[By Theo Rays, Onitsha]
It was a day to remember for aged people who are up to 80years and above in Nkpor community, Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, as the community rolled out the drums to celebrate them in an occasion tagged; Etoluo Ceremony organized by the Nkpor Development Union (NDU) and held at the St Alphonsus Catholic Church field.
The celebrants converged on the venue in full strength with their children, grand children, friends and well-wishers to express their joy and appreciation for the kind gesture offered them by the community.
Former Registrar Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK) Sir Ngozi Anyakora along with 127 others make up the celebrants who were mostly retired civil servants and academia with Anyakora heaping praises to the town union.
47-age-grade men and 81-age-grade women make up the Eloluo fold.
Moved by the joyous atmosphere in town, a businessman in the community Mr Francis Okeke announced that he will give a monthly stipend of N5000 to each of the 128 celebrants for six months. The announcement was greeted with standing ovation.
In the same vein, Senator Uche Ekwunife representing Anambra Central in the Senate and Hon Obinna Chidoka representing Idemili North/South in the Federal House of Representatives congratulated the celebrants praying God to continue to sustain them in good health.
The ceremony which kicked off with Church service officiated by Nkor indigenous clergy men from various Christian denominations with special prayers offered to the celebrants. In his message during the service, Rev Fr Peter Obiaga told the audience that the ceremony is an opportunity to appreciate God’s blessing of old age to the people of Nkpor and also to get closer to God in prayers and with good characters and behavior such as showing love to each other and rendering selfless service to the community.
Fr Obiaga described the aged ones as very good teachers and mentors whose services are still relevant to the community because the young ones can rely on them for good knowledge of the laws of the land amd advice that would help them in life. The Catholic clergy noted that history shows that the celebrants represents the good values that Nkpor community is known for pointing out that it is good for the younger to always consult with the aged ones in their midst for useful advise capable to enhance fear of God, respect for the laws of the land and love for one and other.
In his address, the President General of NDU Ogbueshi Emeka Innocent Mbagha explained that the Etoluo Ceremony is organized as one of the cultural heritage of Nkpor community designed to celebrate octogenarian in similarities to Ito Ogbo (coming of age) as obtained in neighboring communities like Obosi, Oba and Ogidi adding that the community, the celebrants and their families and relations look forward to the ceremony with great enthusiasm as a way of thanksgiving to God for keeping them alive to celebrate their eightieth birthday.
Ogbueshi Mbagha noted: “We chose to use them as benchmark because it is good to celebrate longevity to enable us count our blessings to see the abundance of the grace of God in our lives. It also motivates children to take passionate care of their aged ones with expectation that they will take part in the rewarding celebration at due times.”
The PG who congratulated the celebrants added “the occasion strengthens family ties as in-laws and well wishers use the opportunity to visit interact, make merry and exchange gifts. The social and economic benefits of the ceremony won’t be overemphasized. As you can see, today Nkpor is filled with friends from places who are using the opportunity to enjoy the friendly hospitality Nkpor is known for over the years.”
The town union boss however used the opportunity to point out some teething challenges in the community such as neglect of native food by women and placing more importance on white wedding in the Church than the traditional rites for marriage such as payment of bride price and conducting traditional ceremony of Igba nkwu nwayi. He observed “there is this worrisome trend which is fast taking root in our society which is the way marriages are being contracted. Some young men go for solemnization of marriage which we call Church wedding before undergoing the traditional process of marriage forgotten that marriage is not complete until bride price is paid and the traditional Igba nkwu is carried out.”
Earlier in his remark the Chairman of the occasion Chief Felix Okeke said that going by what is written in the Bible where it is written that a man’s life time should be three scores and ten years anybody that lives up to 80years and above have to be grateful to God. “Methuselah live 969 but at a point God narrowed it down 120 and subsequently down to 70 so for us to have 128 people of 80years and above in Nkpor calls for celebration and I must thank the town union for organizing this ceremony. Also I wish to say congratulations to the celebrants,” Chief Okeke added.
High points of the occasion were cutting of the Cake, issuance of Etoluo certificate to the celebrants and announcement by the PG that Etoluo has to be attached to the name of the celebrants such as Etoluo Sir Ngozi Anyakora.