So sad that everthing cultural seems to be overrun by politics. The culture is no more what it was. The story about Iri ji Mbaise is so interesting.
Legends have it that the cradle of creation took place in Ezinihitte Mbaise at “Orie-ukwu” with the birth of five clans-EZINIHITTE, OKE-OVORO, AGBAJA, AHIARA AND EKWEREAZU. In those ancient days, the celebration of annual Iriji took place in every village and town in Mbaise on an important market day of the week like –ORIE-UKWU, EKE-UKWU, AFO-UKWU, OR NKWO-UKWU. The cultivation and planting of farm crops between January to end of May resulted in shortage of food. Families would feed on little available food. This famine period would continue through the end of July when the first species of yam called “Ji-Igwe” would be harvested. This particular species of yam is nicknamed “cut and come again” because when you dig and cut off the early tuber leaving the head underground, it will grow and produce another tuber which will be planted in the next cropping season.The fathers of the households in the villages and towns would be very happy and thankful to God for having survived the famine.To them, this wonder of nature calls for celebration hence a day was set aside for the celebration named “Iriji-Ohuo” -New yam Festival. Ahiajoku is the acclaimed god of farm crops especially yam. During the celebration, prayers and libation would flow in praise and thanksgiving to god of yam.

Before the advent of Christianity, early inhabitants of the Mbaise Nation, “our great grand parents” had Ahiajoku shrine in every household where food and drinks were offered to the Ahiajoku god. Fowls, Goats, Sheep were used as sacrifice. They had the notion of mini gods and one supreme God, the Almighty and Creator of all things.
There are farmers in every village and town who grow and harvest more yams than others. These great farmers were given the prestigious title of “EZEJI”.
They are acclaimed as having the largest farms and could feed hundreds of people with out running out of supply. Though the Ezeji title holders regard Iriji as their particular ceremony, the event is for every person big and small. In the modern age, yam which is the head of farm crops have come to symbolize among other things in our lives—-accomplishments, jobs, productivity in your field, overcoming adversity, another birthday, etc.
On the 15th of August every year, Mbaise people all over the world must celebrate this thanksgiving event individually or collectively with friends and well wishers. They come together to celebrate their achievements and accomplishments over the year with special thanksgiving to God.

Ezeji cultivates the yams, owns the yams, harvest the yams and gives them to people to eat.
It is the role of the Ezeji to roast and cook yams enough to feed the masses that attend the ceremony.
The Ezejis are great and powerful landowners. Ezeji title holder is expected to be an outstanding personality in the community.
Ezeji people play important role in the settlement of land disputes. They pray and bless the new yam, taste it and give it to others to eat.
A ceremony officially marking the eating of new yam
Iriji is sustained and nurtured by Ezeji title holders. Other supporting groups include EZURUEZU MBAISE, MBAISE PEOPLES CONGRESS, NDI EZE MBAISE OR THE TRADITIONAL RULERS. Iriji annual event attracts people from all over the world. It has attracted Chief executives, top government officials, governors and vice presidents over the years. It has become a symbol of unity and home coming for Mbaise sons and daughters.
Unlike many other people, the Mbaise person cultivates and farm in other communities outside his town. The real Mbaise man or woman is hospitable and kind.
He is strong and can withstand hardship. He plays host to unknown visitors. You will find him in almost all parts of the world including areas with harsh climatic conditions and difficult terrain. He hates cheating and will always stand out bold to claim his right. There is a famous axiom that the fifth person in any Igbo gathering is an Mbaise person or th
at person knows an Mbaise person as a friend or in-law.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting history. I am from Umunahu, Uratta in Owerri North LGA and I didn't know all these details before now. I am working on a collection of stories of Igbo people and have just sent you a mail concerning it. Kindly check your messages and I look forward to your response.