The usually serene atmosphere in Ugboju, a sprawling community in Otukpo Local Government Area of Benue State came alive, in a manner of speaking, when an avalanche of humanity descended on it for the celebration of the 2018 Edition of the annual Eje-Alekwu Cultural Festival. Prominent sons and daughters of Ugboju, community leaders, friends and admirers, both from home and the Diaspora, all beautifully attired, with some in traditional costumes, made this year’s edition of the festival quite appealing and outstanding.
It is an indisputable fact that no society can exist without a culture, knowing that culture is the way of life of the people. Therefore, every society, no matter its size or population, must exist with certain cultural values and norms. Ugboju District, in Otukpo Local Government Area of Benue State, being a member of the globe, is not exempted from this practice.
However, concerns have been expressed of the failure of some communities nay societies to carry on those cultural practices that were left behind by their forefathers. Unlike some parts of Nigeria where the issue of cultural festival is scarcely accorded the desired attention, the people of Ugboju have held on tenaciously to their culture over the years through the annual Eje-Alekwu Festival with grace and finesse.
Traditional music and dance, especially by masquerades, also form an integral feature of the Eje-Akekwu Festival, because these actually depict the cultural identity and heritage of the people of Ugboju District. And so it was at the 2018 Edition of the Festival. The three-day action-packed event, which started on Friday, 16th March, 2018 and lasted till Sunday, 18th March, 2018, was indeed a sight to behold. It was simply carnival-like, full of splendour and breathtaking.
Speaking at the occasion, which held at Och’Ugboju Square, Ogoli Barracks, the Benue State governor, Dr Samuel Ortom, who was represented by the State Commissioner of Culture and Tourism, commended the Obande K’Ugboju, Chief Solomon Apochi for keeping the flame of the festival aglow and assured that his government would continue to support such excellent display of cultural values, which he described as the identity of the people in an era where social values have been terribly bastardised.
While commending Dr Dickson Akoh, the National Commandant of Peace Corps of Nigeria and a prominent indigene of Ugboju for his foresight in establishing the Ambassador’s Resorts and Gardens at Ogoli-Ugboju, the Governor said the Resort would serve as a veritable centre for cross-fertilisation of ideas, just as he assured that it would be listed on the Ministry’s website.
In his own remarks, the Chairman of the occasion, Chief Steve Lawani, a former deputy governor of Benue State and 2019 senatorial hopeful, who donated the sum of 1million naira and was represented by Hon Agbo Ogah, a former House of Representatives member, described Dr Akoh as a true son of Idoma land, who has placed Idoma nation on the global map.
Equally speaking at the event, Chief (Mrs) Blessing Onuh, an aspirant for Ohimini/Otukpo Federal Constituency in the forthcoming 2019 elections, donated N500,000 and promised to synergise with Akoh towards further developing Idoma nation.
While paying glowing tributes to Dr Akoh’s sense of patriotism and invaluable developmental strides in Ugboju District nay Idoma land as a whole, Barr (Hon) John Adam Okloho, member representing Ugboju/Adoka Constituency in Benue State House of Assembly, said that Akoh, in his capacity as the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) remains the undisputed leader of Nigerian youths in all ramifications, even as he assured that he would continue to work with other sons and daughters of the land to further accelerate its development.
Warning of the dire consequences of being derailed from the redemptive task ahead of all sons and daughters of Ugboju District, Dr Akoh said: ‘’This entails avoiding distractions or we will be left behind in the great and competitive race. Thus, we can ill-afford some centrifugal forces that divide rather than unite us. That is why all political actors should all, as a necessity, close ranks and join hands with the Obande K’Ugboju in the important task of building a great and formidable nation.’’
It is equally worthy of note that in a nation where majority of the elites have been so westernised nay indoctrinated with foreign values and as such see any form of attachment to their culture as anachronistic, Dr Akoh stands out of the motley pack on account of his deep fidelity to his culture. He could be described as a man of culture and that explains why he has contributed more than anyone else to the development of Ugboju in particular and Idoma nation in general. At this particular event, Akoh reportedly presented two wheelchairs to two disabled persons as a surprise gift; donated bags of rice/ vegetable oil to the less-privileged and above all, handed over a massive, well-furnished nay spacious Arena to Ugboju community, which will continue to serve as the venue of subsequent editions of the festival.
Akoh, who is reputed for his exemplary philanthropic gestures, has virtually transformed Ugboju District through provision of social amenities and other forms of infrastructural facilities. Little wonder, he was singled out for recognition via traditional blessing at the three-day fiesta.
In his vote of thanks, the Obande K’Ugboju and Chief Host of the Festival, Chief Solomon Apochi, while appreciating everyone for taking time off their busy schedules to attend the event, prayed that God Almighty will reward all of them, just as he also appealed to president to reconsider his stand and assent to the NPC Bill in order to achieve the much desired community surveillance and to create jobs for the nation’s teeming jobless youths.
– Ochela is a public affairs analyst based in Abuja
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