Ogbunike Cave (Ogba): The cave can best be described as one of the greatest wonders of creature, found within the crust of a range of hills surrounding the area. Located at Ugwu Ogba in Ogbunike town of Oyi Local Government Area, a 10km drive from Onitsha, commercial heartland of Eastern Nigeria.
“Ogba Ogbunike,” as the locals call it, has been known to them for a very long time. It is a location where Africans hid for slave raiding parties during the African holocaust period.
According to oral tradition of the Igbos, two hunters from Ogbunike town discovered this cave at the dawn of history who received “divine” instruction on the cave by a spirit angel called Pantheon.
It was also said that there was a god called “Ogba” who lived inside the cave in the middle of a large rock. Despite the opaque nature of the rock, he was an all seeing spirit who could detect criminals especially thieves. When someone was accused of some sort of crime, he could prove he was innocent by entering the cave. The guilty ones never returned alive. There are several other stories about the many segments of the cave which are better told by the local guide. Today, the cave is the most popular which attracts a quite number of visitors every year. Because of religious traditions, the visit to the cave is only allowed with bare feet. Painting graffiti on the walls is not forbidden, so many walls are full of them.
Leading into the cave is a track (a multiple of 60 steps) which leads into a number of other mazes (a complex and baffling network of paths, lines). The entrance to the five tunnels of the cave is a wide and tapering mysterious hemispherical vault of solid rock with all season cool spring water dripping from top and all corners. Once inside the vault, you feel quite serene as though you have come to a wonderland.
The naturally-carved network of chambers and tunnels has two levels. The lower level is 100m long and leads to an underground river. The upper level is twice as long and dry, and a bat colony and a waterfall sit at the north-western end. Visitors to the cave are advised to go with touch light, wear trouser and prepare to do some crawling. Within the vicinity of Ogbunike cave is Mbida Ogba stream. Visitors to Ogbunike cave will have the advantage of savouring the serenity of the stream.
Location: (i) Enugu through Enugu/Onitsha Expressway to Ogbunike junction (10km to Onitsha) turn left to Ogidi (Idemili LGA) via Afor Igwe to Owelle Ukwu Central School. Then move towards St. Monica Teachers College, there lies Ogbunike cave. (ii) Onitsha through old road to Nkpor, Ogide and Afor Igwe, Ogbunike (Owelle Ukwu Central School via St. Monica’s Teacher’s College).
OMASHI-IYI CAVE – AKPU
This cave is also the shrine of Omashi-Iyi, the oracle of Akpu believed to offer protection to its people and adherents. Within the cave itself are hundreds of sacred bats that have inhabited it since the origin of the cave, centuries ago. As is always the case with caves, this one contains compartments, crevices and a very long tunnel about 1km long. Approaching the cave, there is a stream; semi-circular in form, which borders the cave and forms a pool at its entrance, this stream is hooded by trees and bamboos, a natural setting for a cave or a hiding place.The cave is in the custody of the chief priest of Omashi-Iyi who offers a yearly sacrifice at the entrance of the cave to appease the gods of the land, to solicit for its blessings and to predict the future on behalf of the people. The cave is a wonder as one experiences the sheer thrill watching the colony of beautifully coloured bats flying all over its entrance.
OBUTU LAKE – OMOGHO
This is an offshoot of the Odo River, covering a large 10 hectares of land. People come here all year round for fishing and excursions. During the rainy season, it covers a larger area of land. The water of this lake is considered an antidote by locals. When fetched at midnight and without being observed, the water has power to cure a person of ailments and poisoning. The lake provides water for irrigation of abundant rice and vegetable farms during the dry season. It is also a reservoir of fishes and a delight to local fishermen who ply their trade along its bank. In the rainy season when the lake overflows its banks, the fishes are easily caught. The beauty of the lake lies in its clear crystal nature and as a natural fish pond, its sand beach provides a serene environment for relaxation. There are no harmful animals in the lake. Students from far places come to the lake for excursions and picnics. It is attractive for tourism, rowing, swimming, leisure and recreation. There was an attempt in the past by the Odo River to flood the lake but this was foiled by a sand dune on its path towards the lake. It however succeeded in dumping a large quantity of sand into the far end of the lake, making it a bit shallower than the near end.
THE OGBA UKWU DOME AND CAVE
The dome is a naturally carved rock formation in the form of an arena, covering a large dry and sandy area which forms a natural beach around the Ogba waterfall.
Next to this dome is the Ogba Ukwu cave considered the largest cave in West Africa, which will take upwards to two hours to explore. It forms a deep and complex rock formation with roomy compartments large enough to take in an entire village. The cave consists of tunnels, heading off in different directions; however, there are two noticeable entrances to the cave. One tunnel in particular is regarded as an escape route which is about two kilometers long, from which one will eventually emerge in Oji River Local Government Area of Enugu State. At the centre of Ogba Ukwu, is one large area said to have been the living room of the ‘god’ of Owerre-Ezukala. His throne and other compartments within his household. His sentries were always mounted at the two entrances to the cave watching out for visitors and intruders. There are crevices in the rock depicting his wardrobe and store rooms. There is one particular compartment, accessed by the aid of stone steps where an old elephant’s foot still stands, long dead and dry. In another crevice, there is a natural spanner of rock, and in yet another is a gun of stone, as old as the cave. There is the ‘Ogba Ekezu’, a bottomless well within the cave that no one who ever falls into it is seen again. In the past, natives came to the cave once every year, in the month of March to perform the ‘Aja Ala Onwa Ito’ festival. Visitors were invited for parties and picnics inside the cave. It is alleged that natives in the past communed physically with the god of Ogba Ukwu who appeared on his throne in the form of a man, holding a broom in his hand. He answered the people’s questions, gave judgment to their cases and made predictions about the future. Time and encroachment however must have caused his relocation to an unknown destination. Guided tours in and around it is a wonder, and leaves a visitor dumbfounded to this wonderful work of nature.
OKPU ANA NATURAL SPRING (UKPOR)
This spring whose source is unknown simply gushes out of a large boulder embedded in a cliff and is regarded as the purest waters to be found anywhere. To access the waters, one has to descend virtually into the bowels of the earth by means of steps constructed by the people for that purpose. The people of Ukpor are very proud of the mystery spring, as they lead tourists to its banks and encourage them to take a drink. The spring forms a stream at the bottom, which has a beautiful bet of white clay, giving it an entirely surreal atmosphere.
The quiet and serene environment of the spring is conducive for camping and picnicking or simply for a quiet time of meditation.
This is an ancient feast celebrated at the middle of the year of the Igbo calendar. It was a reconciliation festival designed by the forebears to reconcile people, families, clans, kindreds, villages and communities who often had misunderstandings amongst themselves. The essence is to renew the brotherhood of the people. It is also a time of home coming for sons and daughters of the community from their various places of abode.
Preparation for the feast is elaborate. A day is set aside for it. On the said day every member of the community wherever they may reside must come home for symbolic public declaration of innocence from evil. At the set time everybody gathers at his Umunna (kindred) ‘Obi’. In the morning sun, the assembly gathers at the kindred’s Oda (square) and thereafter move to the front of ‘Alusi Umunna’ (shrine of the kindred’s deity), were prayers are offered for long life, prosperity, peace and for heartfelt reconciliation of all. After the prayer and blessing of items, delicious meals, kegs of palm wine which have already been prepared by each of the participating families, are presented to visitors and persons which a person has in mind for the purpose of the reconciliation. It is believed that one’s kindred knows his sworn enemy(s) and it is to this enemy that one sends his food personally. Once his enemy eats the food, it signifies true reconciliation. To show he has reconciled with his enemy, a person is expected to leave a piece of yam and oil which he shows his kindred, and which signifies real reconciliation, thus eliciting jokes and laughter among the kinsmen.
This is another feast celebrated in Igboland for the maintenance and concretizing of friendship. It is another festival of reconciliation, where friends come together and celebrate their love which cuts across sexes.
The festival is celebrated on a day chosen by the community and lasts several days. One usually visits a friend he chooses, with whom he or she celebrates the ‘Okuka’ which lasts for a period of one market week. The host entertains his friend with delicacies like roasted yam, oka (roasted maize), Utara Ede ( cooked pounded cocoyam), Utara Akpu (pounded cooked cassava), ‘Ofe Egusi’ (melon soup), ‘Ofe Onugbu’ (Bitter leaf soup) served with smoked fish or ‘Anu Ewu’ (goat meat), ‘ Anu Okuko’ (chicken), ‘Ji mmiri oku’ (Yam pepper soup), ‘Abacha Ncha’ (African salad) with the best of palm wine from the best palm wine taper served. It is a period during which one is free from the cares and worries of family life; a mini holiday when friends get together to celebrate love and friendship.
On the day of departure of guest, he is showered with lots of gifts mostly food stuff and is also given reserved smoked goat arm to take to his people as a sign that he was well taken care of, which he cooks and gathers his kinsmen to eat and drink with him. In the next Okuka feast, he is expected to reciprocate his friend’s gesture by hosting him. To abscond from this obligation is a great crime that the traditional court of ‘Ndi Ichie’or’ Ides’ (Titled men) settles with severe penalty.
This is an ancient religious festival in remembrance of the dead rooted in the belief in resurrection. It is the last of Igbo religious festivals celebrated before the dawn of the New Year in the Igbo calendar. It symbolizes the mark of cultivation of land or beginning of New Year which the Igbos recognize as the month of yam, the chief Igbo crop. Another part of the feast is the belief in reincarnation of the dead into one of his or her descendants while at the same time, remaining in the land of the ancestors to watch over his family.
Secondly, the feast is celebrated as an act of thanksgiving to the ancestors for their blessings throughout the passing year, and to ask for their protection, progress, peace, good harvest etc. This is due to the Igbo belief that blessings of God come to them through the instrumentality of their ancestors and through the mediation of one’s ‘chi’ (the guardian angel).
This is an ancient festival to mark the beginning of new yam harvest. It signals the end of ‘Ugani’ (hunger period) which is experienced between the time the yam is sown and the time it matures for harvest. The ceremony was also to thank the mysterious power for protecting the people through the hunger period to the day of plenty, and for nurturing the crops to ensure good harvest. In the past the feast was conducted by the chief priest ofUdo Onu deity who first harvests his yam and brings it to the market square to be sampled on ‘Nkwo’ market day (fourth Igbo market day). Nobody is expected to buy the yams as they are seen as having been consecrated to the communal deity. After the sampling, the chief priest collects the entire sampled yam and consecrates same at ‘Okwu Udo’ (altar of the Udo deity), where he offers prayers of thanksgiving for long life, prosperity and a hitch-free new yam festival. This feast signifies the consecration of the first fruits of crops. Formerly the feast was performed by Eze Nri the high priest of Igbo race.
This is an ancient religious festival, during which the people come to Udo deity to thank the deity for the favour they received in the previous year and for future protection and blessings. It is usually celebrated with pump and pageantry shortly before the end of the Igbo calendar.
This is an ancient feast celebrated a month or two after the new yam harvest. It is the great feast of brides-to-be. It is this feast which shows that a girl has reached womanhood and will shortly go into marriage.
OKUKA EGWU ONWA
This is one of the ancient forums for recreational activities instituted by the man Igbo. It is usually celebrated under the full moonlight between dinner time and pre-dawn. It involves lots of merry-making, dances, folk tales, wrestling, recitations etc. this feast is now celebrated every 30thDecember of the year.
IGU ARO FESTIVAL
This festival is celebrated to mark the beginning of a new year from September, October and November in the Igbo calendar year. It lasts for two days and is celebrated in Agukwu Nri. Nawfia, Enugwu Ukwu, Aguleri, Umuleri, and among communities in Anambra East Local Government Area.
IRI JI/UFEJIOKU/AWAMJI/ASHA OLU/AHUMJI FESTIVAL
This is another important festival widely celebrated between August and November annually. It lasts from two to four days to mark the eating of new yams in communities of Aguata, Anaocha, Ihiala, Idemili North and South Local Government Areas.
This is a festival of masquerades which lasts for four days in Umuoji in Idemili North Local Government Area and Nnobi in Idemili South LGA of Anambra State.
The feast is celebrated annually in Achina, Aguata Local Government Area in honour of the founder of Achina.
The festival is a celebration of masquerades that lasts for four days. Different types of masquerades manifests during the feast. It signifies the end of the farming season and is celebrated between August and September of every year in Ogidi, Idemili North Local Government Area and Ogbunike, in Oyi Local Government Area.
This festival is celebrated annually and lasts for a period of four days. It marks the end of the harvest season in Ndiowu, Ndikelionwu, Awa and Amaokpala, in Orumba North Local Government Area of the state
African Traditional Religion was the indigenous religion of the people before the advent of Christianity. Like all Igbo people, they believed in the existence of a Supreme Being ‘Chukwu’ (Almighty God) or ‘Chineke’ (God the Creator). There is also the belief that one is guided by his personal god ‘Chi’ who determines the fate of man. There is the belief in ancestors; the forebears of the community who are long dead but are believed to watch over their respective kindreds and families from the land of the spirit. Apart from the Supreme Being ‘Chukwu’ the people believe in the existence of other smaller gods or deities, to whom sacrifices are made, being seen as messengers and intermediaries between the far removed ‘Chukwu’ and man.
PRESENTATION OF KOLANUTS
Kolanut is a symbolic crop in Igboland. It symbolizes hospitality and peace to its visitors. After the general introductions, the host presents the traditional kolanut to any his kin present before it is presented to a guest or guests. This presentation follows a format that is based on seniority and kinship which is strictly adhered to. Misdirection of the path of presentation of the kolanut is frowned at. To Anambra people as with every Igbo community, it is a mark of its cultural identity.
WASHING OF HANDS
This traditional process of receiving visitors among the Igbo people was observed beginning with the washing of hands. Water is usually passed around in a jug and all guests are expected to wash their hands in a basin. It is believed that a visitor who has traveled a long distance must have come in contact with several evil spirits along the way. This wash is meant to cleanse off these contacts in preparation for touching the sacred kola nuts.
THE WHITE CLAY
The presentation of the white clay is the next stage that following the washing of hand before the breaking of the kolanut. The white clay symbolizes purity of the guest and acceptance of the welcome given to him by the host. The process involves the drawing of lines on the floor with white clay. All adult males are given a piece of white clay, rolled towards them on the floor with which they are expected to draw several lines on the floor. The reason for rolling the white clay on the floor is to give the visitor a choice to either accept or reject it. Acceptance means that the visitor has come in peace while rejection signifies displeasure. Drawing of lines is done according to the position a person holds in society / community. Titled men known as ‘Nze’usually draw eight lines to signify the eight great market days while ordinary men known as ‘Okoro’ draw four, for the lesser four market days of the Igbo namely, ‘Nkwo’, ‘Eke’, ‘Orie’ and ‘Afo’.
Drawing of lines with white Clay
BREAKING OF KOLANUTS This is the next and most significant aspect of receiving visitors in Igbo land. A wooden dish full of Igbo kolanuts (Oji Igbo) is brought by the wife of the host and presented to her husband as custom demands. The host then presents the dish to the leader of his visitors’ team. The kolanut travels thereafter, from one person to the other, among the males only. Each person thanks the presenter of the Kolanuts, a sign of goodwill, makes a speech and passes it on to the person nearest to him in terms of kinship / origin. The kolanuts, on completion of this long journey, is returned to the host for prayers and blessings. While the host prays, he calls on God to bless all present, multiply them and make their lives fruitful. If the function is being conducted in a palace, the Igwe’s (traditional ruler’s) trumpeter (Oti Mkpu) continuously blows his trumpet made of elephant tusk to signify the Igwe’s glory and majesty. The kolanuts are then broken and passed around for all to take a piece and eat.
POURING OF LIBATION
The stage of presentation and drinking of palm wine signifies that the visitor has been well received and has the goodwill of the host. A community leader is called upon to bless and pour out the wine into drinking cups. The first cup is given to the eldest who blesses the gathering in traditional a praying rite after which he pours it out. This is followed by general serving of wine to all present.
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