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An examination of the Emume Azu festival in Obazu Mbieri in Mbaitoli LGA of Imo State (A case study of Obazu Community)




The study is on “Examination of the Emume Azu festival in Obazu Mbieri in Mbaitoli LGA of Imo State using Obazu Community case study”. The study has five objectives. This work analyzes the festival celebration unique to the people of Obazu Mbieri in Mbaitoli LGA of Imo state. The Emume Azu festival is a triennial festival, that is, it is celebrated every three years; the year 2020 marked the 15th edition of the festival and the 45th year since it was inaugurated. The work projected the people of Obazu, their culture and tradition especially the fish feast which over the years has distinguished her from her Mbieri brothers. The festival is not in any way fetish or diabolic as some religious extremists have proposed in the past, but a time when the people come together to celebrate unity, peace and progress, no wonder prior to the event proper, a non-denominational open-air service is conducted to officially begin the festival. This work brings to life a clear view of the origin, migration and settlement of the people of Obazu Mbieri autonomous community where the geographical location of Obazu and her neighbors, her customs and traditions were espoused. The origin of the Emume Azu festival, the nature of the event and how it has thus far impacted on the people socially, politically economically and other wise including community development. Furthermore, the work provides a relevant reference material for further research by subsequent researchers in the field and beyond on the subject of discuss.



Festivals according to Oxford learners dictionary is a day or period of celebration, typically for religious reasons. An organized series of concerts, plays or films, typically one held annually in the same place. 1But according to the context of my work, the “Emume Azu” fishing festival is a triennial festival.

A festival is an event ordinarily celebrated by a community and centering on some characteristic aspects of the community and its religion or cultures which would be the focus of this work. Food is such a vital resource that many festivals are associated with during harvest time. For instance, the new yam festival which is common to the Igbo people of Nigeria (West Africa).2 At this time religious commemoration and thanksgiving for good harvest are blended in events that take place in Autumn, such as Halloween in the Northern hemisphere and Easter in the South.3

Festivals often serve to fulfill specific communal purposes, especially with regards to commemorate on or thanks giving to the gods, goddesses or saints; these are called patronal festival.4 They may also provide entertainment which as particularly important to local communities before the advent of mass-produced entertainment5, festivals that focus on cultural or ethnic topics like this work, also seeks to inform community members of their traditions, the involvement of elders, sharing stories and experiences, provides a means of unity amongst families.6 In modern times, festivals may be attended by strangers such as tourists, who are attracted to some of the more eccentric or historic ones.7

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There are numerous types of festivals in the world and most countries celebrate important events or traditions with traditional cultural events and activities. Most culminate in the consumption of specially prepared food (showing connection to the feasting) and they bring people together.8Moreover, the major thrust of this work is about the fish festival (Emume Azu) in Obazu Mbieri, which is multifaceted in its manifestation; in the case that it is celebrated every three years that heralds the arrival of indigenous sons and daughters of the community, both home and abroad. It had also attracted migrants who from across the world had graced the occasion to witness the Emume Azu festival.

1.1      Background to Study

As earlier noted, the fishing festival is not a new trend in the contemporary sense of the word, neither is it peculiar or common in Nigeria or Obazu in particular. It is an agelong culture and commonplace in all parts of the world.

From the foregoing discussion, it may be affirmed that west Africa benefitted a lot from trade and market events in the precolonial era. Most of the communities and some individuals who were merchants (Obazu inclusive) made a fortune through these activities especially as a fish pot. Incidentally, the introduction of the trans-Atlantic slave trade brought about a devastating impact on West Africa.

In the context of the fishing business and how lucrative it was there was massive reduction in number of labor force and population of the people as able-bodiedpersonnel were shipped away from the country to engage in forced labor in the new world.

The need to provide some level of useful written material and historical evidence of the “emumeazu” festival and community development activities in the community is a contributory factor in carrying out this research.

1.2      Scope of Study

This study is an examination of the Emume Azu festival in Obazu Mbieri in Mbaitoli LGA of Imo State, hence it is centered on the community of Obazu and will in the process discuss the history, origin, culture and traditions of Obazu.

The periodization of this work is from 1975 to 2020. The choice of 1975 is very significant as it was the year that marked the first ever celebration of the Emume Azu festival in Obazu, which brought with it different kind of social, economic, political impact, whilst the terminal date 2020 is significant because since 1975, there has never been a triennial year after the last one in 2017, with the advent of the covid-19 pandemic, coupled with the need to adhere to all the covid-19 protocols especially to avoid crowded places, social gathering amongst many others.

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1.3      Aim and Objectives

The aim and objectives of this research work includes the following;

  1. To have a clear view of the origin, migration and settlement of Obazu Mbieri autonomous community
  2. To bring to light the activities of the Emume Azu
  3. festival in Obazu Mbieri
  4. To examine how the Emume Azu festival has affected the Obazu people as well as how it has aided Obazu’s development
  5. To provide a relevant reference material for further research by subsequent researchers in the field and beyond on the subject of discuss.

1.4      Conceptual Clarification

            For the purpose of proper comprehension of this scholarly work, the following terms/concepts have been defined as will be used in the course of this work.

Emume: This is referred to as a festival or celebration to commemorate an event

Azu: fish, (Varieties of sea food)

Ama Nwokpu: The ancient designated /chosen arena for the celebration, referred to as the millenniumpillar

Azuism: The philosophy of life particular to the people of Obazu (a book written by Godson Opara)

Iri Azu: The traditional eating of fish

Ekwe: Local gong

1.5      Literature Review

The Emume Azu festival is a fish festival that is celebrated in Obazu every three years, thus it a triennial festival.

Robert Smith posits that “History like most branches of learning is concerned with the explanation of HOW and WHY certain events and situations have come about”13 The Emume Azu festival came about due to the germane need of reuniting the peoples of Obazu and bringing them under one umbrella for a celebration. Despite the golden aim of the festival which is to strengthen the bond of the peoples of Obazu, the festival is misconstrued as a fetish festival. No wonder Uche Mbah writing on Mbaitoli history: an introduction opines that “history is said to thrive in controversy and this is said to be inevitable because of the nature of the discipline”14A lot of persons acclaim the Emume Azu festival to be a fetish one because they believe that the people of Obazu worship a fish god through festival.

Elizabeth Isichei writing on a history of Igboland opine that the Igbo people had gods like idemilli, Ahanjoku, Igwekala, Amadioha15

The English connotations of these gods are known and one will agree that none of the gods listed above is a fish god. In as much as there is a multiplicity of water gods in Igbo land, Obazu, do not revere any of them; Thus, bringing the argument that Emume Azu is fetish to naught.

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The above misconception of the Emume Azu festival has thrived over the years due to the dearth in recorded history of the festival. In fact, there is abysmally no recorded history of the festival and even if there is no history about man and his society, written or unwritten by man is unflawed by personal understanding and judgement. With a great sense of the objectivity of history and as an indigene of the place of discuss this work was birthed out of the need to vigorously debunk the assertion that has thrived over the years about the Emume Azu festival. Little wonder, E. H. Carr posits that; “History is a unique opportunity of recording and in a way most useful to the greatest number…and to bring home to every man the last document…now that all information is within reach and every problem has become capable of solution.16

1.6      Significance of Study

This work more or less provides a form of historical perspective and helps in the reconstruction of the history of the people of Obazu Mbieri in view of the Emume Azu festival.

  1. The work when completed will provide the Obazu people and interested persons with a veritable source of information about the people of Obazu and their history.
  2. This work provides reasonable insight concerning the Emume Azu festival, its impacts and its necessity.
  3. This work not only adds to the existing information about the Emume Azu festival, it serves as a collection of information concerning the Emume Azu festival around the timeframe covered by the scope of this work

1.7      Research Methodology

Due to the dearth in available literature on the subject of discuss, the research will majorly make use of primary sources of information which will include oral interviews with notable individuals and personalities domiciled in the area of our study as well as those who have emigrated from our source area yet possesses useful and reliable knowledge and information on the topic of discuss. Other primary sources would include archival materials. The research will also make use of secondary sources such as textbooks newspapers articles journals and internet papers. Information that will be generated from these sources will be subjected to hard and critical examination taking advantage of the multi or interdisciplinary approach of history to buttress the points.

Pages:  55

Category: Project

Format:  Word & PDF         

Chapters: 1-5                                                      

Material contains Table of Content, Abstract and References.


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