The Ikeji of the Arochukwu Kingdom is a special period when the indigens of Arochukwu are expected to observe strict adherence to ethics, norms, customs and tradition of the Arochukwu kingdom. During this period, neither burials nor mourning gatherings are allowed to hold. No forms of violence is tolerated, civil disobedience; public protests are strictly prohibited throughout the Kingdom. Death of any Aro within the period is largely viewed as a bad omen and therefore treated quietly with indignity. The period is devoted more rectitude, thanksgiving, entertainment, charity, philanthropy and recreation.
1. Afor Okpo Na Aza Awada – Wednesday 1/09/2021
On this day, members of the Otusi (clan) of Amaja, a historical kith and kin in Aro mobilise to sweep Awada Aro. This event holds in Ugwuakuma village in Arochukwu. The Okpo family from Agbagwu has a leading role in the assignment with the support of Otusi Clan. During the brief ceremony, Awada Aro is opened; the environment kept quite clean, decorated and put in real festive mood. This event marks thebeginning of Ikeji.
2. Afor Mgbape awada – Sunday 5/09/2021
The stage of the Festival features members of the Otusi (clan) of the Amuze. The clan mobilises eligible sons to sweep Awada Aro. The ceremony brings together Otusis from other Aro Kindreds including Okennachi, Eze Agwu, Umu Nna Okwara Agwu, Bianko to participate in the ceremony. The attendants arrive at the ceremony wearing bells on their waist and carrying gongs, both instruments producing resonant sounds. It is usually a prestigious movement that carries the weight of royalty, honour and glamour.
3. Afor Ndukasa Nwaekpe – Thursday 9/09/2021
Nwa Ekpe, a symbolic representation of the royal ancestors is led home. This is an all day ceremony that keeps the town in real festive mood. All the nine Otusis (clans) in Aro go to Ugwuakuma, to offer sacrifice and pour libation to the ancestors in appreciation for a good harvest period. Each delegation wearing bells around their waists while carrying gongs on hands dancing to the admiration of all and sundry already soaked in Ikeji festival mood. The ceremony ends at night and the various delegations return with dances to their respective villages.
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Later the same night the talking drums (uvie) are brought down. The drum (Uvie) left hanging on a particular spot since the last Ikeji celebrations are gracefully brought down, rolled out and played loudly. The loud talking drums are welcomed with loud ovation, excitement and jubilation by all, far and near. In the ancient days, the uvie (big talking drum) can only be sounded only in the compounds of great and outstanding men of each village. Uvie is a drum used to celebrate success, honour, achievements and bravery. Only the wealthy and influential in those days were in a position to host Uvie (the talking drum). This is because the ceremony itself attracts cost for entertainment and relevant materials for sacrifice. The sounding of the uvie put all and sundry on notice that Ikeji celebration has fully commenced.
4. Nkwo Nku – Friday 10/09/2021
Nkwo Nku is a day when women are expected to fetch firewood for their husband’s mother, their mistresses or close friends. The wood is meant for cooking while the Ikeji season lasts. It is indeed a friendly gesture of love and respect for elders. Nkwo Nku is intended among other to highlight the role of women in the family. It is also to promote the virtues of motherhood and cordial daughter in-law and mother-in-law’s relationship in line with respect of Aro culture.
5. Eke Agba Udu – Saturday 11/09/2021
This is a day set aside for Aro Aristocrats from Amuze, a particular kith and kin in Aro kingdom to step out in grand style to offer sacrifice. The day is marked with loud festivities that bring out the best of Amuze peculiar culture and pride.
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6. Orie Awa – Sunday 12/09/2021
It is a day set aside to offer the sacrificial animals such as goats a special meal. The significance of this has been open to many interpretations and debate. While some claim that the exercise is to offer the animals their “last supper” for possible slaughter in Ikeji, others argue that it is to appreciate the importance of domestic animals like goat in Aro tradition. Orie Awa also features another round of fetching of fire wood to support the kitchen. This is an activity set out for young girls looking for suitors, the newly wed and young mothers. The road to nearby forests and farms to fetch the fire wood creates avenues for “toasting”, courtship by young boys in search of lifepartners.
7. Afor Awa – Monday 13/09/2021
Afor Awa is the expected deadline for all Aro sons and daughters, in-laws, friends and well-wishers travelling to the Kingdom from other Aro settlements and communities all over Igbo land to arrive in Aro. By Afor Awa, all cleaning up activities and preparations for Ikeji should have been concluded. The arrangements made by families and the community to receive Ikeji visitors and invitees should equally be concluded on or by Afor Awa day. The arrangements on ground by Afor Awa put everyone in full Ikeji vacation and festive mood. By Afor Awa, visits to the Farm for any hard work are restricted. Women especially young girls looking for suitors spend more time in body painting (ide uri and ide – nkasi ani). There is also special attention to coral beads andcowries which are usually won to complement the dressing. Afor Awa in Ikeji calendar is also a period that witnesses pressure on families to prepare their children and household for special Ikeji look like no other.
8. Nkwo Nzukoro – Tuesday 14/09/2021
9. Eke Odu – Wednesday 15/09/2021
This is the day of the new yam. It features Ekpo Masquarade dances at Obinkita, variety of dances by the Ezeagwu & Umunna Okwara Agwu tomark the new yam. Eke Odu is the day Arocukwu eats the eat new yam.
10. Orie Egbugbu – Thursday 16/09/2021
11. Avor Osu – Friday 17/09/2021
The osu meal prepared the previous day is now presented to friends and well-wishers on the Afor osu morning by women. Visitors are also entertained with the delicacy. Members of each family are summoned to the osu meal by the exclamation AFOR OSU OKO-O! The word Okoo is an exclamation used by the Aro to signal an emergency. The sharing of Osu from one household, family to another are usually carried out by young girls who are searching for suitors. It is an amazing day for special Ekpo masquerade performances at the highest level all over the kingdom especially at Obinkita. The journey from one family to the other provides huge opportunities for young bachelors to ask questions seek and fine. Ofor Osu in Aro calendar is a day of caring, sharing, exchange of gifts, pleasantries and good will.
12. Nkwo Ekpe Ibom Isii – 18/09/2021
Nkwo Ibom Issi holds in Ibom square. On this day, Ikeji activities are centred in and on the Ibom village. All the villages that make up Ibom Isii assemble in Ibom to participate fully in the day’s activities other Aros attend as guests of Ibom Isii. Cultural displays and wrestling matches staged to entertain people from other villages of Aro. It is usually and avenue to market and celebrate talents, bravery, creativity and innovation in skills, dancing and wrestling. Many agile young men smile home with brand new love relationships that they never bargained for. This is Nkwo Ekpe Ibom Isii is also a special opportunity for girls to show their beauty apparently in search of partners. The various cultural displays feature good cultural displays. Respective villages drawn from Ibom Isii dance in style and excitement to the admiration before the Eze Aro and his cabinet sitting in majestic appraisal in Ibom square.
13. Eke Ekpe Arochukwu Kingdom – 19/09/2021
14. Orie Ibulee Avo – 20/09/2021
The event marks the beginning of the end of Ikeji. The process of winding down Ikeji commences with the ovor (family ancestral staff of office – Inyamavia ) earlier brought down for Ikeji festivities on Orie Egbugbu day in the ulo nta is then returned to original position until the next Ikeji. The Ceremony is restricted to only whom it may concern.
15. Afor Ndula Nwaekpe – 21/09/2021
During this day, Nwa Ekpe is ‘led back’ to Awada Aro. The ceremony on its own speaks volumes of the place of Nwa ekpe in Arochukwu customs and tradition.
16. Nkwo Nwupu Mmanyi Ibom Isii – Wednesday 22/09/2021
The day invites all aristocrats of Amuze and Ibom Isii to assemble at the house of Eze Ibom Isii who is head of Ibom Isii Kindred of the Aro Kingdom. The day also known as Nkwo Nzupu Avia (Nkwo market day) marks the re-opening of business of Ncheghe market. By this development, business activities earlier suspended to pave way for Ikeji resumes fully.
17. Eke Nwupu Mmayi na Amuze – Thursday 23/09/2021
This last day of the event invites all the aristocrats” of Ibom Isii to meet those of Amuze and jointly move into the palace of the Eze Aro at Oror village. At the Palace, the final drinking; libation is poured in all ulo nta in Amuze. This ceremony brings the Ikeji Festival for that year to an end.