By Jonathan Ugbal, Ikwen Atuaka and Linus Ogar
Every Year, the months of August and September in the northern part of Cross River State comprising five local government areas, Bekwarra, Obanliku, Obudu, Ogoja and Yala local is packed full with festivities as the people celebrate their New Yam festivals to mark the harvest of the king of crops for a people whom the majority refer to themselves as the descendants of Agba.
The diverse nature of the culture of the sub dialectal groups reflects on the time which the King of crops is celebrated with the Yache people of Yala celebrating first this year on August 25, 2016. Across the state, Yache people celebrated with the locals at home sharing pounded yam and several other food gifts with friends, neighbors and relatives.
24 hours later, the Mbube people of Ogoja local government area celebrated theirs in a similar manner which was followed by the Obanliku people on August 29, a fixed date while the other parts of Yala celebrated on August 30 with the Afrike people of Bekwarra following suit on August 31 while the Bendi-Bette axis of Obanliku, Obudu and other parts of Bekwarra celebrated on the first Saturday of September, a tradition which CrossRiverWatch learnt dates back over 4 decades.
The celebration varied across the different locations with the common theme being pageants, the preparation of pounded yam with melon, Benni seed or another other local soup while the Obudu people stand out with their melon cake which takes a minimum of 50 man hours to prepare from the shelling of the melon to its sun-drying, grinding, mashing and molding into pulp before baking in traditional ‘Kudiung’ leaves, a baking process that requires high level skills and needs continuous heating for a minimum of 8-10 hours.
In Yala, Jesustina Ogar a graduate and one time beauty queen of the Cross River State University of Technology clinched the Miss Yala crown and went home with a Ford vehicle sponsored by one Ariku Michael Oki.
In Obudu, Miss Josephine Adie won the Obudu International Face of Culture pageant.
The story took a political twist when members of the All Progressives Congress in Obudu decided to use the Obudu new yam festival day to launch the new secretariat of the party donated by a chieftain of the party, Honorable Paul Adah while in Bekwarra, Legor Idagbo who represents Obudu/Obanliku/Bekwarra federal constituency in the house of representatives shared pictures of himself distributing gifts of yams to his constituents.
Also, Honorable Martins Orim, the Chief of Staff to Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade shared wrappers and other gift items to widows and several others.
The sharing of gift items by politicians, CrossRiverWatch gathered was a recurring theme across the five local government areas.
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