obosi but all over Igboland.