The historical Ofala Festival in Igboland is usually celebrated towards the end of every conventional year as an event that marks the end of the 13th month in Igbo calendar and the beginning of another Igbo year (Igu Aro).
The festival is also celebrated as a sign of authority and legitimacy bestowed on the traditional ruler in the land to guide the people on the path of truth and wisdom. Hence, it is titled Ofo (Authority) Ala (Land).
The age long Ofala festival has remained a unifying force, and part of the identity of our people since the days of our ancestors. It is an annual event that has been passed on from generation to generation all over Igboland. We, Igbos, are proud to have this uncommon ancestral social event.
Today, the age long social tradition has gained global recognition, therefore, it has become a major tourist attraction in Igboland. During Ofala festival, Igbo sons and daughters with their families from different parts of Igboland, Nigeria, and Diaspora assemble in our respective communities at the Palace of our traditional rulers to celebrate this important and colourful festival.
This is because our respective traditional rulers have remained strong pillars of our motherland –Ani Igbo, and we support them and pray for their reigns to continue to impact positively on all Igbos.
We use the festival to pray for our traditional rulers for continued God’s mercy, protection and wisdom to lead us, and also for God to avert every kind of evil that had befallen our people in the past, and for development, peace and unity all over Igboland.
We, Igbos, also believe each edition of Ofala festival will result to stronger bonding of our communities, and also make for our progress as a people.
The Ofala Festival usually starts with twenty-one gun salute followed by an all night music and other cultural activities. On the second day, thousands of Igbo men and women all dressed in traditional attire gather at the palace of the traditional rulers in their respective communities.
Prior to the gathering of the crowd, the red-cap chiefs dressed in native wears arrive at the palace independently and proceed to the traditional ruler’s throne in order of seniority. The highlight of the festival is the arrival of the traditional ruler in his royal regalia before the hailing of the crowd made up of his people, friends, and well-wishers.
The festival, which is celebrated as a way to keep the heritage of Igboland alive, is also an occasion for the traditional ruler to honour deserving individuals with chieftaincy titles.
Written by Dunu Okigbo