By Amby Uneze, KSJI

Historically, according to Wikipedia, Mbaise nation is a region in Imo State in southeastern Nigeria. In the heart of Igboland, the region includes several towns and cities. It is a group of indigenous clans, connected by intermarriage. With a population density of over 1,000 people per square kilometer, Mbaise is West Africa’s most densely-populated area; its 2006 population was 611,204.
The name “Mbaise” was derived from five clans: Agbaja, Ahiara, Ekwereazu, Ezinihitte, and Oke Uvuru. The three local government areas of Mbaise cover about 404 km2 (156 sq mi); Aboh Mbaise covers 185 km2 (71 sq mi), Ahiazu Mbaise covers 111 km2 (43 sq mi), and Ezinihitte Mbaise covers 108 km2 (42 sq mi).

The people are predominantly Igbo. About 65 percent are Catholics 25 percent are Protestants and other religions make up the remainder. Some cultural and traditional ceremonies have survived Western influence. The eight-day Ahianjoku festival honored the yam deity; since 1946, the annual August 15 new-yam festival has been a Christian version of the Ahianjoku festival.

Oji Ezinihitte celebrates by Ezinihitte people on January 1 each year. Itu Aka Nguru, which is the flagging off of the farming season, encourages the people to weather the environment, modernity and new challenges. A local salad, ugba, is served with palm wine.

Mbaise women are noted for their fertility. To celebrate an eghu ukwu, a woman must bear at least 10 children; some women have given birth to as many as 15. That was the tradition in those days, but today, civilization and hardship have made the people to come to current realities of life by adapting to modern trends in child bearing.

Mbaise culture is rich in music and Igbo dance. There are dances for childbirth, marriage, funerals, communal labor, and other social occasions.The agbacha ekurunwa dance is performed for childbirth, alija and ogbongelenge are performed for marriage. Eseike, esse, ekwerikwe mgba and nkwa Ike are performed at funerals of men, and uko and Ekere-avu for funerals of women. Mbaise please appreciate visitors and host them to their satisfaction.

In recent times, because of the important position Iri Ji Mbaise has occupied in the cultural identity of Igboland in particular and Nigeria in general, it has become a rallying point for politicians to show ego and wits in order to outclass others. As usual politicians strive to catch up every opportunity available to them to showcase their hidden agenda. The Iri Ji Mbarise ceremony happens to be one of those opportunities they always look out for.

During the administration of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, a huge problem arose when some people in his cabinet tried to hoodwink the leadership of Ezuruezu Mbaise, Ezeji and Traditional rulers (Ndi Eze) to form their own paralell Ezuruezu Mbaise. Unfortunately for them that arrangement fizzled out immediately their efforts failed to yield any positive dividend. They did not go far.

Again, such situation raised it’s ugly head in 2022 Iri Ji Mbaise cultural festival. An unknown, unregistered and amorphous organization called ‘Olu Oha Mbaise’ engineered by one Perry Opara in conjunction with the deputy chief of staff to the Imo State Governor, Chief Patrick Ekeji and a host of those working in the cabinet of Governor Hope Uzodimma caught corners and brought the governor through the back door and gave him a fake chieftaincy title as “ENYIOHA” Mbaise.

Of course, it is on record that the custodian of Iri Ji Mbaise is solely the preserve of the Ezejis, who are the custodians of yam in Mbaise nation. The Ezejis are supported to carry out this preserved function by the Ezuruezu Mbaise which is the highest decision-making body and the socio-political organ in Mbaise, while the traditional rulers (Ndi Eze Mbaise) play complimentary role.

As the Assistant Secretary General of Ezuruezu Mbaise, this writer is writing on the basis of knowledge having been present where decisions of important matters on the subject matter were discussed and agreed upon. The Ezuruezu Mbaise reached a conclusion with Ndi Eze and Ezeji not to celebrate this year’s Iri Ji Mbaise with fan fare due to insecurity in the State. This was why the Ezejis did their ‘ahianjoku – iwa ji’ ceremony which is sacrosanct on every August 15.

There was no plan or arrangement to invite the governor to come to Mbaise for any Iri Ji Mbaise ceremony in 2022. Therefore, whatever, those hirelings that paraded themselves as aides to the governor from Mbaise and their accomplices including those that called themselves traditional rulers (Ndi Eze) that disgraced themselves at Itu on Tuesday August 16 did that without the blessings of the Mbaise nation. They are on their own. Mbaise nation disassociate themselves from such charade they referred to as chieftaincy title on the governor.

Mbaise nation has criteria in bestowing chieftaincy title to a guest. Such measure was not taken in this charade they did. They just hoodwinked the governor and gave him title that is unmerited, which makes it a mockery of chieftaincy award to the governor. If I were the governor, I will reject such mockery award in order to keep his integrity in Mbaise intact.

It is noteworthy to say that whenever a chieftaincy title is to be given to the governor, the world would know and it would be celebrated.

Mbaise nation is always proud of her culture and whenever any serving governor merits such chieftaincy title or award, he would be proud to step out in the arena where the Ezuruezu Mbaise, Ezejis and Ndi Eze including their distinguished sons and daughters both at home and in the Diaspora would jointly celebrate and appreciate their governor. But for this very one given under ignormny on Tuesday, August 16, 2022 was nothing but a jamboree and should be disregarded by the general public.

Simon Ekpa

Simon Ekpa LL.M (Master of Laws) is a human rights activist, CEO, senior legal advisor at Ekpa & Co Oy, legal researcher, author, analyst, Finnish politician, Biafra agitator and a Finnish Military reserve.
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