The Ebira people of Kogi Central senatorial district recently put their rich culture on display during their annual Ohueje Ohinoyi Cultural Festival.
The Ebiras are found predominantly in five local government areas of Kogi State namely, Okene, Okehi, Adavi, Ajaokuta and Ogori-Magongo.
The cultural event, which held at the ancient town of Okene, the traditional cum political seat of the Ebira people between June 6-8, attracted sons and daughters of Ebiraland from home and abroad.
Daily Trust Saturday learnt that the 3-day annual cultural festival started in 2017 out of the need and realization to properly protect and promote the cultural heritage of Ebiraland as tool for economic development and promotion of tourism.
On the final day of the cultural events, people from across Ebiraland including traditional rulers and prominent personalities went as early as possible to the palace of the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Alhaji (Dr) Ado Ibrahim, to pay homage.
Cultural troupes from the land took turns to pay homage to the Ohinoyi and also entertained guests who had gathered for the event.
After the homage and cultural displays at the palace, the Ohueje Ohinoyi cultural event shifted to the Ebira Day Ground where the remaining part of the event continued.
The atmosphere at the event ground was fully charged as various cultural troupes entertained people.
At the arrival of the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland and his entourage comprising of some other prominent traditional rulers, his family members, palace guards and other personalities, there were rapturous shouts of “Saaaaki”! “Saaaki”!
The Ohinoyi after acknowledging cheers from his subjects moved to his Royal stool as various cultural troupes and dancers filed out to pay homage to His Royal Majesty.
The event also featured the display of one of Ebira’s local delicacies -‘apapa’ also known as ‘moi moi’.
Some women carried the ‘apapa’ on their heads and danced around while guests picked some for a token.
Ebira local fabrics and fashion parade using Ebira fabrics were also showcased.
There was photo exhibition displaying important historical sites, events and personalities in Ebiraland.
Speaking on the festival, chairman of the organising committee of the Ohueje Ohinoyi Festival, Mr. Tijani Adinoyi, said the event was initiated to honour the Ohinoyi by way of annual homage and to also showcase the rich culture of the Ebiras.
He said normally, the cultural event holds in March every year but this year’s edition was held in June to coincide with the 22nd Anniversary of the coronation of the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland.
“The cultural event, Ohueje Ohinoyi, is coined out of the courtyard of the king. The whole essence is that we want the people to be meeting once in a year to showcase our culture where everyone would have opportunity to take part,” he said.
He said unlike some of the cultural events in Ebiraland which bars women and some categories of people from taking part, the Ohueje Ohinoyi Festival gives opportunity for all to participate.
“Festivals such as Ekwuechi are usually done in the night and women can’t watch. Eche-anne is another masquerade festival which some people cannot enjoy. And again, our culture is not all about masquerades. In Ohueje Ohinoyi, we have a lot of things embedded.
“We have cultural dance, music, trade fair, craft fair and food fair. We have symposium. We have photo exhibition of prominent Ebira people and historical events. We showcase those that have performed very well,” he said.
He said the three-day event also featured guided tours around tourism primed sites within Ebiraland with a view to opening them up for investment.
According to him, a lot of attention needs to be given to Ebiraland given that it is the host community to Ajaokuta Steel Complex Limited, the National Iron Ore Mining Company Limited Itakpe, first waterworks in Northern Nigeria and the most beautiful Royal Palace in West Africa amongst other notable sites.
He therefore urged stakeholders to give the cultural festival the needed support to actualize its objectives in Ebiraland.