The famous Ikeji festival is a long held Igbo tradition passed down through the ancestry of the Arondizuogu clan emanating from Arochukwu in Abia state. It is a festival of the entire Aroh people spread along the Southern part of Igboland.
The Ikeji festival is an annual home coming ceremony and gathering of all Aroh descendants from home and abroad to give thanks to Chukwu for making them see another New Igbo Year as the celebrate the spiritual and cultural significance of ji – the yam.
The event is mainly an eight day festival of merriment and spectacular display of masquerades coming out in their glamour to thrill the ever teeming crowd that converge in Arochukwu to witness the annual occasion. The highpoint of masquerade display during Ikeji festival is usually the performance of Pericoma masquerade, a masquerade known for its jaw-dropping acrobatic displays.
The first four days of the festival, the eke, the oye, the afor and the nkwo days are also named after the four native market days of Igbo culture. On the eke, everybody turns up in the market to buy and stock up their homes in preparation for the next day, oye in which all the livestock bought on the eke are killed and made ready for merriment and feasting on the afor and nkwo respectively. This merriment and feasting spans the remaining four days as visitors and dwellers alike go about from home to home participating in the feast.
The famous Ikeji festival used to be an exclusive Igbo festival but today it is a multi-cultural and has also become a multi-racial event going by the volume of tourists that troop into Igboland for the annual Igbo cultural festival.
Ikeji festival literally transforms the serene scene of Arochukwu village life to a commercial hub driving a swamp of tourists, researchers, fun seekers, businesses and corporate brands to one location for eight good days.
With adequate security in place for lives and properties, and the highly hospitable nature of the Aroh people, Ikeji festival has over the years become a festival of international repute and has shown inherent potentials as a income generator in the tourism industry of Igboland.
Each year, the famous Ikeji festival boosts trade, commerce and tourism to Igboland, given the huge interest being expressed by members of the international community in the festival. A great number of Nigerians in Diaspora and foreign visitors never fail to visit Igboland for the big festival which is now gaining international attention.
So, Voila! There it is! I have simply highlighted the economic possibilities and tourism potentials that could be harnessed and developed to make more Igbo people richer during the famous Ikeji festival. Peace!!!
written by Dunu Okigbo