The suspension of this year’s Egwu Imo Awka by Anambra State Government has been greeted with approval by some non-indigenes of Awka, Anambra State Capital.
The state government had in a statement issued by the Secretary to the State Government, Professor Solo Chukwulobelu on Sunday, banned the Imo Awka Festival, an annual cultural celebration by indigenes of Awka.
The statement had said the suspension was taking into cognizance, the prevailing federal government curfew order, the state government’s order on public gatherings, World Health Organisation (WHO), and Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines on preventing the spread of Covid-19.
“The suspension also extends to other cultural festivals in Anambra state.
“The public, Traditional rulers, Presidents General, custodians and organisers of such festivals are hereby put on notice that they will be held responsible should the festivals go ahead.
“Members of the public are hereby advised not to attend such festivals and to stay at home, or go about their business observing Covid-19 guidelines previously issued by the federal and state governments. The security agencies are hereby directed to strictly enforce the suspension order,” the statement read.
The Anambra State Police Command had followed up immediately with a statement, restating its determination to enforce the order to the letter and will therefore not hesitate to arrest and prosecute any individual or group of persons found violating the Government order.
The Statement by the Spokesperson of the Police in Anambra, Haruna Mohammed, said the order was made in the overall interest of all Anambra citizens and other residents alike.
It read; “The Command solicits the corporation and understanding of the public by adhering strictly to this Government directives to enhance public safety and Security which the citizens continue to enjoy in the State.”
Meanwhile, some residents of the State Capital City have said the suspension of the festival has ensured that there will be no bloodshed which usually characterises each year’s celebration.
Over the years, the festival which usually lasts for up to 3 months each edition, had witnessed wanton killings and avoidable loss of lives through accidents, while cult groups have hidden under the guise of the cultural activities to unleash terror and mayhem on residents, especially non-indigenes of the town.
According to a lawyer practising in the Capital city, Donald Nwoye, government exhibited commendable wisdom in putting a temporary stop to the festival especially with the corona pandemic threat.
“Sometimes, most negative events are to the people’s ultimate benefit. There is no gainsaying that many lives have been earmarked for destruction during this year’s festival.
While people are bemoaning the limitations which the coronavirus pandemic has put to their lives, they also must count the obvious blessings which it has brought too. Life is the principal thing and for me, the pandemic has saved a lot of lives from getting terminated prematurely this year,” Nwoye noted.
He advised that while people need to uphold their culture and traditions, it is also imperative that the negative aspects that promote strife, violence and immorality be expunged.
According to other residents, Ifeanyi Obi and an Awka indigene, Tochukwu Nweke, the festival have over the years degenerated to a mere display of youthful exuberance that glorifies negativity and irresponsibility.
As they said, the festival has gradually but consistently lost its true essence and the leaders of the town are now helpless as it is being hijacked by non-indigene and used for the perpetration of heinous crimes.
For a Keke operator from Kogi State, Cletus Angwe, the government should meet with the leaders of Awka Community to fashion out ways the celebration can be done in future without the wanton losses that usually accrue from it.
“I came to Awka six years ago as an Okada rider and today, I am doing Keke business but there is no period I dread in this town more than the Imo Awka festival. This is a time you witness crime and exuberance at its peak. You will see youths brandishing guns and machetes even in the presence of Police operatives and they will do nothing about it. What this government’s suspension of the festival means, is that I and my colleagues will do our business this year without fear or molestation. I sincerely think the government has saved lives without even knowing it,” he said.