By CrossRiverWatch Admin
People all over the world of the same country, tribe, clan, region or geographical location or zone have a history and distinct cultural practices that clearly defines and differentiates them from other people and their cultures.
They equally have important festivals and delicacies which portrays their true cultural identity and heritage, and which they equally observe as important events in their annual cultural calendar.
Their existence is synonymous with these festivals and delicacies, and they do everything possible to colourfully and collectively celebrate the festivals with pride, pomp and pageantry.
Festivals are universally celebrated and unite the whole of humankind in its desire to honor, worship, thank God or just enjoy life to the fullest.
These holidays follow the cycles of nature and that of mankind from the cradle to the grave. They are subsequently wrought with symbolism and tradition because food is critical to the survival and growth of all people; it is only natural that festivals and celebrations cantering on food and drinks develop to keep the group or clan bonded together.
The vital team efforts to hunt, gather, prepare and preserve food from time, set the social conventions we fondly refer to as holidays and began the long history of traditional food festivals.
The Chinese for instance, have and indigenous cultural heritage manifested and exemplified in their popular and well known ‘August Moon Festival.’
The Vietnamese, with their ‘Tet Trung Thu Festival.’
The Jewish people religiously observe their ‘Succoth Festival’ which they are well known for, just as Indians celebrate their Pongal Festival.
The Hindus celebrate the Diwali’ ot ‘Deepavali Festival of Lights.’
The Korean people celebrate their ‘Chusok Festival’ and the Americans celebrate ‘Thanksgiving.’
Interesting of note is the association of yams with thanksgiving in the United States of America. They feel happy when they have yams as a delicacy in their thanksgiving dinners.
Brazilians especially in Rio de Janeiro, celebrate the ‘Mardigras Festival’ before lent, which is very important to them.
In Africa, some African tribes celebrate the Kwanzaa Festival where Kuumba yams are used.
In West Africa, some of the tribes celebrate the yam harvest with days of ceremonies and offerings of yams amongst others to their dead ancestors and to the gods, the Homowo Festival of the Ga people of Ghana is a good example.
It is the celebration of a traditional harvest festival and the largest cultural festival of its kind for these people.
In Northern Nigeria, the ‘Durbar’ is usually celebrated with colour and pomp, special and well decorated horses with riders on their backs are part of the glamour.
The Adamawa people of Nigeria annually celebrate their popular Argungu Fishimg Festival, where he who makes the biggest catch is specially rewarded.
Same goes for the Yoruba’s of Western Nigeria, with their well known Osun Festival.
The Igbos who constitute the southeast geopolitical zone of Nigeria and who occupy at least five out of the thirty six states of the federation, celebrate their Iwaji New Yam Festival annually.
The Ibibio and Anang people of Akwa Ibom State, and the Efiks, Quas and the Efuts of Calabar, Cross River State, have societies typical of which are the Eko and Ekpe respectively, and celebrate their festivals annually.
The people of Ugep (Umor) in Yakurr Local Government area of central Cross River State and her sister communities of Mkpani, Idomi, Ekori, Assiga, Nko, Agoi and Inyima who constitute the Yakurr Nation, and with a long history and rich cultural heritage, celebrate their popular and annual new yam Festival which they fondly call ‘Leboku.’
This they do because yam is the main agricultural crop of the people, this does not mean that they do not grow other crops; in fact, they grow Cassava, Rice, and other farm produce extensively.
It is just that to them, yam is the “King of Crops,” hence its celebration depicts its prominence in the sociocultural life of the people.
The New Yam Festival marks the conclusion or culmination of a work cycle, and the beginning of a new farming year.
During the festival, traditional rituals are performed which are meant to express the community’s appreciation to the gods and ancestral spirits, for making the harvest of the yams possible and bountiful.
It is the history, culture and traditional values of the Ugep (Umor) people especially as it concerns their Leboku Festival with its traditional rituals and the associated paraphernalia of the chiefs priests involved, and the tourism potentials of Ugep nay Yakurr and Cross River State at large.
It is important to note that the above named festivals often see governments consciously develop strategies to ensure that the people drive the festivals so that money circulates the system and fortune is made by creative business owners who supply everything from costumes to beverages and services.
With an unconfirmed record of over 10,000 (non indigenous) visitors every year, the Leboku festival can become a huge market for the people of Umor, Yakurr and the state in general.
The festival in its current structure, stretches a period of 3 weeks: the social impact of this where people mingle socially and exchange ideas as well as the economic impact where people lodge in hotels, buy local products, artworks among others will be positively huge.
Commuters will have increased patronage as well as social joints, hotels, the local markets, the petroleum sector, the art industry; the list is endless.
With the social unrest created by youth restiveness, the Leboku festival can be rejigged to offer a break from all the year long stress with an industry created to ensure that the festival is not just what keeps them busy but are engaged in different areas of theme creation and interpretation, costume making and display, record keeping and marketing among several other roles.
Indeed, the Leboku can easily add a few hundred millions into the local economy.
As people from all walks of life troop in for the 2017 Leboku festival, let us begin to think how we can drive a sustainable industry from the festival.
Also, I enjoin you to feel at home; let’s eat, drink, and merry, for a people without a culture are those without a history. I Wish you a memorable and funfilled 2017 Leboku Festival Celebration.
Long Live Umor Otutu!
Long Live Yakurr Local Government
Long Live Cross River State
Obeten Godfrey, a 200 Level Student in the Department of Computer Science, University of Calabar is a journalist and writes for CrossRiverWatch.