By Patrick Mgbodo
Anioma royal fathers of several communities in the nine local government areas filed out in their royal regalia, matched with the red beads, like the golden visage of the banks of the River Niger as the Organization for the Advancement of Anioma Culture (OFAAC) celebrated the 16th annual cultural festival with consummate panache.
Oshimili South Local Government Arcade was a beehive of activities on Easter Monday, overflowing on both flanks with an assorted array of Anioma arts and crafts. The Masters of Ceremony reeled out a long list of dignitaries which included the Deputy Governor, Kingsley Otuaro; the Secretary to the State Government, Festus Agas; the Commissioner of Culture and Tourism, Chinye Basim, and other members of the State Executive Council.
As the events unfolded, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa alighted from a black state Mercedes with elegance laden with humility. He took time to exchange pleasantries with over 37 royal fathers, expressing the cordiality between the government and traditional institutions. Like a white patch on the green grass, two men encircled themselves on the sands, brandishing their manly frames but calculating how to outwit the other in the traditional wrestling bout. Momentarily, they would charge and then lock horns to the glee of the audience, like two he-goats fighting for love. Then they would break loose to catch their breath as the routine continued until a back kissed the earth.
As the breeze whooshed gently, tempering the blaze of the sun to a balmy weather, they wiggled their waists to the rhythm of the drums. As these dancers took turns to win the moment, the judges sat in awe as Anioma showcased its heritage through creativity, brilliance and energy. A wise sage once said: “A people without culture are dead”.
The annual festival has therefore become a veritable platform to showcase the aesthetics of Anioma culture and reorient the younger generation with communal values for a decent society. Without mincing words, OFAAC, established in 2005, has become the biggest cultural festival in Delta State. It has been adjudged to be the finest by the Federal Government. It serves as a rallying point for the Anioma nation, helping them reclaim their pride of place among nations.
This must have inspired Governor Okowa to affirm that “what started 16 years ago is still alive and getting better every year.” According to Governor Okowa, “I hope that in the next one year, we should be able to work with OFAAC to put up a state-wide cultural festival in its various kinds because I know that it can be expanded beyond what we have here today.”
Commending Delta South and Central Senatorial districts for supporting him and Anioma nation in the recently concluded governorship elections, the Governor said: “We can only stay united as a people when all of us are participants in the issues of the state.
I want to believe that what you did on March 9 is something that will strengthen the bonds of friendship among all the ethnic nationalities in Delta State. I must thank our people for the peace and support that they have given us in the last four years and I want to assure you that in the next four years, it will only get better.”
Earlier in his address, the President of OFAAC, Arc Kester Ifeadi stated that the celebration was apt as it has continuously emboldened the unity and peace that existing in the state. He said that the cultural carnival aligned with the re-election of Governor Okowa, and added that the election bonded cleavages and rekindled harmony.
“Our organization, OFAAC, will continue to support the building of bridges across the state especially through the reorganization and celebration of our rich cultural heritage,” Ifeadi said. Without a doubt, OFAAC has reawakened such cultural motifs as language and dress now proudly patronized by all, and the arts, crafts and sculptures have become ornaments adorning homes and offices.
OFAAC, a nongovernmental and nonpolitical organization, has not just been a unifying factor for the people of Anioma but has also bridged the gap between diverse ethnic nationalities in the state. The organization has engaged in grassroots empowerment through its microfinance programs and its Anioma lecture series. Through partnerships with cooperate organizations such as Seaman, Rainoil, Zenith Bank, Contemporary Group, Onu Ika Nigeria, Champion Breweries etc, the Anioma Cultural Festival as driven by OFAAC has stood the test of time.
With over 170 groups on display, every ticking off the clock proved to be worth the while. Creaks of joy pierced the ambience as lucky winners carted away their trophies. At the end of the grand fest, Kester Ifeadi, Paddy Ugboh, Emeka Madu, Gideon Nwaomu, Mon Olodu, Mrs Ella Nwabueze, Sunday Oliseh, Donatus Itoroh, Dr Joseph Egwu, Matthew Ochonogor, Emmanuel Ogwu, Afam Ugah and thousands of OFAAC members working assiduously to preserve Anioma culture were all bathed in glory.