GOVERNORS in the South East have been charged to harness the huge tourism potential of the New Yam Festival to generate revenue for their respective states and the zone.
The traditional Prime Minister of Obosi kingdom, in Anambra State, Chief Collins Anibogwu, made the charge Monday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in his country home in Mmakwum Village, Obosi, Idemili North Local Government Area.
He said that the New Yam festival as a cultural heritage from their forefathers had huge tourism potential, which should be developed and improved upon.
According to him, “Igboland is densely populated and if its rich culture is 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.”
Anibogwu 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 ‘Iri ji’ or Iwaji’ or ‘Obiora’, in Igbo parlance.
He explained that, “the Igwe, who is the custodian of the custom, is the first to perform the Iwajifestival after which all the members of his cabinet would individually celebrate theirs in their respective homes to mark the year’s harvest.
“It is worth doing for younger people to see and appreciate.”
He said that the New Yam festival was being celebrated at different times in Igboland as thanksgiving to God for a fruitful harvest.
Anibogwu, who is also the Iyaseleof 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 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 used in the past to maintain healthy relationship amongst them. We need to sustain such ideas and practices for greater confranternity,” he said.
The traditional prime minister 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 and explore its yield in tourism.
Anibogwu said that the life of an average Obosi man was deeply rooted in the culture and tradition with the Iwaji festival at its centre.
He therefore appealed to parents to ensure that their children learnt and practised their culture, in spite of the influence of 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.