OFAAC And The 9th Anioma Cultural Festival Any Lessons Learnt

The Anioma Cultural Festival has been held and as usual the Organization For the Advancement of Anioma Culture (OFAAC) has wonderfully put smiles on our faces but it is just relatable that as a people we look back and appraise ourselves to determine our performance. This will help us to do better in the future. However, before we go further on this, credit must be given to OFAAC, an organization with substance; an organization that untiringly and intrepidly work round the clock including funding the cultural fiesta to promote and preserve our culture; an organization that has now succeeded in putting our Anioma region in tourist destination.

The Anioma Cultural Festival may be gaining impulsion in some quarters but it is still requires the support of all. The Organization For the Advancement of Anioma Culture, the culture umbrella of the Anioma people was founded in November 2003 by Arc Kester Ifeadi. Its core focus is on preservation, promotion and advancement of the rich cultural heritage of the Anioma people and Nigeria. OFAAC is non-governmental and non-political organization and membership spans across all classes of people in Nigeria and in the Diaspora.

Its major aims and objectives are as follows:

(i)            Preservation, promotion and advancement of the appreciation and development of the rich cultural heritage of the Anioma people and Nigeria.

(ii)           To promote positive self-esteem and natural identity amongst the youth

(iii)         To promote the use of traditional attires

(iv)         To encourage traditional crafts for technology, tourism and economic stabilization in rural areas

(v)          To carry out researches and documentations of our cultural heritage

(vi)         To package and promote the unique culture of Anioma for national/international tourism.

The Organization For the Advancement of Anioma Culture may have achieved more than its social calculations having consistently and successfully put together nine cultural festivals for the region. OFAAC is also on record as an organization that has pulled the highest number of Anioma traditional rulers at a single forum. This record is hard to negate considering that it involves the support of traditional rulers who are the bywords of the people’s culture. OFAAC has also worked hard to achieve this, considering that it is a non-profit and non-political group with no political bait or any money to distribute.

It is purely a social inclined group with the cultural interest of its people standing as chief aims and objectives. It is on this basis that it sets out to preserve and promote some of the already becoming extinct cultures of its people. Dance culture, Dress culture, traditional wrestling and masquerade dance are some of them. OFAAC is doing for its own people what should be done; rightly they have chosen an endeavour and courageously they are on a mission. They are winning the cultural race and the people are rejoicing.

OFAAC’s achievements may not be in vain as it was in 2005 pronounced the finest cultural event in Delta State by the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism which of course is a testimony of hard-work as well as consistency in the endorsement of the people’s culture. Again, it won the heart of the Omu of Okpanam and Anioma, HRM, Dr Martha Dunkwu who recently announced the presentation of a parcel of land in Okpanam to OFAAC.

This year’s event of the festival shows that the festival has grown tremendously with a remarkable improvement in standard. This particular one attracted about 98 groups that engaged themselves in a healthy competition and larger witnesses than what it has been in the past which shows astounding improvement in display since the last performance. It may also have received wider publicity from the press whether from print or electronic media and no doubt has enjoined the best talked about cultural festival at the moment.

One remarkable feature of the event was methodical and sequential arrangement made possible by consistency and experience. For one, the participants appear to have acquired mastery of the cultural fiesta so that sequence has been greatly established giving the event tang. Regularity in the organization of the programme has also facilitated participants’ understanding of their roles thus ably preparing themselves towards every coming edition. Every participating group is now a beauty to behold.

We also notice that the events of the Anioma Cultural Festival have become more competitive in a healthy manner. This year’s event has also come in defined classifications; categories that existed in Primary school, Secondary school, Egwu Eshushu, Royal category, Aguba, War, Uloko, Creative, wrestling, Masquerade and Overall winners. Proper classification of competitions has ensured speedy conclusion of the event and also ensured that more winners emerged. In all about 27 total winners emerged at the event which is progressive for the region.

There is no doubt that the cultural fiesta is fast gaining ground internationally becoming the tourists’ destination. Hard-work has simply been the secret of the organizers. All roads now lead to Asaba in anticipation of the Anioma Cultural Festival. MTN Nigeria and Seaman Schnapps, the major sponsors of this year’s event have reiterated their stanchness in standing behind the Anioma people and organizers of the Anioma Cultural Festival, helping the region to showcase its culture to the entire world.

By far, the greatest achievement of this year’s Anioma Day is the participation of Igbanke dance troupe. OFAAC has commendably scored a point by uniting Igbanke with their Anioma kith and kin thus acting as a centre of unanimity. The heroic deed supports the thinking that Igbanke has an ethnic grouping and that its roots can be traced to Ika people of Anioma where the people rightly belong. This has also opened the window for the people to regularly engage in cultural interaction with their kinsmen in future. It was a day that Igbanke was specially celebrated by the rest of their kinsmen. The Igbanke National Progressive Alliance made this a possibility but both the Organization For the Advancement of Anioma Culture (OFAAC) and Igbanke National Progressive Alliance (INPA) share the accolade.

Much as the event is celebrated, there also some bitter lessons to learn from this year Anioma Cultural Festival. That this year’s event attracted about 47 royal fathers from the Anioma region is a testimony of sense of good relationship between many of the traditional rulers, their subjects on one hand and the traditional rulers and the affairs of their region on the other hand. Surely, the traditional rulers appreciate the communal gains in building stronger relationship between the leaders and subjects. However, on the part of politicians of Anioma extraction, it is unfortunate that relationship between Anioma political representatives and those they represent is very dim.

Hon (Engr.) Victor Onyekachi Ochei, Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Former Deputy Governor of Delta State, Chief Benjamin Elue, Evangelist Joan Onyemaechi Mrakpor, Member of the Delta State House of Assembly and Theodora Giwa Amun were present at the occasion but it still remains sad that the people’s political representatives with Anioma mandates did not deem it fit to capitalize on the beautiful day offered by the Anioma Cultural Festival to relate with their own people that largely gave them mandates. One would have thought that a cultural festival is different from a political activity but this particular year’s event has not broken the “opposition” jinx theory that many of the politicians hold.

It was also poignant that many of our royal fathers who were physically present at the occasion discovered that those that had come to them prior to elections for royal blessings did were not at the occasion in solidarity with the people’s cultural heritage which they are all part of. It further lends credence to the people’s general philosophy that they their political representatives are far from them limiting feedbacks that should help to strengthen the affairs of the region and lead to its development. Politics is good but culture is the bedrock of every society Anioma inclusive.

Sadly enough, many of the political representatives of some of its sub-groups were missing thus these sub-groups had no representatives at the cultural festival, which left participants from these sub-groups feeling void. Words here cannot passably describe their feeling but they would have yearned to have their political representatives watch them as an encouragement. Political representatives’ presence will surely make the event complete, a reason we crave their presence.

The event should not be an event for the Anioma people alone and this can only be achieved if Anioma political representatives make moves to identify with their own people through the natural avenue created by OFAAC. If they decide to identify with the program then big political heavyweights from the other ethnic groups particularly in Delta State will give the region the much needed support. Political representatives must never turn their backs at the very people they came begging during political campaigns. Imagine if half of the political heavyweights that Anioma boasts of throw their support behind the Cultural Festival, it will indeed be a force to reckon with.

This is why we implore our political representatives to render support to the cultural fiesta. It may have emerged as a vision of one man but it has today transformed into an encircling cultural conservation and promotion fiesta for the good of the entire sons and daughters of the Anioma region which political ideology must never rock.

There is no region without leaders; one would therefore have longed to see the acclaimed leaders of the region in the roll call of attendees. Getting feedback from the people they lead is as important as their headship. A cultural festival is a very important aspect of a group’s existence and a group can never celebrate its day without its leaders. An event like this needs the support of the region’s leaders to be complete. There was for that reason a huge bolt from the blue that many of those who claim to speak for the region were not on ground to grace the occasion and appreciate those they claim to lead. If an Anioma event of this enormity held in Anioma land does not receive overwhelming attendance from the leaders of the region, will one expect a similar event to attract large turn-out in United States of America.

It has noticeably become customary for newer organizations particularly those whose activities are entrenched online to send delegates to the event while older organizations are never seen. This noxious attitude must change for the good of the region. “Ofu obi bu ike anyi” should guide the diverse people of the region towards stabilizing the already growing voice within the Nigerian polity. This is if ever the region wants to be heard. While fairly emerging groups like Ndi Anioma, Anioma Voice, Umu Anioma, Proudly Asaba, Ndi Oshimili South, Onu Anioma and Igbanke National Progressive Alliance among numerous others sent delegates to the event, delegates from older acclaimed socio-political groups of the region were palpably missing at the event.

Lastly, the annual event appears to have grown with large crowds than the organizers expect, it will therefore be of advantage to the organizers if large screens are placed on the venues of the event to enable closer view by the excited audience.

This piece will be incomplete without heaping praises on the Organization For the Advancement of Anioma Culture that continues to promote and conserve our culture. This year’s event is indeed a testimony that the Anioma Cultural Festival has come to stay and with assistance from all, the Anioma rich cultural heritage will continually be showcased to the whole world. We thank OFAAC for a job well done and implore it to do more for us. Anioma is the indeed the best place to hail from.