Anambra is a cosmopolitan state in Eastern Nigeria. It is home to the commercial town of Onitsha and the laid back Ogidi Community where renowned novelist, Chinua Achebe, hailed from.
I am a culture and history buff and I’m in Anambra State to interact with the royalty and the people. Underlying this interaction is my desire to bask in the rich culture and history of the Igbos, something that has fascinated me ever since I have been reading the works of Chinua Achebe and watching Nollywood films.
Luckily, my host, Mrs Ngozi Ngoka (Lolo)—the Vice President, South East, of the Federation Of Tourism Associations Of Nigeria (FTAN), has taken me about 94 km from Owerri to Ogbunike to enjoy the rare privilege of meeting the Igwe of Ogbunike, His Royal Majesty Igwe John Ositadimma Umenyiora (Ezedioramma 1)—who is the repository of his people’s culture and history.
Whenever you are here, I hope you have the chance to meet the king. He’s a very intelligent and humble man, and you can see it in the organization and beauty of his palace. As our car glided to a halt inside the compound surrounded by the white-painted fence, I was greeted by the cry of a peacock. The colourful bird is there, enjoy free rein.
The palace’s reception area merges arts, nature and culture to create a majestic ambience. Adorned with paintings, animal hide, sculpture, statuettes and pictures, all nicely set in perfect places, the palace tempts you to bring out your camera and start snapping away.
The Igwe’s miniature throne is a sofa covered in fur. His staff of office stands to the right, an elephant tusk lays to the left. In front of the seat—a little to the right and left, are leopard hides and skulls—with eyes so piercingly staring at you that you’ll think they’ll pounce on you at any moment. The hides are laid on the floor like a carpet—though you get this impression that the leopards are in resting position at first sight. To the far end of the platform where the miniature throne is–on either side, are statues of eagles, while those of turtles, snake etc. line up to create an aisle to the Igwe’s miniature throne.
Before taking his seat, the Igwe broke the cola nut, said some prayers and shared the cola nut with everyone. I asked my guide why cola nut was so important to the Igbo man and he told me that in Igboland, the people believe in a popular saying that, “onye wetere oji wetere ndu” meaning “He who gives cola nut, gives life.”
Of course, the Igwe was happy to enlighten me about the Igbo culture, but more interestingly, he wanted me to taste and feel it first-hand. So, he beckoned one of his stewards to serve me palm wine—a local wine made from the fermented sap of palm trees. The unadulterated drink is sweet, though it could knock you off if you take too much of it. I was also served garden egg with peanut butter, that’s after I had chowed down on cola nut and meat pie…. (I know what you are thinking) and washed them down with a soft drink.
The Igwe told me that the statues that beautify his palace were replicas of wildlife that roamed the area many years ago, though some of the hides were imported. Then he introduced me to his kingdom’s most renowned jewel, the Ogbunike Cave. The cave, the Igwe said, is an amazing natural gift that was divinely deposited in the kingdom for the world to explore. “The cave has no spiritual attachment. It is pure nature, it’s just people that build something mythical about the Cave” the Igwe told me.
Before I left the town, the Igwe ensured that his stewards took me to the amazing Ogbunike Cave. The drive from the place to the cave was about 10 minutes, but each second was well accounted for with lessons about the cave. The Cave has been there for centuries with minimal defacement my guide told me. Each year, the people celebrate the Ime Ogbe Festival in commemoration of the discovery of the caves.
To book a post-covid-19 tour of Anambra State, contact Afro Tourism on +2348090663389 or search for a travel deal here on AfroDeals
This trip occurred in 2018.