By Jonathan Ugbal
The last four days of the Leboku festival, the new yam festival of the Ugep nation in Yakurr local government of Cross River State is always the peak of the celebration with this year’s edition producing the routine and scintillating performances of the festival that has become one of Cross River’s foremost tourism brand.
This year’s edition grand finale held Monday, CrossRiverWatch brings you a rundown of the events for the last 96 hours;
FRIDAY; The evening that produced the 2016 Mr. and Miss Leboku. The Ubi Ujong conference center was scantily filled at the beginning with the event peaking late into the night with a graduate of Biochemistry in the Cross River University of Technology, Obia Essien (also known as Sarafina) emerging as Miss Leboku while a 300 level Public Administration student in the University of Calabar Hilary Daniels (also known as Benson Banks) emerged as Mr. Leboku.
SATURDAY; The Mr. and Miss Leboku contest ended in the early hours of the day at about 2:00 AM. The winners were presented at the conference center to the admiration of many. Saturday was also the LADENBOKU (EKOI) Male Day at the Umor Otutu Place. Earlier in the day, masquerades guided by males armed with machetes carried with powder dusted bodies participate in the Etangala carnival beating the Ekoi drums in the process.
The procession takes the masquerade round town, disrupting traffic in the process with a huge crowd following the masquerade with two sticks clapping in a double and simple, yet unbroken rhythm of “kpah kpah, kpah kpah”.
The maidens dressed in a simple attire of wrappers, their feet adorned with numerous rings that produce a jingle-like sound for every step taken, beads woven into their hair; a decoration that makes them gorgeous with traditional necklaces and beads flowing down their necks and resting on their breasts covered only with a piece of cloth wrapped round their chest region, dance round behind the masquerade and can be found lurking around corners with visitors staring continuously at them.
Visitations to the Obol Lopon in the afternoon became difficult for visiting government appointees as his ministers kept informing all that he was on pacification and was moving round a designated route. However, access to him was restored later in the evening.
SUNDAY; The talk of the eve, and the grand finale itself filled the air with every group, clique and association finalizing plans for the main Leboku. The main attraction for this year was the MTN road show with several known and local artistes rendering their tunes live on stage to the excitement of the roaring crowd. The event went far into the night.
MONDAY; The grand finale. As early as 8:00 AM sources say, the Peace Park was already bustling with life even though the main event was scheduled for 10:00 AM. The event did not begin as scheduled, a common phenomenon throughout the festival period.
The crowd was thrilled with warlike dances by the male troupes while the female troupes dressed in different traditional attires performed several of the traditional dance steps.
The governor, Senator Ben Ayade was missing in action while his deputy who arrived at about 2:00 PM in the afternoon called on all to ensure the cultural heritage passed down by the ancestors does not die.
He reiterated the government’s commitment to ensuring peace and security as well as provide the necessary infrastructure and enabling environment for tourism to thrive in the state.
The Obol Lopon of Ugep, Obol Ofem Eteng in his speech enjoined everyone to celebrate in peace and commended the government for showcasing the cultural heritage of Ugep people to the world.
Several respondents who spoke with CrossRiverWatch expressed delight for participating in the event while a few complained of the organization, blaming it on lack of funds.
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