Ghana-Nigeria relations will receive fresh impetus this September 19 as Ghanaian kings and queen mothers as well as high government officials join the Igbo King in Ghana, Eze Chukwudi Ihenetu, to celebrate this year's Igbo new yam festival, in Accra.
Igbo is one of Nigeria's three major ethnic nationalities and constitutes a strategic and very influential sub-group in the larger Nigerian community in Ghana.
The Igbo yam festival is an annual event to highlight the primacy and economic importance of the yam crop in the affairs of the Igbo worldview.
This year's event will feature the best of Igbo and Ghanaian cultural displays, attires and regalia.
But the festival will not just be a celebration of yam, but also a celebration of the relationship between Ghana and Nigeria, the Igbo monarch said in Accra.
"We intend to use the new yam festival to strengthen the traditions and cultures of Nigeria and Ghana. You will see a lot of Ghanaian kings and queen mothers that day, because tradition is what every African cherishes a lot. And through tradition we build serious bridges.
"So, you will see a lot of Ghanaian kings, you will see a lot of Ghanaian government officials who will attend the event on that day. Because we are not just celebrating yam, we are also celebrating relationship between the two countries, Ghana and Nigeria. So you will see a lot of things on that day; the expectations for that day is very high," Eze Ihenetu stated.
According to him, this year promises to be different from previous years in terms of the event's scope and the number of Ghanaian royalties, government officials and other guests expected.
"The Igbo New Yam festival is virtually the same every year and everywhere. It's all about yam, yam, yam. What makes one different from the other is the kind of people you invite from one event to the next, the kind of display you put up. So when new people attend, when many more people come in, that means that we are extending the frontiers to many other kingdoms here in Ghana for them to know what we are doing. So, these are some of the new things you are going to see this year," he noted.
Eze Ihenetu explained the significance of the festival to his people, and the underlying reason why they celebrate the crop with a special occasion.
"Among the Igbos, yam is a crop that our forefathers respected a lot. And among all the crops that they planted, they had so much love for yam. They saw yam as a saviour that can be turned into various menus: pounded yam, or utara ji; yam porridge, among others. Yam could also be used to bless other families, by giving them, maybe, twenty or thirty tubers of yams to plant during the next planting season.
"When you give somebody twenty tubers of yam and he cuts them to plant, that twenty tubers can give you multiples of tubers of yam in future. Automatically, with yam, you are sure that there will be no hunger in various families. So, when you give somebody tubers of yam, that means you are starting something agricultural for him or her. And life is a continuum. One generation follows, and learns from, another.
"Our children are watching us as we celebrate yam.Think about it: as they are growing up with it, and we are also getting old; in the next twenty, thirty, fifty years, or whatever, this our generation will fly out. And the following generation will then take it up from there," he emphasised.
Describing Ghanaians as people who essentially love Nigerians, the Igbo king said majority of Nigerians in Ghana are law-abiding, acknowledging, howeverver, that there is a minority whose troubles in Ghana are largely 'self-inflicted.'
"Nigerians in Ghana are ok. We are comfortable, and the people (of Ghana) love us. Which is why more of us are still coming to the country. So, I don't see Nigerians in Ghana as having problems. The problem some of us encounter are self-inflicted.
"For instance, some of our people, when they are doing, maybe parties, and they are supposed to get approval from the government, they don't do it; and, they try to block the road without getting necessary approval. So, what do you expect the government to do? Then in the markets, some of our people fight with Ghanaians over their businesses. Not the issue of them asking us not to retail; that's not what I'm talking about; that's a different thing. I'm talking about unnecessary challenges within them.
"Again, some of our people behave roughly. So, for people like that, do you expect the Ghanaians to be happy, to be comfortable with such people? That's why I said that some of our people are the cause of their problems; I won't say 'our problems', but 'their problems'. Because majority of Nigerians in this country, Ghana, are law-abiding people," Eze Ihenetu stressed.
Main attractions at this year's Igbo yam festival will include display of masquerades, traditional dances by Igbo women dance groups as well as Igbo youth groups; display of yams; parade of models in Igbo farming attires; and, also display of Igbo foods and menu.