… as Umueri celebrates new yam
Raymond Ozoji, Awka
The need for government to revamp the nation’s agricultural sector to guarantee food security as well as create employment opportunities was the crux of the matter at the new yam festival of Umueri community in Anambra-East local government area of Anambra state.
The new yam ceremony which featured display of gigantic new yams, other crops as well as traditional wrestling competition, provided veritable platform for people to suggest to the government what proactive measures to adopt in order to reinvigorate her agro-allied industry.
The traditional ruler of Umueri kingdom, His Royal Majesty Igwe Sir Ben Izuchukwu Emeka, in his speech, underscored the significance of the new yam and why it was important that government at all levels should support farmers with implements to improve on their agricultural production.
He said agriculture was the only viable solution to Nigeria’s ailing economy and stressed the need for youths to embrace it as it was the largest employer of labour and restrain themselves from vices that could plunge them into perpetual jeopardy.
The traditional ruler however described new yam festival as a period the Igbo people set aside to thank God for His mercies and benevolence especially as it concerns giving them rain and sunshine to enable their crops to grow and be celebrated.
He therefore emphasized that the celebration of new yam in Igbo land was not diabolic but an activity designed to show profound gratitude to God for a bumper harvest.
Igwe Emeka also disclosed that peace has returned in Umueri community in spite of little skirmishes in the leadership of the town union. He said his community was not at war neither was it factionalized; instead the community has remained one indivisible whole.
He equally used the platform of the new yam festival to draw attention to some infrastructural problems in Umueri community. Igwe Emeka said, “There are so many bad roads in Umueri. Government is aware of them. One of them is a very bad gully erosion that is threatening houses around John Umeshie road and Chief Okoye street. They are all well known. I have brought government there. They took pictures and they have given it to contractors to design for over three months now and we are yet to hear anything about it.
“I still believe God that government will remember Umueri and do that road. If nothing is done this year on that road, by next year raining season, people living along that road will all pack away because if you go there and see what erosion has caused in that place, you will marvel.
The erosion is already chasing some of them away from their houses and if nothing is done urgently, it will cause more havoc.”
On his part, the lawmaker representing Anambra-east and west constituency at the Federal House of Representatives Chief Chinedu Benjamin Obidigwe noted that areas of specialisation abound in agriculture.
Obidigwe explained that events like new yam celebrations were made possible because of the inevitable role of the agricultural sector, stressing the need for farmers to be accorded more priority attention as he was of the opinion that food sufficiency can only be guaranteed through agriculture.
The Speaker of the Anambra State House of Assembly and member representing Ayamelum state constituency Rt. Hon. Uche Victor Okafor said that agriculture was one of the blueprints of Governor Willie Obiano and that the governor also ensures that farmers in the state were supported with loans and encouraged to form cooperatives to access more government largesse to boost agricultural production.
The Speaker also used the platform of the Umueri new yam festival to thank the governor whom he said has significantly supported the traditional institution in Anambra state, making sure that the tradition of Iri-ji festival was being upheld in the state.
Obinna Chris Emeneka who represents Anambra-East state constituency at the state assembly attributed the celebration of new yam to mean a symbol of unity amongst Igbo people. Emeneka who showered encomiums on the traditional ruler of Umueri for the proper organization of the new yam festival, said government would continue to support and encourage people to venture into agriculture to reduce the menace of unemployment and stagnation.
The traditional ruler of Umuewelum-Anam in Anambra-West local government area, His Royal Highness Okeke Michael Obadile Okoye, said new yam celebration was of utmost importance because the occasion marked the official commencement of the eating of the new yam by the local people.
Igwe Okoye said the tradition of the new yam ceremony should be maintained and sustained irrespective of oddities adding that more people should go into farming for subsistence and commercial purposes.
Meanwhile, the chairman Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria, Anambra state chapter, Dr. Akolisa Ezeagu, noted that events like the new yam festival highlight the importance of agriculture. Ezeagu maintained that the United Nations had made it evidently clear that food guarantee is life guarantee while suggesting that rather than lavish youthful energies on frivolities, young people should channel their energies to agriculture to empower themselves economically and otherwise.
High Chief JohnBosco Onunkwor observed that there was more awareness at the moment because the federal government according to him is preaching diversification of the nation’s economy and that the Anambra State Government was also encouraging agriculture.
Onunkwor said they were encouraging people to go into agriculture because the inherent benefits cannot be over-stated. He said the era of crude oil was going down and that was the remote reason people were encouraged to go into agriculture.