Published On: Wed, Mar 29th, 2017

AGIRI: Rivers community festival that cures people of strange ailments

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By Davies Iheamnachor


BILLE -IT was a rapturous affair at Bille Kingdom, Degema Local Government Area, Rivers State, recently, as citizens adorning stunning cultural regalia trooped out en masse to mark this year’s multi-million naira Agiri festival, their most revered convention. As tradition demands, visitors and security escorts were given George wrapper and other traditional attires to robe themselves at the festival that abolishes diseases, promotes peace and unity.

* Agiri during the festival

We inherited it from our forefathers— Minapakama

Vice Chairman of Bille Kingdom Chiefs Council, Chief Ibitamuno Minapakama, told NDV that the community ensures that it celebrates Agiri festival because after it, several people are healed of strange ailments. He asserted, “What you are seeing today is a testimony of what we inherited from our forefathers. This is an ancient culture in Rivers State; there is no festival like this, we celebrate this every four years. Any community that does not have this kind of culture, they are bound to have problems. It is for unity and togetherness. It makes us come together to reason together for development and peace.

“We have not experienced communal war; we are working in line with the Rivers State government and Governor Nyesom Wike, who is preaching that there should be peace in Rivers communities. It is the entire kingdom that is here; even the Christians are also participating. I am a Christian. If you celebrate Agiri, you will see diseases are eliminated, culturally, we are united.”

Oath of adherence

Similarly, Secretary of Bille Chiefs’ Council and Opu-towi II of Bille kingdom, Ibiba Kombonimi, remarked, “When our forefathers migrated from Benin Kingdom and settled down here, based on what was handed down to us, they met people celebrating, they later came to their understanding that for them to live harmoniously in this land, they need to keep this festival. “Originally it was yearly, but because of the cost, we decided to make it four years interval. From the first masquerade till today, we have spent over N50 million, over 15 masquerades have performed and each of them is important to us. We keep the oath our fathers kept; this is the oath we kept with the people our fathers met here. They took oath that this festival will be the object of their unity. To keep faith in the covenant we had with the people that our forefathers met here, we need to maintain this cultural heritage.”

I see great tourism potential — Chigbara

A native of Nkoro Kingdom, Opobo/Nkoro local government, Chief Philip Chigbara, who visited Bille for the Agiri celebration, said: “This is part of my people; I also want to advise the community to make the government to be part of this festival and to be one of the state cultural displays to also attract tourism to this place. Let it not be for only Bille people. It should be made a state culture.

“When the government sees this kind of culture, they will support it, it can bring development. The celebration makes the community united. If it happens at the state level, it is also for unity because even enemies come together to celebrate culture.”

Govt hails peaceful disposition

Secretary, Caretaker Committee Secretary, Degema local government, Mrs. Okorite Adiele, who represented the Deputy Governor of the state, Dr. Ipalibo Banigo, commended the people of Bille for keeping to their culture. She said: “Agiri festival is a rich cultural heritage of the people of Bille Kingdom. The hospitality of Bille people is what is exhibited in the festival. Today is a great day for the Bille people wherever they are. There is a demarcation; the women have a degree of participation, so also men. I encourage other communities to embrace their cultural heritage so that the youths will learn to be peaceful.”

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