By Festus Okei
If culture is the way of life of any group of people, Umuebu people must have indeed etched a remarkable milestone in the annals of their existence. A kingdom founded on love, egalitarianism and sheer will to be at each other’s side. Over the years, their culture has evolved and made them distinctive amongst their neighbouring villages, towns, clans and kingdoms. Their calendar year, the foods, culinary and totemism, farming practices, administrative structures and their festivals have made stand far higher above some other communities with little or bastardazised Cultural practices.
Umuebu calendar is in tandem with the Ukwuani traditional calendar that runs for between nine to ten months. A week here is called oge eto, seven days. The month is considered in terms of the appearance of the the moon which is called ife or onwa. A circle or interval of two onwas makes a month. The year starts with the traditional clearing and felling of the bush and trees, respectively in preparation of the farming season.
However, this will not be done without giving reverence to the god of fertility, ifijioku. It is therefore imperative to state here that the year starts with a quasi-festival celebration to the god of fertility of the land. This festival is called utor. Every kindred head performs the important function to appease the forebears who in turn intercedes for the living. Without this festival, no indegine of Umuebu is expected to go to the forest to start up a farming session. This is followed by several farming activities like: ikpa ani ( stumping), efifia inu ( first weeding), efifia ngbenebe (second weeding), till harvesting. It is also expected that farming eats of yam from the farm, he must also to the god of fertility, ifijioku). This calls for another celebration or festival called iwa ijii (new yam festival). Both utor and iwa ijii are minor festivals, though they are very relevant to the average farmer. The two major festivals are: Ikenge festival and Igba festivals. Igba festival is held every three years and highly venerated; it is not much discussed in public domain because of the sacredness and mysticism attached to it.
Ikenge festival is held every year. It is a festival of love, peace and togetherness amongst the sons and daughters of the land and the neighbouring villages and towns. Ikenge festival which is also called Ukwuata festival is unique with the upland Ndokwa nation. It is celebrated by the people of Abbi, Umuebu, Obiaruku, Umutu, Umukwata, Eziokpor, Ezhionum and Aragba-Orogun. The festival starts with the declaration by the Okpala-uku, the oldest man of the community or kingdom. One unique feature of this festival is that it is a festival that the people are at liberty to compose songs meant to satirize the erring members of the society. Thus who fornicated or stole at one time or the other, are lampooned or satirized at this time. Boys and girls, young and old troop down to the village square to partake the singing and dancing of the songs. Those amorous boys and girls indulge in the liberty of the orgy to establish new contacts.
Another festival of the celebrated by a quarter in the kingdom is Izomo festival. Though celebrated by a section of the kingdom, the entire kingdom enjoys the highly contested wrestling bouts. Ngba Izomo as the wrestling tournament is referred attracts people from different communities. Today, men of between forty to fifty-five years contest in Ngba Izomo because the prizes could range from motorcycles to brand new cars. This festival is celebrated around November to early January of every year. It is celebrated to solicit help from their ancestors to ward off external aggressors.
Apart from the festivals, their marriage rites is equally unique. The igba ukor or ime ife onyenye is simple but highly respected. Whatever amount that is agreed upon as the bride price, the token that is reserved for the ancestors is very important. This money called ego ishi onu nmor serves as a binding force between living and the dead. This accounts for the reason why any married woman who commits adultery usually incurs the wrath of the gods of land and dealt decisively by these gods. Therefore, adultery is highly frowned at and seen as a taboo. Indigenes are encouraged to take to husbands or wives at home. This does not mean marrying outside the kingdom is not allowed.
Umuebu foods, culinary and totems cannot be overlooked. They eat decent food eaten by Africans but with reservations to laws of the land. There are a few animals that are forbidden. No Umuebu person eats dogs, bush fowls ( usually referred to an nnenyi, our mother), cocoyam and snails ( however, a particular species of the snails). These animals and plants must have played significant role in the evolving and growth of the kingdom. Apart from the above mentioned plant and animals, an average Umuebu man enjoys every other food consumed by the Ndokwa people. Some of their foods include: ofe isege, ofe nkpulu eku, of ikele, ngbawa ani, etc. Amongst the above foods, ngbawani (mushroom) holds special place in their hearts. It is obviously a special delicacy that every child will want to eat.
Untill recently, the administrative head of the kingdom was the Okpala-uku who was the oldest man of the society. Today, Umuebu is a kingdom with a well respected king. The king, HRM Donald Ejechi Ekeruche , a retired diplomat is the first king of the kingdom. He assisted by the Onotu-uku. The present Onotu-uku is a retired medical practitioner in the person of High Chief Sunday Onyenwosa. These two and the entire traditional cabinet see to the day to day administration of the kingdom.
The kingdom has indeed, witnessed tremendous infrastructural development in recent years. However, the major challenges it has now is the completion of the access road to the community which seems to have been abandoned, though carried out the first phase of the construction by the Okowa led administration. The kingdom would be wide open to the outside world to explore her agricultural potentials and abundant mineral resources as the people of the kingdom avail themselves this opportunity to passionately appeal to the Governor of Delta State, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa to come to the aid of the community with the completion of the access road from Obiaruku to Umuebu. Umuebu, a home away from home!