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ANOTHER VALENTINE'S DAY

By NBF News
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On Saturday, love will be in the air at Umuaga Community, in Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State. That day, the people will mark 'Okomoya,' a popular festival. It is a celebration of love among the people of the community.

The 'Okomoya' is a special day set aside by the community for wining and dining; a day when indigenes of the community show love to one another, relatives, as well as their neighbours.

The festival, which dates back in history, is rounded off at an all night celebration at the village square.

In recent times, however, there have been attempts by the youth to bastardise the festival. The young men and women are alleged to have introduced disturbing sexual during the event, which was used to mark the end of the year in the early days.

The youth are alleged to have introduced such corrupt practices as sexual orgy, and turning the night event into an avenue to hook up with the opposite sex. The high level of drinking during the festival has not helped matters, as alcohol consumed come to play its role.

Just like the February 14, when Valentine's Day is celebrated, the event, which was used as a period of get together for the people, is gradually becoming what ignorant observers termed 'sex festival.'

Elder Livinus Egesi of Umualum village, however, said the elders of the community would not tolerate the pollution of a well designed festival of the people. He stressed that the community is not taking the development lightly and has already set up a task force to ensure that the festival handed down to them by their fathers is not ridiculed with sexual lust.

He recalled that the festival, which was mapped out for the expression of love among the people, was actually initiated by his immediate village.

Said he: 'The festival was used by our forefathers to celebrate the end of year, because then there was nothing like Christmas. It is celebrated every first Saturday in October, which must also be an Eke market day.'

He noted that as civilisation crept in, the festival, which was then known as 'Ogiri-Anyasi,' was re-named Alum Day. The name, Okomoya, he explained, was adopted by other Umueze people, who joined Umualum to do their own festival on the same day.

He old man said: 'It is like Valentine's Day; it's a festival of love; a day set aside for friends, well wishers, in-laws, boys, girls, women, everybody within the community to celebrate among themselves.

'In the early days, our people were predominantly traditional medicine people and therefore, travelled so wide; so we use the festival as a period of home-coming.

'We use the festival to know the whereabouts of our people; we take census and those who don't come back; it is assumed they might have run into trouble; so we organize a search for such people.

'There is so much to eat and drink during the festival and people are free to enter any household and eat; local delicacies, and different kinds of food are prepared.'

He explained that everybody, including the married women, is at liberty to eat and drink.

Elder Egesi insisted that the festival is not in any way corrupt. 'As I said, it is purely a time people come together with their loved ones to eat and drink. There are no corrupt practice attached to it at all,' he said.

He, however agreed that some people are trying to corrupt the festival with the introduction of some illicit affairs, including sex 'That is why we are tinkering with the idea of doing it in the day time,' he said.

Elder Egesi also noted that young girls now use the festival as excuses to meet their male friends.