ORU-OWERRI FESTIVAL: HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL CELEBRATION OF LIFE, PEACE, LOVE AND UNITY AMONGST IGBO PEOPLE OF OWERRI MUNICIPAL IN IMO STATE, NIGERIA
Beautiful procession of Igbo-Owerri female age grade group during the Oru-Owerri festival at Owerri Municipal in Imo State, Nigeria. Oru-Owerri festival is a festival and cultural carnival celebrated annually by the Igbo people (ndi-igbo) of five traditional Owerri villages in Owerri municipality of Imo state in Nigeria. The festival which is also known as the ‘traditional Christmas’ of the people of Owerri, is in remembrance of the founding of Owere (Owerri) historically, about 1463 AD or thereabout but in the 14th century by Ekwem Oha Arugo. The main importance of this festival is the celebration of life, love and oneness amongst the people of Owere nchi ise community. It is this festival that make Owerri Municipal to be the utmost hub of cultural activities or the melting point of culture and tradition in Imo State. The Owerri festival which is celebrated in July every year and lasts for a week, commences with roasting and eating of special yams. Culture or tradition of a particular community cannot be complete without one tracing the origin of the people that practise the culture. The culture of Owerri people cannot be completed without one tracing a little of their history. Ekwema, the father of five children, had squabble with his kindred while living with them at a place called Uratta which is very close to Owerri. History has it that the trouble which ensued between Ekwema and his kindred led Ekwema to go into self-imposed exile with his five children. While wandering in the big forest, his children became hungry and wanted to eat before continuing their journey. They eventually arrived at Ugwu which is now popularly known as Ugwu-Ekwema where Ekwema settled and roasted yam and fed his children. After eating, they became thirsty and wanted water to drink. Apparently worried by the situation they found themselves, they began to search for water around the area until they were able to trace Otamiri river which source began at Egbu, near Owerri. At the end of this, they came back to settle down in Owerri having found Otamiri river as a source of their drinking water. Ekwema had five children namely Amawom, Umurorojo, Umuodum, Umuoyima and Umuonyeche which later metamorphosed into Owere Nchi-ise villages that make up Owerri community with His Royal Highness,Eze Emmanuel Njemanze Osuruigbo V. Any important personality that visited Imo State without a courtesy call to the traditional ruler Owerri will be regarded as having not completed his visit. He commands respect in Imo State.