By our reporter
Festivals typically bring people together and are for celebrations. In Boki local government area of central Cross River State, the mother of festivals is the Boki New Yam day which was celebrated last week Friday with two government officials organizing a series of events to mark the festival which heralds the harvest season.
The Boki new yam festival is one out of over a dozen in the state with the fertility of the Boki soil encouraging the people to look towards agriculture which over the years has seeing them make their livelihoods from the forests as hunters, cocoa and yam farmers.
This, coupled with other factors makes the festival quite unique in its nature CrossRiverWatch gathered.
To the Boki nation, excluding the bias of westernized religions, believes the new yam festival is the highest in the land as it usually heralds the end of hunger and beginning of food harvest.
A common feature in every household is the preparation of pounded yam in abundance and the generous entertainment to all which this reporter focused on.
The 2017 edition activities organized by Mr. Paul Asu who is the Special Adviser on Legal affairs in the Cross River State Boundary Commission and Mr. Fidelis Ekpa Jr. who is the Special Assistant to Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade on Consumer Protection kicked off with a church service at the St. Magnus Catholic Church in Okundi.
This was was followed by the grand finale of a football competition where Junior Santos defeated their senior counterparts by 2-1 after 90 minutes of play and a dance carnival at the Okundi junction where all the political wards in Boki sent in a contingent of dancers who mesmerized viewers with their synchronized moves and colorful attires.
Before the dancers, some selected youths and elderly men had earlier engaged themselves in local competitions such as Ntud, Banfuon, Dituobe and Digama.
The favorable weather condition saw masquerades followed suit and then other traditional dances from neighboring and far communities outside Boki including Atam, Enyiatu, Bukwan, Mbifiok, Agud, Akwa Ibom dance group and Tiv who displayed acrobatic skills that left the crowd stunned.
Roast Yam was then shared among the elderly in accordance with the culture and expectation of a bumper harvest.
This was washed down with Palm Wine.
The celebration has led many to believe that Chinua Achebe may have been referring to the Boki New Yam Festival in his novel, ‘Things Fall Apart,’ when he said: “And the Boki people celebrated new yam.”
Boki play hosts to the present Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and the Canopy walkway which promotes eco-tourism in Cross River State.
Boki occupies the tropical rain forest of the present Cross River State. The forest is rich in the diversity of plants and animals; therefore much of the population is engaged in agriculture, producing both food and cash crops.
These include Yam, cocoyam, plantain, banana, cassava, cocoa, pineapple among others with most of the plantain in northern Nigeria allegedly bought from Boki.
Of these, it is the Yam that is regarded most highly and celebrated with some sentiments tha Boki and the rest of the Old Ogoja are the real food baskets of the nation with claims that yams cultivated in Boki are sold as far as Onitsha, Kogi and other places.