Ogba kingdom in Omoku. An INTEGRAL PART of the people’s socio-cultural life style has been TRADITIONAL celebration which has existed for a long time even among groups of people in various communities within Africa and other continents. One’s culture is a priceless gift, that has passed from one generation to another,which involves burial, marriage, coronation rites, and the worship of deities, etc.
******There are variuos ways of writing Omoku like: H’omuku, Hoomuku, Ho’omku and Homokw. But for the sake of easy pronunciations, we used Omoku throughout this article******
Most African communities belief in celestial spirits that mediate between man and the supernatural beings, which must be honored during such celebrations which involves activities like proverb telling, incantations, libation, music playing and even dances of medians (young virgins) and masquerades of different classes like in Ogba kingdom in Omoku Rivers state Nigeria, involving (Ohuowa) the biggest and most dangerous masquerade in Omoku, who is always chained while dancing with a big wooden sword in its hand. Most of us, the grown ups in Africa and in Nigeria in particular witnessed all that but now due to the feat of the missionaries, most African communities has long forgotten their cultural heritages.
However there still exist some African communities that have protected their priceless traditions, their cultural heritage; among these is the Ogba communities founded around the 16th century. The Ogba kingdom is said to have originated from the 15th to 19th century Benin Kingdom. Ogba kingdom is located in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers States, which has its headquarters in Omoku.
The KING of Ogba Land is called; Oba, he rules over the whole kingdom made up of about five quarters namely: Usomini, Obosi, Obakata, Obohia (bush area) and Obeiti (the biggest quater).
Egwu Oba/Nchaka Festivals Of Ogba Kingdom In Omoku:
A festival named Egwu Oba or Nchaka, in Omoku is a four-day festival in the area with the very purpose of cleansing their land of both Evil spirits and mortals from the entire communities and towns!
It is also with the intentions of the unification of various families both near and far, appreciations of the gods for the planting and bountiful harvesting seasons and also go with displays of the mystical powers, skills and strengths by the participants of the various clans are also on the display for all to see.
Another important show worthy of being noticed is the exhibitions of supreme ruler-ship of the Oba of Ogba land over his subject, which is to be seen in his significant role in transforming the Omoku town into a tourism center where people from all walks of life regularly visit annually as tourists.
During the Nchaka festival, just like some other African festivals, there are consultations, preparations and proclamations from the chiefs from Umu-ebe, (descendants of the first Oba) and Umu-eze-Ogba royal kindred, from the rest towns and villages of in Ogba to converge at the hall of their Oba’s palace to choose a date for the Egwu Oba festival, which is usually in the last week of every November.
When the date is fixed, it is then passed to the divisional Council of the Oba’s Chiefs and the traditional rulers for approval after which it would be made available to the public through the Oba’s town crier who uses a metal gong known as (ukela) to intimate the public of the forthcoming festival.
The announcement helps the expected participants to prepare for the day properly, and the days are usually between the two notable market days of Orie and Nkwo market days. After all these are taken care of, the Egwu Ogba which lasts four days begins!
Four Days Activities Of Ogba Kingdom In Omoku Are As Follows:
Day 1, During the noon hours, women dressed in casual wrappers and simple blouses walking on bare foot and are led by the eldest woman in each family set the stage. As a sign of seniority and respect, her dressing is to be different from the rest of the women, she dresses in Akwete cloth (traditionally made fabric) from shoulder to her waist with a burning firewood in her right hand as they embark on the procession which takes them to the quarters in Omoku.
Dancing, Incantations, Enhancement, Clapping of hands, and striking of metal gong are seen while en rout. Once they get to the arena, the women now begin to invoke their ancestral spirits that are known to be in support of the festival to cleanse the town and do away with all the evil doers, and while doing this, the fire from the touch bearers of each family’s representatives must not go off because it does, it signifies a bad omen and the bearer would be seen as an evil person and would be avoided for life!.
The spiritual cleansing comes to an end at a place called “Mini Omoku” (Omoku river) after a prolong enchantments with the intentions of driving the unwanted spirits away from their environs and thereafter, each of the four or five quarters take possession of separate point of the river that would accommodate them in what signifies the final incarnations where each one of the eldest woman throws her burning firewood into the river which means the sending of all evil spirits away from Ogba town.
At the end of the day’s activities, the prepared food for the groups are taken to the eldest man of each family where all the women eat separated from the men folks. They retire for their various homes for the day and are happy especially if none of their leaders’ light went off during the day’s rite’s performance.
The following two days are usually for merriment of elaborate natures as all kinds of special local foods are prepared in great quantities and are eaten with rejoicing in a way that even the modern day’s national celebrations of any types rarely comes close to.
This merriment go on till the following morning, the fourth and the climaxing day of the cultural celebrations. On this day, everyone are expected at the village four square with the women, children and tourists as spectators for the memorable events that keeps them longing for more of its types as sooner.
During the event, men or group of individuals and youths of Omoku are seen with some forms of sicks or metals striking it on the ground while making some incantations and saying in their native language “tua njoli which means evil leave the land. Some instruments like ornaments, rattle nuts, and metal gongs are used but without any traditional music on display.
Another thing to be witnessed during the day, is the contests of those with some magical powers. There they are seen demonstrating their magical and spiritual powers, their skills and some outright mystical powers in the broad day light!
There were even stories of a man who cut off his head and held it with his hand while blood was dripping and later fix it back to show others of his superior magic powers.
This continues till the arrival of the Oba of Ogba land in the early hours in the morning of what would have looked like the fifth day but which is not because it is usually done without affecting the day’s activities per se. So when the Oba appears on the scene, he performs the spiritual blessing of his subjects at Ahia Orie square, (Orie market square) situated at Obieti quarter ie the big quarter.
Whenever this concluding part is going on, almost all the whole villagers troops out en mass just get a glimpse of Oba of Ogba land and to share in the blessing. This group blessings marks the end of the Nchaka festival and everyone heads home filled with rejoicing because of the successful Egwu Ogba or Nchaka celebration.
While it is true that most of the descriptions above may be sounding strange even to the sons and daughter of Omoku who are in the big cities and rarely travel home, It is with the good intentions of educating them and all others who may have interests in the rich traditions of their places of origin. It may as well be of interest for the general knowledge that the area known as OGBA in Lagos the western part of Nigeria, has its stories traceable to the Oba of Ogba land because their forefathers were said to have settled there in the area in times past, between 13-14 centuries or thereabout.
If in doubt, then think about this: Every other parts in Lagos state share similar names like, Ajegunle, Owode, Iyana-Ipaja, Mushin, and all other areas within and outside the states in Yoruba land but no no other area bears Ogba apart from the popular Ogba-Agege of today in Lagos alone whereas such names like Oba and Ogba are common with the Omoku people.
In conclusion, the Egwu Ogba or Nchaka festival is just a reminder to the lovers of history and more especially to the indigenous people of Omoku to know that they have a rich cultural background that is worthy to be proud of.
It is also an indisputable fact that civilizations are eating deep into most of the rich African traditions, with so many of them already in verge of extinction, but let it be known that there is no body without some historical backgrounds and rich traditions to be protected.
Our children are wise and they are bound to ask us some important questions that if cares are not taken, we may not be able to provide satisfying and true answers to. Therefore, we all have it and it behooves on all of us to protect our cultures and not allow it to go into extinction because of poor participation, modernization, Christianity and general attitudes towards them.
Good enough, some youths in Omoku are still playing some big roles to have their rich cultural heritage protected and preserved and in spite of the western influence on their cultural heritage, the Ogba kingdom in Rivers State of Nigeria have held tight to their values, traditional customs and laws. What about you? Can you tell us about your cultures? Is it worth sharing? Do let us know and we will be glad to have it showcase to the world both for preservation and for educational purposes.