By Vincent Ujumadu
THE popular Ito-Ogbo Obosi, a celebration of longevity for those who have attained the age of 80 years, may soon become an international event as the Federal Government has shown interest in the triennial festival. The festival has lasted over 100 years and despite modernization, the people of Obosi still sustain it and hold it in high esteem.
The ceremony is such that once someone gets to his/her late 70s, the family gradually begins to plan for the Ito-Ogbo ceremony. It is, therefore, a ceremony that does not take those concerned unaware as they know that it is something that must take place and they look forward to it.
For the first time, the Federal Government showed interest in this cultural showpiece and sent a team led by the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mrs. Ifeoma Anyanwutaku, who represented the Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed at the ceremony.
Anyanwutaku, who described Ito-Ogbo Obosi as a worthy celebration, added that it was for that reason that top officials of the ministry decided to come to Obosi to observe this year’s ceremony and get other details about it.
“Our visit is aimed at pushing the festival up to international level. We intend to conduct interviews from stakeholders and document the event properly for further action,” she said.
The traditional ruler of Obosi, Igwe Chidubem Iweka, Eze Iweka III said although the retirement age in the civil service is 60 years, a lot of people are still strong at that age and are at their peak in life, arguing that the experience and the knowledge they have gathered over the years became handy in their later years. To the monarch, Ito-Ogbo Obosi is necessary to appreciate their contributions up to the age 80 years.
The royal father said: “This festival has been in place for hundreds of years and it is aimed at appreciating the wisdom of these octogenarians. We are happy that few communities in Anambra State have emulated us and are now celebrating their octogenarians.
In Obosi Kingdom, the festival is triennial and for this year, over 200 people who have turned 80 years in the past three years participated. They all belong to the Igwebuike age grade.
Three years ago, Irugo age-grade celebrated the Ito-Ogbo and then handed over the baton to Igwebuike who celebrated this year and it continues like that.
“I inaugurated the newest age grade in Obosi last year when the members turned 30 years. Every three years, another age-grade comes up and our belief is that the people we inaugurated last year will one day celebrate their Ito-Ogbo in Obosi.
“Over the years, we have been trying to draw the attention of the Federal Government to this festival and we are elated that the government has shown interest at last. In the past, state governors, senators and other top government officials had graced the ceremony, but this year’s is different because the Federal Government sent an official delegation.
“Our desire is that this celebration should spread to all Igbo communities and even beyond Nigeria since it is a mark of respect for the elderly. It is good to celebrate people who gave their all in their prime towards the development of their community.
“We have a proverb that says that a child that stays close to an elderly person acquires good knowledge from him. So, it is wrong to undermine these elderly people in our society because they are full of wisdom, which could be tapped by the younger generation.”
According to Eze Iweka, if the Ito-Ogbo Obosi is made a national festival, it would go a long way to make the youths understand the necessity of giving due respect to their elderly relations. He described as unfortunate, a situation where some of the elders were left to go hungry and were neglected simply because they could no longer fend for themselves, particularly when the country had no system in place for taking care of the old people in the society.
“It is, therefore, a very laudable project that should be emulated by all because the world should be made to know that to be old is honourable and a blessing from God,” the royal father said.
Igwe Iweka recalled that in an effort to move the Ito-Ogbo Obosi festival to the next level, a research centre for the aged people has been established at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, adding that the research centre is already at advanced level of construction.