FEATURE: The 2016 Eghogho Festival Auchi, Edo State.
Nex week, the good people of Auchi will be playing host to the world as they celebrate the second edition of the Auchi Eghogho festival, a festival that is designed to fuse tradition with modernity. The term “Eghogho”, connotes joy, felicitation, merriment, fun, happiness in the Auchi dialect. The Eghogho festival brings all Auchi sons and (daughters) that have been initiated into manhood from the inception of Auchi Kingdom together.
The festival which is intended to celebrate the Auchi manhood culture, also celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Auchi people through food, music, fashion, language, religions and arts. It provides a platform for celebration, reunion and interaction amongst all the various age-groups towards reigniting the common cultural legacy that binds the Auchi people together. The festival is designed to use the Auchi age-group/manhood institution to reawaken some of the rapidly eroding cultural legacies (that do not contradict modern day religious practices) of our forebears
At this point, one may ask “what is this Auchi age-group/manhood institution”? The manhood/age-group tradition which is locally referred to as “Irhua” in the Auchi dialect means initiation into manhood. According to folktale, the “Irhua” tradition dates back to the period when the people who occupy the present location called Auchi migrated from Benin during the reign of Oba Ewuare around the 14thCentury. Due to imminent invasion from the warriors from the Benin Kingdom who at the instance of the reigning Oba preferred an indivisible Kingdom and incessant inter-tribal wars, Uchi, the head of the Auchi community found it imperative to establish a standing army of young and virile men who could be called upon in times of wars for protection or communal activities. This army of young men became so indispensable in the community that they began to act as warriors, deterrent to slave raiders as well as being the custodian of law and order throughout the community. As the community developed and most of these young men grew into mature adults with other personal responsibilities, it became necessary to introduce a system of stratification where they could be graded into regiments according to their ages. To further develop this tradition, the heads of the community found it practical to establish a system of initiation into the revered age-group vested with responsibilities of protecting lives and properties. Thus, every young man of about 20 – 23 years of age was initiated into age-group/manhood with the above responsibilities. The age-group/manhood initiation became a trado-religious celebration performed by every young Auchi man between the ages of 20 – 23 years with 2 years intervals during Eid Kabir (Big Sallah) in the market square accompanied with a name and spiritual blessings from the Otaru of Auchi.
From recorded history, the Auchi age group tradition has initiated about 57 different age groups in the 120 years history (1890 – 2010) of the manhood/age-group tradition. Different age groups are characterized by their uniqueness or societal events that occur at the time of their initiation. Most age groups go on to live such uniqueness throughout their lifetime, whilst others gets enveloped by other more interesting activities in the society. One of the foremost age groups which left an indelible mark or footprint on the history is the famous Umareghe age group of 1910. Many generations have told the interesting and daring tales of this age group like no other in the history Auchi Kingdom with nostalgia. It is interesting to note that this age group was initiated at the thick of slave raids on Afemai land by the Nupes and also at the height of colonization by the imperialist British administration. The Umareghe age group succeeded in many fronts where many others failed. They were essentially warriors who no invader dared incurred their wrath, they fought gallantly to ward off many attacks from neighboring villages who were always been envious of the blazing position of the Auchi Kingdom and they also were very active in community development projects.
On the day of the Auchi Eghogho festival, each age-group will adorn a unique, but uniformed identity of traditional clothes reserved for each particular group. The identity will be in the form of colour of clothes, style of cap, cultural display which denotes what the age-group represents as indicated in their original name, history and events that led to their initiation.
In the words of the founder and convener of the festival, Mohammed Ahmed, “the Eghogho festival is packaged to fuse tradition with modernity by collecting the original traditional attires of each age-groups and creating a masterpiece from these attires to symbolize the originality of each age-group and as a mark of peaceful co-existence between the age-groups that make up the fabric of the Auchi society irrespective of class. Part of the festival is to involve every member of the society through competitive activities between age-groups during the events and the winning age-group shall be presented with a medal of recognition based on the defined categories. This is to create healthy competition and cooperation between age-groups. If the recent National TV Show (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) is anything to go by on Auchi being the fastest growing town in Nigeria, the Eghogho Festival shall help to further consolidate this position. It is intended that the Eghogho festival will bring all Auchi sons and daughters both home and in the Diaspora who belong to different age groups without boundaries occasioned by status, creed and beliefs to come together once in every two years to chart a course in the general interest of the Auchi Kingdom, Afemai Land, Edo State and Nigeria”.
The festival is expected to start with a procession round Auchi kingdom by participating age-group as indicated in the route map below:
EXPECTED BENEFITS OF AUCHI EGHOGHO FESTIVAL
Some of the expected benefits from this festival include:
To re-kindle kinship and acquaintances within Age-mates or amongst age-groups
An opportunity to reunite with families and friends across the Age groups
To establish a communal and competitive strategy for the development of Auchi and environs
An avenue for the assessment of the general wellbeing of the Auchi society
To improve the local economic capabilities of the community through cultural institutions
To promoting Auchi as a future tourist destination through cultural heritage
To re-address the dysfunctional societal challenges experienced amongst the younger generation
To create a platform for the various age-groups to compete in attracting developmental projects to benefit mankind
Serve as a source of inspiration and opportunity for the less privilege to become greater achievers
To encourage a philanthropic culture for the general good of the community.