By Nkiru F. okoh, UCC Comm. & Cultural Analyst-in-Residence
In times past, a man’s wealth was primarily based on the number of Wives and Children he had; and possibly on the slaves and livestock under his control. The more the number of people he had, the more hands would help him to work on his farms, look after his livestock and to withstand outside aggression. With that in view, Obowo forefathers used to summon once in a year, all their distant progeny in order to ascertain their numerical strength, activities and achievements within the past year.
On a day set aside each head of household would relax at home and pose with authority as the proud head of such accumulated wealth in comparison with those of his peers and age grades within and outside his Community. Such annual Census or rather human stock taking is known in Obowo Community as ‘NTUMAKA’. Each head of household would expect his married daughters, their husbands and children to pay him homage bearing some gifts as a matter of routine.
‘Ntumaka’ therefore, is an annual festival that started right from our Obowo ancestors. It is usually held between the months of October and December yearly.
The festival is so arranged that each Village in Obowo had her own “Ntumaka” on a Market day different from other villages so as to enable visitors and the rest of other villages come for the festival.
In the week preceding the actual day, the elders representing each kindred would assemble together to have a communal meeting known as ‘OJIAKA’ to discuss how the current year’s” Ntumaka” festival would best be celebrated. As in other Igbo communities, Obowo fore fathers believed strongly in reincarnation. During the Ntumaka festival, anyone believed to have been reincarnated through the father’s lineage would be recognized as “Diala” and therefore is given a preferential market day of ‘Eke’ to celebrate his “Ntumaka” festival. On the other hand, anyone believed to have been reincarnated through the mother’s lineage “Ogo-nnia” would celebrate his ‘Ntumaka’ on “Orie” market day.
Any newly married daughter then owed it as a duty to initially present to the father four hens known as “Okuko Ngaluzo” on her first ‘Ntumaka’ festival attendance.
Thereafter, a gift of a cock for male child or a hen for a female child is required. In any case each fowl so given would be accompanied with a plateful of well- prepared oil bean salad “Ugba”, a big flat – pounded “egusi” paste “usu”, and as well as some quantity of roasted crabs or dried fish to match. The husband would provide a big jar of palm wine and four Kolanuts and would lead the family party consisting of himself, his wife and children to the father –in law’s compound for the festival. At the gathering, each family unit would introduce any new addition to the family fold to the rest by ‘pointing’ to the child, new bride or groom, and stating his or her name ; hence the word ‘Ntumaka” (pointing hands/finger).
“Ntumaka” festival resembles annual family reunion of one’s family whereby children, in-laws, grand and great –grandchildren as well as well- wishers gather at least once on a year for general merriment and communal renewal.
In the evening following the visits, children and the age-grades of the household males would take rounds visiting each family dancing to the drum beats of ‘odimodu’ and other tarditional songs. This festival helps one to know his or her close- relatives and to avoid marrying one’s bloodline unknowingly.