By Jon Egie

 

The Ovie of Uzere and head of Iletu Ivri, Chief Pan Omoyib on a royal dance to celebrate the feast

The Uzere people in Isoko South local government area of Delta state under the traditional leadership of His Royal Majesty, Henry Etuvwede 111, the Ovie of Uzere; Friday and Saturday (March 15 &16,  2019), celebrated the Abeto- Ala festival in honour of the Eni deity to usher in bumper harvest.

According to the tradition and customs of the Uzere people, the Abeto- Ala festival is celebrated in the month of March every year to appease Eni, the supreme deity of the Uheri community of Uzere to bless the works of the hands of indigenes both home and abroad.

 

The Ovie of Uzere taking the regal steps

The Ovie of Uzere presides over the celebration which lasts for two days with the people of Uheri community, the eldest community in Uzere kingdom and during which various societies and groups namely: Otu-aro, Iloho, Edio Emuzo, Iletu Ivri, Emete Ogwa-Ovie (Palcae women) play roles.

The two other communities of the kingdom: Ezede and Uweye along with other traditional groups and communities in Isoko land are invited to witness and be part of the merriment.

 

other members of Iletu Ivri join the Ovie in the dance steps

Also present at the celebration are the council of chiefs of Uzere kingdom, federal Iletu, Ewheya Uheri, Ewheya Ezede and Ewheya Uweye as well as youths of the kingdom.

Chief Peter Iyibo who is the chief Drummer of the spiritual Ogri drum of Uheri and member of the Otu-aro society told our reporter that the specific role assigned to members of this group is discreet interaction with the deity in his shrine in the bush where necessary sacrifices are made and prayers for benevolence and prosperity are said on behalf of the indigenes of the community.

 

The royal dance heats up

Very early on the morning of the second day of the celebration, the Otu-aro proceed to the shrine and return in the afternoon to meet the king and others who would be anxiously waiting and when they return the celebration hits the peak of merriment.

No details were provided about the actual activities carried out during the interaction with the deity. Knowledge of that is kept secret.

 

Emete-Ogwa dance and sing praises of the king

For the two days of the celebration, the Emete-Ogwa Ovie (Palace women) were handy, dancing and singing praises of the Ovie, the Iletu Ivri and others who came to the palace to witness the celebration.

Aside the mission of the Otu-aro group to the Eni shrine, every other activity of the celebration is open and social without any cult or ritual performance.

 

Umanmwu Akala masquerade of Ozoro appearing at the arena

In fact, the March 2019 celebration was kick started with an opening prayer led by an Archbishop of a church in Uzere. The cleric pleaded the presence of God to oversee the period of the celebration, praying for peace, tranquility and prosperity to all and ended the prayer in the name of Jesus Christ.

The festival is a revival of the cultural values of the indigenes who are predominantly Christians in the various denominations of Anglican, Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist and spiritual (white garment) churches that are domiciled in Uzere kingdom. They all participated and enjoyed the merriment without restriction.

The March 15 &16, 2019 celebration of the festival was the second edition presided over by His Royal Majesty, Henry Etuvwede 111, since his ascendancy to the throne as of Ovie of Uzere. The first edition of the celebration of Abeto- Ala feast by the monarch was in 2015 and it was preceded by a bumper harvest in all fields of human endeavours of indigenes of the kingdom both home and abroad.

According to Chief Eyetuoma Felix Osize who is the Secretary of Uzere Council of Chiefs, Abeto- Ala is one of the many festivals celebrated at various intervals and times by the Uzere kingdom and corroborated the procedure as narrated by Chief Peter Iyibo.

As an agrarian and fishing community, Uzere people engage in the cultivation of groundnuts, sweet potato, cassava and other food crops as well as engage in fishing in the various lakes and streams in the community and for a heavy yield and bumper harvest, the people believe in the efficacy of the Eni deity to water and nourish the seeds they planted and control the waters for a great catch of fish.

 

Uweye community paying homage to the king with a catch of fishes

It is in this conviction that Chief Mrs Tiro Odoh, Olotu Ewheya (leader of the women folk) confirmed the power of the Eni deity to cause a bumper harvest after the celebration of the Abeto -Ala festival.

In a firm expression of faith she assured that as from May, 2019 there will be huge harvest of groundnuts in Uzere and called on all persons who consume, buy and sell groundnuts to make Uzere their business destination as there will abundance of groundnuts for sale at affordable price.

She was not just ranting as the monarch of the kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Henry Etuvwede 111, also testified of the outcome of the celebration of the feast of Abeto- Ala. Our reporter asked the king what his expectation was after the celebration of the feast and in optimism declared that it was high.

 

The Ovie (King) and his Anase (Queen) seated during the occasion.

“After the feast, we are expecting bumper harvest, long life and prosperity, promotion and open doors of opportunities for all our indigenes home and abroad” he said and charged the Uzere people to be law abiding and prioritize the kingdom’s interest.

To spice the occasion, the Opiri dance group of Ellu and the Umanwu Akaka masquerade of Ozoro performed.

The king assisted by the Iletu Ivri also danced to the admiration of all as the Emete- Ogwa Ovie sang praises of the king and thereafter, the men, women, youths and the three communities of the kingdom paid homage to the king.