In Nigeria, there are lots of cultural festivals celebrated from different ethnic groups, communities and villages in all the states of the country throughout the year. These festivals ranges from bounty harvest, thanksgiving, masquerade dances, wrestling, initiations, to manhood/womanhood, achievements to life after death to celebration of the dead with public shows of the most acrobatic dance steps. The dances that were once performed by members of each village have now been taken over by professional troupes who tour villages performing at each local festival, thereby adding more glamour to what the festival used to be. Festivals in Nigeria are colourful, exciting, funfilled and interesting. Below are some of the important and internationally recognized festivals celebrated in Nigeria.

Argungu Fishing Festival, Kebbi State (11 – 14 March Every Year)

This colourful annual festival takes place in Argungu, a riverside town in Kebbi State, about 64 miles/an hour’s drive from Sokoto, the leading tourist attraction in the area. The festival origin, dates back to a 16th century festival called Su, but the modern competition began in 1934 when the late Sultan Dan Mu’azu made an historic visit which was used to seal a peace deal between centuries old enemies, the Kebbi kingdom to the north and the former Sokoto caliphate in the extreme north-west. In tribute a grand fishing festival was organized. Since then, it has become a celebrated yearly event held between February and March.

Today the annual festival has turned to a three/four day festival every March of the year and draws thousands of spectators from around the world. For the first two to three days, it’s a massive cultural entertainment featuring traditional sports like archery, wrestling, boxing, traditional water sports, canoe racing, wild duck catching, bare-handed fishing, swimming, diving competition, arts and craft exhibition, agricultural shows and non sporting events including dancing, theatre, traditional music and entertainment.

All the activities builds towards the finale at the brown Matan Fada river which takes place on the last day of the festival and usually attracts competitors from Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara,Niger,Kwara,Kogi, Katsina and as far away as Niger Republic, Togo, Chad and Benin.

The festival marks the end of the growing season and the harvest. A one mile (1.6km) stretch of the Argungu River is protected throughout the year, so that the fish will be plentiful for this 45-minute fishing frenzy.

A gunshot signal and rolling drums sends over ten thousand fishermen plunging into the river armed with traditional hand nets and hollowed-out gourds to keep them afloat in the unpredictable currents.

They are joined by canoes filled with drummers plus men rattling huge seed-filled gourds to drive the fish to shallow waters. Vast nets are cast and a wealth of fish is harvested, from giant Nile Perch, Catfish to the peculiar Balloon fish. During the allotted time the biggest fish caught are offered to the local Emirs who organized the festival and weighed for confirmation. The winner takes home as much as $7,500, a Honda Saloon Car, a flat screen TV, a free pilgrimage to Mecca and health insurance.

In 2009, Argungu fishing festival was restructured to be held 11 – 14 March every year. The four day festival has been structured to hold the following activities for the four days:

Day One: Motor Rally: To be flagged off from Gusau and proceed to Sokoto-Jega-Birnin Kebbi and terminates at Argungu. The first day would also include International Archery and catapulting competitions as well as cultural competition preliminaries.

Day Two: Showcases of Agricultural exhibition and mini trade fair, fish fair commencement, traditional boxing, wrestling and Huttimo (Fulani cultural activities) as well as cultural dancing competitions.

Day Three: Kabanci display, camel, donkey and bicycle races, durbar and finals of cultural competitions.

Day Four: Rounding up with the grand fishing and horse race at Birnin Kebbi.

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Eyo Festival, Lagos (Cultural)

Eyo festival also known as Adamu Orisa Festival is unique to Lagos Island area. During the festival, the area of celebration is so rampant with people that the highway in the heart of the city (from the end of Carter Bridge is Tinubu square) is dosed to traffic to allow the free procession from Idumota to Iga-Indunganran (Oba Palace-Oba of Lagos).

Here all the people pay their respects to the Oba (king) of Lagos. The festival takes place whenever occasions and tradition demand, but normally it is held as the final burial rights for a highly regarded chief of an important indigene of Lagos notably royal families.

Details: Twice a year or as the deities of Lagos deem it fit, the streets of Lagos Island are thrown into wild celebration. Masquerades in all white attire with hats and decorated rod to match, file in their hundreds to celebrate the Eyo festival. The day actually starts from the Iga Iduganran. - The Oba’s Palace in the early hours of the day. The leadership of the masquerades namely the Oniko and the Ikolaba pay homage to the king that is the Eleko of Eko who in turn prays for peace in the land and the success of Eyo festival. The Oba of Lagos now hands over the rod (Opanbata) which every Eyo carries to the head of the Eyo masquerades.

This singular ceremony kicks off an avalanche of activities from the Iga Iduganran (The Palace).

One of the most notable and interesting features of the Eyo masquerade is the chant. Each Eyo must be able to chant in songs like Yoruba.

The Aro Eyo is pure folk tale where a lot of oral tradition is passed on. Each Eyo masquerade eulogizes himself by long praise singing. He also sings about his area as depicted by the colour of his hat (Aga Eyo).

Every Eyo group wears the white robe, with lace materials to cover their face crowned with a coloured hat decorated to depict the compound where the Eyo comes from. There is the Eyo Oniko, Ikolaba, Bajulaye, Kosoko, Leshi, and Ita Faji to mention a few.

Each of these areas during the festivals try to outwit the other through dressing, dancing and somehow machismo.

During the festival no spectators, young or old is allowed to wear shows, slippers or any footwear whatsoever. The masquerade themselves go round barefooted rain or sunshine.
Sango Festival, Oba’s Palace Lagos (Cultural – July), Lagos State

The Sango festival celebrates the god of thunder, an ancestor who is said to have hung himself. Lasting about twenty (20) days, sacrifices are made at the shrine of the god, in the compound of the hereditary priest. On the final day, the priest becomes possessed by the god and gains magical powers. He eats fire and swallows gunpowder. The procession again goes off to the Oba’s Palace and the feast begin; accompanied by palm wine, roasted meat, and more dancing.

Eebi Festival, EpeTown, Lagos State (March )

This is an annual festival marking the victory of the Epe people over slave traders. It also showcases the Epe culture. The people are well known for their aquatic skills and this is always in full display at the festival. The event includes a boat regatta, boat racing and fishing competitions. It all takes place at the Oju Alaro Ebute shrine at the bank of the lagoon.

Ojude-Oba Festival, The Kings Palace Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State (3rd Day of Every Id-el-kabir )

Celebrated by both Muslims and Christians every third day of Id-el-kabir known as Ileya celebration, the annual Ojude-Oba festival has its origin in Islam. It was set up by the first converted Muslims who decided that it would be respectful to visit their Awujale (king) to thank him for allowing them to practice their religion without hindrances. It is a colourful event of banners, make shift shops, food stalls, different music bands, hawkers, peddlers, men on beautifully adorned horses, women and children, all moving towards the gates of the Awujale’s Palace.

Today, every house in Ijebu-Ode is involved in the celebration. There is lots of cooking in every house; tents are erected everywhere providing a complete party environment. Prominent families decorate their horses with expenses garments and 24 karat gold chains worn round their horses’ necks, head and hoofs. The horses are so tutored that when the drumming and singing reach high pitch, the horses dance to the music by leaping left and right, back and front with their rider who is usually heavily attired and bathed with gold.

The festival has brought back hundreds of Ijebu sons and daughters in the Diaspora to Ijebu Ode to come and live.

Ijebu Ode lies along the highway from Shagamu to Benin City off the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

Osun Osogbo Cultural Festival, Osun State(July-August)

Osun is an annual festival held every August among the worshippers of the Osun goddess especially among the Osogbo people. Traditional event to celebrate this legend includes offering sacrifices at the Osun shrine, drumming, dancing, feasting and other merry making.

Visitors and tourists gather to watch worshippers of the goddess, reputed to have the power of making barren women fertile, descend on the banks of river Osun to offer sacrifices to the goddess at the Osun Osogbo shrine. River Osun was believed to have provided the water of life which saved the inhabitants of ancient Osogbo town from hunger, pestilence and religious wars centuries ago.

Details of Osun Festival: The Osun festival is a twelve day event. The twelve day event is heralded by “Iwopopo” which is the spiritual street cleansing of all paths (now roads) leading into the town to ward off any evil during and after the celebration. This is closely followed by the lightening of the sixteen burner lamp (Atupa Olojumerindinlogun) at 7.00p.m. The lamp is kept burning throughout the night till the following morning. The occasion is marked by singing, drumming and dancing.

Another prominent feature of the celebration is the “Crown Day” remembrance of the past monarchs. All crowns worn by previous Obas are assembled in the palace with the present Oba and his wives in attendance. Songs of praises were rendered in respect of each past Oba, after which follows the entertainment and merry making.

The grand finale is the carnival at the climax of the twelve day Osun Osogbo festival. The whole city goes agog with singing and dancing .Gaily dressed men and women, young and old, natives and visitors irrespective of creed or religion, crowd the streets leading to the Palace. Exuberant youths carrying bundles of whips lash themselves joyfully. A sea of heads moves down the sloping road to the shrine anxiously expecting the Ataoja (king) and his chiefs. At the Palace itself, the traditional drummers, royal trumpeters and criers are busy singing by reminding the Oba of his ancestors and their achievements His Royal Highness eventually emerges from the Palace with the Votary maid (Arugba) in front, and the restless and Osun devotees closely following in a majestic procession of a tumultuous crowd to the Osun Shrine. When the procession arrive at the groove, only the Ataoja, the Arugba and the Osun Priests and Priestesses enter the Ile Osun (Osun temple) where some rituals are performed. The same group of devotees then moves up to Osun (the shrine) along the riverside where they offer the sacrifice. After the sacrifice, the Ataoja sits in audience to obtain homage from his chiefs, subjects and admirers according to family, groups or friendly professionals and traditional religious associations.

The fifth day, after the grand finale is the “Ikeserodo” a thanksgiving day for each individual who has been blessed by the river goddess (Osun). Numerous food and other gift items are offered. The Arugba (votary maid) in a lighter and festive mood entertains and rejoices with her pairs for successfully accomplishing the task for the year.

Olojo Festival, Ile-Ife, Osun State

This is a festival celebrated every October in Ile-Ife. The Olojo festival lasts for three days and is set aside to celebrate Olodumare, for the creation of jobs. Various activities and rituals precede Olojo festival in the homes of the participants. The Ooni (king) remains incommunicado seven days before the start of the festival. This is meant to make him pure so that the efficacy of his prayers is assured.

During the ceremony all the worshippers line up behind the Ooni who then leads the procession to the Ogun shrine and around the town.

Fanti Carnival, Lagos State
This is a carnival that comes up during Easter and Christmas periods in Lagos Island. Historically, returnee slaves from Brazil who came to settle down on the Island after tracing their roots find time to unwind by dancing on the streets of Lagos. These families – Da Silva, Salvador, Da Costa, Pinheros, Dahroshas, Gomez, and Fernandez all re-live the carnival scenes they witnessed while being slaves in South America.

The carnival started in the 1940s when areas around Campos Square in Lagos Island became carnival ground for these families. During this carnival, clients and Caribbean dance steps are on display. The procession goes all the way to Igbosere road towards Tinubu Square through Broad Street and back to Campos Square.

What started as a mere recreation for some returnee-slave has grown into full blown carnival attracting tourists from all over the world and adding more colour to Christmas and Easter celebration on the Lagos Island.

Durbar (Northern Emirate States)

The Durbar festival dates back hundreds of years to the time when the Emirate (states) in the north used horses in warfare.

During this period, each town, district and nobility household was expected to contribute a regiment to the defense of the Emirate. Once or twice a year, the Emirate Military Chiefs invited the various regiments for a Durbar (military parade) for the Emir and his chiefs. During the parade, regiments would showcase their horsemanship, their preparedness for war and their loyalty to the Emirate.

Today, the Durbar has become a festival celebrated in honour of visiting Heads of State and at the culmination of the two great Muslim festivals, Id-el-Fitri (commemorating the end of the holy month of Ramadan) and Id-el Kabir (commemorating Prophet Ibrahim sacrificing a ram instead of his son). Of all present day festivals, Katsina Durbar is the most magnificent and spectacular. Id-el Kabir or Sallah Day in Katsina begins with prayers outside town, followed by horsemen to the public square in front of the Emir’s Palace, where each village, group, district and noble house take their assigned place. The Emir arrives last with his splendid retinue taking up their places in front of the Palace to receive the jahi, or homage, of their subjects.

The festival begins with each group of horsemen racing across the square at full gallop, swords glinting in the sun. They pass a few feet away from the Emir, stop abruptly to salute him with raised swords.

The last of the riders are the Emir’s household and regimental guards (the Dogari) and are the fiercest. After the celebrations, the Emir and his chiefs retire to the palace and the enjoyment of the occasion reigns. This fanfare is intensified by drumming, dancing and singing, with small bands of Fulanis performing shadi, a fascinating slideshow to behold.

Durbar is celebrated throughout the federation in all Emirs’ Palaces.

Christian Festivals (Christmas and Easter)

Christian festivals celebrated are the Christmas which is held every December 25 and 26 of the year to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ and Easter celebration which signifies the fasting and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which takes four days. The two festivals are characterized with merry making, cooking, celebration, entertainment and sober reflection.

Muslim Festivals

The Muslim year revolves around the three major festivals, Id Al Fitri, Id Al Kabir and Id Al Maulud. The main event in the Islamic calendar is the festival that celebrates the end of Ramadan. Ramadan is a month long observation of fasting. During the hours of sunlight, no one must eat or drink, some very religious people will not even swallow. Each evening at dusk is a celebration of sorts, as the family prepares to break the fast. In towns, people do so by going out to one of the markets, where stallholders will be prepared for the hungry people. At the end of Ramadan there is a celebration, which varies in style among the different Muslim tribes.

Another festival is the Sallah festival which involves the killing of ram to celebrate the sparing of Ibrahim’s son, Ismail as sacrifice and replaced by a ram. During the festival there is merry making; sharing of food and going to places of interest to celebrate.

Ikwerre, Kalabari and Okrika Festivals Rivers State

This festival is done to celebrate the water spirits of the region. The masqueraders wear carved head dresses that imitate the heads of fish or water birds. Typically, a festival begins with a divination by the priest of the deity concerned. This is followed by ritual sacrifices, then a song and dance performance depicting aspects of the deity. The climax of the festival is usually a masquerader appearing disguised as the deity.

Igue Festival, Benin, Edo State

This is the oldest cultural festival of the ancient Benin Kingdom. This annual thanksgiving event is the most prestigious of all Benin festivities. It is celebrated to mark the end of a year gone by, to offer prayers for peace and prosperity for the New Year. It is one of the rare occasions where the Oba (King) dances in public. The festival includes thanksgiving ceremonies at the Oba’s Palace and arts and craft exhibits.

This festival is one of the festivals handed over to the Binis by their ancestors. It is a festival heralding good luck and it began in the era of “Oba Ewuare the Great” who reigned over Benin in the 15th century (1440 – 1473AD). It is the beliefs of the Edo people that the luck of their monarch is interwined with the people over which the monarch reigns. The whole people look up to the Oba for leadership. The Oba is the embodiment of the Edo culture and his luck becomes their own. It is for this reason that Igwe festival is celebrated every year.

The festival usually begins with the anointing of the Oba’s head with chalk signifying purity and the blood of the sacrificial animals which are usually slaughtered during the festival which is characterized with merriment. The chiefs usually pay homage to the Oba. After the Oba has performed his own Igue, members of the royal family perform their own on the third day and thereafter (three days later), the Edo’s celebrate their own Igue.

Benin (Matchmaking) Festival, Benin, Edo State

This ceremony takes place at the end of the rainy season, after the harvest has been gathered. It is a kind of harvest festival but also serves another purpose – eligible young men and women of the village are displayed before each other to be ritually acquainted.

The festival occurs once every four years and only the very wealthy can afford to have their children take part in the matchmaking ceremony. But all the villagers are able to join in the festival atmosphere. In the past, the young girls who took part in the festival traditionally wore no clothing, but in modern times, because nudity is frowned upon, they are clothed. The chief part of the girls’ display is the numerous heavy armlets and leg ornaments that they wear. They are so heavy that the girls must hold their arms over their heads during the entire festival, in order to support the weight on them. Their hair is intricately plaited with coral beads.

Both boys and girls have elaborate markings painted on their bodies. The boys also take part in a tug-of-war as a demonstration of their strength.

Olua Festival, Ekiti State (April)
This popular Olua festival is performed in April of every year at Ayedun Ekiti. There is a priest for this festival. The priest is nominated from Iloro quarters only. Only sons of Iloro Quarters are qualified to partake in the festival.

During the festival, there is usually a large furnace which only the males of certain age group of this family quarter are qualified to enter. Nothing happens to them in the glowing fire. The festival attracts people from far and near. The priest delivers the message of the deities to the people of this town and their neighbouing towns and villages.

Ode Festival, Ekiti State (February)

Ode festival takes place in the middle of February every year at Oye-Ekiti and her neighbouring towns. Ode is the most popular and famous festival in the whole of Oye Local Government Area. Ode festival is synonymous with harmathan and associated with dancing and beating of buffalo horns. The chief priest is called Obalodo while the Oloye of Oye-Ekiti (king) and his wives and people would dance round the town on ‘Ode day’.

On the occasion of the festival, the town is usually on a festive mood several songs are composed to provoke women and men alike on the sex, their private parts and general morality without anybody taking any offence.

Prayers are offered for the protection of the town from famine, diseases and general insecurity of lives and properties by the deities at the Ode shrine. People from all works of life come to Oye-Ekiti yearly to witness the historic seven days Ode festival.

Patigi Regatta, Kwara State

This is an annual festival that features fishing, swimming competitions, canoe paddling among the Nupes. The festival was initiated in 1953 as a river sports competition. It compares favourably with the Argungu fishing festival in Kebbi State. The festival is held between October and April.

Moremi Festival, Offa, Kwara State

This is the most important traditional festival in Offa, also known as “Onimoka festival.” It is a colourful and fascinating festival, featuring a wrestling combat between the traditional ruler and his second in command. It is usually staged to coincide with the eating of new yam referred to in vernacular “La are” in Offa town between July and August each year.

Awon Mass Wedding Festival, Shao, Kwara State

Shao is a town about 12km from Ilorin in Moro Local Government Area. It is an occasion during which all marriageable girls of the town are given out in marriage at once at the same time on the same day each year. The festival normally takes place between the months of October and November. This is the only period in Shao when wedding ceremonies take place.

Epa Festival, Kwara State

Epa festival is celebrated once in three years in Obbo Aiyegunle and its environs, a small town about 110km from Ilorin in Ekiti and Oke-Ero Local Governments. It is a colourful festival celebrated by two wards in the town in the same year but in different months. The gods of the wards, heroes and heroines are carried by men who dance about at the squares. Prayers are offered for good health, fertility and bumper harvests.

Ikan Festival, Kwara State

Ikan festival is a colourful and fascinating festival celebrated in Etan and Opin in Ekiti Local Government once every seven years. The festival marks the initiation of a new group of warriors and the retirement of the older group who had served the community for seven years as warriors to defend the land against eternal aggression or tribal wars. The immediate junior age-group to this group is known as “Odofin-Ikan” who takes over from the retiring Ikan group.

Agan Festival, Kwara State

Agan festival is celebrated in Obbo-Ayegunle Egosi in Ekiti and Oke-Ero Local Government Areas. It is common to both parts of the town; Odo-Obbo celebrates theirs in the rainy season while the people of Obbo-Oke mark their own in the dry season. The Agan festival is celebrated yearly by the middle of December. The festival starts with dancing and spiritual songs. They offered prayers for successful celebration among other things.

Ayinrin Festival, Kwara State

It is celebrated yearly around the month of October or early November at Isolo-Opin in Ekiti Local Government. The festival starts with an event called “Pipe Orun” at dawn on the eve, various songs and prayers are offered as corrective measures against evil doers during the year.

Gani Festival, Kwara State

Gani is the name for the most celebrated festival among the Bokobaru and Batonu people of Kaiama and Baruten Local Government Areas. It is a socio-cultural festival which coincides with the Muslim festival “Ashura”. Highlights of the celebration include initiation into royalty, colourful dances and cultural activities. “Ashura” is the 12th Rabiul-Awural/Birth of Prophet Mohammed.

Ndakogboya Festival, Kwara State

This is Nupe masquerade dance celebrated yearly. It is found in Gulufu, Zambufu and Lade in Edu and Patigi Local Government Area. It involves traditional gymnastics, with various displays of acrobatic dances.

Egungun Elewe Festival, Kwara State

This festival is held among the people of Igbomina, Irepodun, Esie, Aran-Orin and Omu-Aran. It is held once every two years in remembrance of the ancestors. It usually features dancing by masquerades for five to nine days. It is fascinating and interesting.

Ogun Festival, Ondo State

Ogun the “god of smithy” and “lord of iron” is celebrated annually in almost every town and villages in the state. The celebration is an annual remembrance and worship of Ogun “the god of iron”. Oral tradition revealed that Ogun was a hunter who founded the present town of Ire-Ekiti after he left Ile-Ife on game search. Ogun was known for palm wine drinking and was said to have disappeared into the ground when some people deceived him with empty key of palm wine which he loved to drink. History revealed that Ogun beheaded all his deceivers with his unique cutlass. In Ire-Ekiti, the main festival in remembrance of the deity comes biennially and usually during the month of August.

Ogun is believed to be the god of all those using iron in their choosing profession; therefore the deity is worshipped accordingly to receive his favour. Ondo town remains the outstanding major town that popularizes Ogun festival, which is, celebrated annually with pageantry and funfair. Many towns and villages in the state equally celebrate Ogun festival. Ogun festival is usually celebrated with masquerades of different designs. During the festival, the people also worshipped their ancestors, believing that the ancestors are on earth again to greet, inspect and bless their siblings. These masquerades are believed to be the representatives of the ancestors.

Materials used in the celebration are palm wine, palm oil, cold water, dogs, roasted yams and young palm leave (bud) including kola nuts are used to worship Ogun deity by its devotees.

Obitun Festival, Ondo State

Obitun is a bridal dance in Ondo town. This dancing ceremony is supposed to be performed for every maiden in the town before she gets married. The people believed that if the ceremony is not performed for any particular girl she might end up being childless. However, these days, many families no longer perform these ceremonies for their daughters. Whenever this ceremony is performed it is always colourful. Sons and daughters of Ondo from all works of life do come home. Equally tourists from all over the world find pleasure in witnessing this colourful bride maiden festival.

Olokun Festival, Igbokoda, Ondo State

This is an annual worship of the Olokun deity who is the goddess of the rivers and seas. The goddess is held in high esteem among the people of the riverine areas of the state. This is because the deity is believed to possess power to give children to barren women. She is also believed to be in control of the ocean waves and could capsize boats, ship, canoe or any ocean vessel at will. She is also believed to have the power to enrich her devotees. This ceremony is associated with the Ilaje people of Ondo State.

Orosun Festival, Idanre, Ondo State

Oral tradition reveals that Orosun was a woman and that she was one of the wives of Olofin Aremitan. When Olofin left Ife and got to Ipetu-Ijesha where he stayed briefly, he met Orosun who was said to be very beautiful. Aremitan married her at Ipetu. After some years Aremitan left for Oke Idanre, which he founded. Due to the strong love between Olofin and Orosun she came to Idanre where she was welcomed to the Palace. She stayed in the Palace for many years, but unfortunately she had no child. Her position in the Palace was enviable. She was held in high esteem by the king to the annoyance of other wives. This resulted into a domestic strife and Orosun fled from the Palace and entered into a cave near the present Orosun hill. The people of Idanre decided thereafter to appease her in exchange for fertility, peace, progress and good health. This festival is celebrated annually in Idanreland.

Igogo Festival, Owo, Ondo State

This is an annual festival in Owo, which lasts a total of seventeen days featuring a number of ceremonies including the blessing and introduction of newly harvested yams. During the period of celebration, drumming is banned in Owo and instead metal gongs (agogo) are used. This is where the name “Igogo” was derived. The Olowo, who during the festival, usually dresses in coral beaded gown, plaits his hair like a woman. With Olowo’s dressing, it could be seen here that Owo has some traditional linkage with Benin. The Olowo leads his people including the chief priest and the male youths from Iloro quarter to dance round the whole town. This festival is celebrated annually in month of September.

Sharo/Shadi Festival(Northern States)

The Fulani culture presents a complex system, involving age-old initiations. The most important is the Sharo or Shadi (flogging meeting), believed to have originated among the Jaful Fulani, whose ranks are still considered the finest. During the Sharo festival, bare-chested contestants, usually unmarried men, come to the centering escorted by beautiful girls.

The crowd erupts in thunderous cheers and drumming. After some time, a challenger, also bare-chested, comes out brandishing a whip, trying to frighten his opponent.

The festival proceeds with lively drumming, singing, cheers and self praises from both competitors and challengers. When the excitement is at a fevered pitch, it is the time for flogging. The challenger raises his whip and flogs his opponent. His opponent must endure this without wincing or showing pain, lest he be branded a coward.

Abuja Carnival, (FCT – Abuja)

Abuja carnivals is a yearly carnival held in the month of November where all cultural troupes of all the thirty six states of the federation converge in Abuja to showcase the arts, culture, tourism, masquerade and the hospitality of every ethnic group found in each states to the delight of visitors, tourists and Nigerians. It is a four days event which includes cultural parade and display, masquerade display, Durbar, boat regatta, art exhibition and food fair competitions from different ethnic groups, children’s splash areas and energetic cultural dances. Most of the activities are performed in eagle’s square.

Kwah-Hir Puppet Theatre, Gboko, Benue State

The festival is a dramatization of folklore of the Tiv people into popular dances and puppet shows. The puppets demonstrate intricate dance steps and movements with precision. The Kwah-hir has been performed in various parts of the country and in overseas countries.

It now holds between 26th – 30th December of every year in Gboko.

Alekwu Ancestra Festival, Benue State

This is a festival celebrated by Idoma people. It is an occasion when the local people believe their ancestors re-establish contact with the living in the form of masquerades. It is often marked with colourful dances, dresses and songs.

Igede-Agba Festival,Benue State

This is a yam festival marked every year in September by the Igede people of Oju and Obi LGAs.

Keshe Festival, Adamawa State

September of every year, the three districts of Koma Verre, Koma Vomni and Koma Baya come together to prepare for the initiation festival boy boys of 15 – 18 years into manhood and girls into womanhood and ready for marriage. As a mark of initiation, a string is passed through the broken bits of cactus straw and is hung around the neck of the boys while the girls hand “kere” (a local made metallic ring) round the ankles. It is their belief that the cactus has the potency to wade off wizards from the initiates. All these are followed by drumming, song, dance and ritual drama to accentuate the occasion.

Klashe Shatin Festival, Adamawa State

Klashe Shatin is a harvest festival celebrated in the month of November every year by the Chamba and Muuye people of Mbulo area. It is highly esteemed festivals which must be celebrated before their farm produce can be consumed or traded out without which predictable doom befalls the defaulters. According to the custodian of the festival, any defaulter’s home will be razed by fire through some mysterious circumstances and no attempt can be made to put off such fire. The three day festival starts on Friday evenings through Sunday and accompanied with elaborate ceremonies of libations, songs, dance to the beats of giant drums.

Mbeki Festival (Yandang Hunting Expedition), Adamawa State

This traditional hunting expedition doubles as an initiator rites festival for young men growing into adulthood.

The Mbeki festival is used to train the youth in the art of shooting and to build their character as it relates to bravery and endurance.

The expedition begins with the initiates, staying away from home for about one month which sums up on the day of the festival when they return with their hunts, some of which are hippopotamus, buffalo and other hard to get animals. It is good to note that the shields used in this festival are made of hippopotami skin some of which have lasted for over 300 years. The return of the initiate is followed by elaborate ceremonies of traditional dances, drinking and general merriments which last for two days in Mayo-Belwa LGA of Adamawa State.

Zhitah Festival, Adamawa State

Zhitah is a cultural initiation of youths into adulthood an obligation a young adult must perform who have attained the age of 18 – 20 years in Bazza-Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State.

The event which lasts for seven days, serves as a period for re-union and formation of age groups which involves the whole communities.

Preparation starts with the fetching of water from the sacred pond which is used for associated rituals for the event. There is dance. There is traditional music, a lot of drinks and merry making, all leading to fulfillment of their cultural obligations before getting married. Several other cultural performances are used to equate the importance of the initiation rites to the culture of the people. The festival takes place between the 21st of April and the month of May every year.

Ofala Festival, Onitsha, Anambra State

Ofala festival is an annual celebration that commemorates a king’s coronation in Igboland.It is usually celebrated in various towns and cities with pageantry, entertainment, cultural activities that engage and satisfy all in attendance. Sitting on his royal throne, the monarch received his subjects and other visitors who came to pay homage, hailing him by his title of ‘Agbogidi’ as they bow or knelt down to greet him. This is how they greet every reigning Obi (King) during the annual Ofala festival in Onitsha ancient kingdom since it was instituted more than fifty years ago.

The essence of the festival, which is one of the surviving traditional ceremonies of the Onitsha people, is to celebrate the new yam festival, which is an occasion for family re-union and merry making. It is also a period when the Obi of Onitsha makes his traditional outing during which he inspects his subjects and rejoices with them for losing none after eating the new yam.Ofala Onitsha is a week long event which culminates in two grand finale days. Before the grand finale, the Obi is expected to go into ‘retreat’ invoking ancestral spirits and the gods of fertility. He would then emerge from the ‘retreat’ to join his people in giving special thanks to the gods of fertility.

During the four day pre Ofala retreat, the Obi abstains from all forms of worldly pleasures.Ofala Onitsha is an elaborate ceremony spanning over one week, which every Onitsha indigene both at home and in the Diaspora eagerly looks forward to. It is a home coming sorts for the sons and daughters of the ancient town, who return to evaluate their performances, taking a stock of the previous year and strive to project into the future.

High points of the festival included road show that went through major streets of the city, age grade dancing competition, football competition, courtesy visit to the Obi and a luncheon. The ceremony began with the arrival of guests at about 12.00noon followed by Ndiche (elders of the land) in order of seniority.

Finally, Obi (King) dressed in his royal regalia, makes his grand entry amidst cheers, 21 gun salute and greetings from the people. The shout of ‘Agbogidi’rent the air and the atmosphere became instantly charged. After the Obi’s address, the Egwuota (royal drums) is played. Dancing begins with Ndiche taking the lead and then Obi himself, beaming with smiles, dances with the rhythm of the royal gong for sometime before returning to his seat. The second day which is the grand finale is usually associated with displays of traditional dances by more than fifty various age grades dressed in their respective beautiful attires around the Ime Obi (sacred sanctuary) Palace. They troop out dressed in different colours, singing the praises of the Obi.

Over the years, Ofala Onitsha has lived up to its name as a festival of colours and has attracted participants and visitors from far and wide. The colours are seen in the regalia and dressing of all participants, especially in the festival caps worn by the Obi and his chiefs. But expectedly, the Obi’s cap is much more colourful than the rest.

The highlights are always the activities of female relations of the Obi dressed with costly beads adorned with elephant tusks and horse tails across their shoulders as they parade the Ime Obi and dance the Egwu Ofala (Ofala dance) before their taking their seats. It takes them and their drummers about an hour to walk a short distance between their houses to the Ime Obi as they acknowledge cheers from people. They also dress gorgeously and carry hats with eagle and ostrich feathers.

The climax is reached when the Onowu (the traditional Prime Minister) leads the Ndiche to receive the Obi and introduce him to the public. Obi’s (king’s) appearance is greeted with cheers and canon gun shots to announce his arrival. He moves around the Ime Obi with his attractive and dignifying stature adorned with long gear of coloured ostrich feathers which usually singles him out of his galaxy of attendants.Ofala Onitsha festival is usually celebrated in the month between October and December.

New Yam(Iri Ji) Festival, South-Eastern Nigeria

New Yam festival also known as Iri Ji is one of the biggest festivals celebrated by the Igbos who occupy the south-east zone of eastern Nigeria in August of every year. The major agricultural and food crop of the Igbos’ is yam; therefore the festival is celebration depicting the prominence of yam in socio cultural life of Ndigbo.The celebration symbolizes the conclusion of a work cycle and the beginning of another.

On the last night before the festival, yams of the old year are gotten rid off by those who still have them. This is because it is believed that the New Yam must begin with tasty, fresh yams instead of the old dried up crops of the previous year.

Before the festival starts, the yams are offered to the gods and ancestors before distributing them to the villagers. This yearly ritual is performed either by the Royal Fathers or Elders of the communities who takes the first bite as an intermediary between the people and the gods.

At the new yam festival, only dishes of yam are served since the festival is symbolic of the abundance of the produce. Festivities to mark the Iri Ji include cultural dances, masquerade display, parade and elaborate parties. Over the years, the festival has assumed increased importance as State Governors, Diplomats, Political Leaders, Igbos in Diaspora and so on grace the event.

The Igbo Celebration Of Onitsha Ivories

In the past, Igbo society centred on subsistence farming, so a few Igbo people became wealthy. Power in Igbo communities was based on the good standing of the man rather than the extent of his wealth. But in more recent times, social status and wealth have become more important to the Igbos.While many of the old traditions are dying out; the Onitsha Ivories festival is becoming more common.

The title of the ivory holder can be claimed by any woman who has collected enough ivories and corals to fit her out in the costume.Usually, these women are the wives of rich men or women who have become successful in business and can buy their own ivories. The woman has to have two huge pieces of ivory, one for each leg. The pieces have been known to weigh up to 2.5kg each. In addition, two large pieces must adorn the wrists. Thousands of dollars worth of coral and gold necklaces are also worn. Once she has accumulated all this, the woman must finance a feast for as many people as possible. A special priest carries out a purification ceremony for the ivories. The next stage of the process is even more elaborate. A woman with a full set of ivories can take the title of’Ozo’.In addition to her ivories, she must wear elaborate and expensive embroidered white gown, coral and gold ornaments. The woman must acquire an ivory trumpet and a horse tail switch. Men also take this title.

When a ceremony for a new Ozo takes place, all the similarly titled women dress up in their ivories and attend the celebration to mark the occasion.

Mmanwu Festival, Anambra State

‘Mmanwu or Masquerade’ is a popular social institution among ‘Igbo’ speaking people of Nigeria. Masquerades at festivals represent incarnated ancestral spirits visiting their descendants to entertain, give guidance and excise evil spirits. Souls of departed people are in a state of personal immortality because the process of dying is never complete.Indeed; this is one of the richest African Cultural Heritage that has survived the western influence. The festival is staged every third week of November of every year.

Mbido Igbo(Origin of Ndi Igbo),Arts and Cultural Festival,Igbo-Ukwu,Anambra State

Mbido Igbo festival is celebrated by Igbo-Ukwu town and nearby communities in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State to highlight the rich cultural and natural heritage of Ndi Igbo. The festival is held in the month of September annually, in commemoration of the event and belief that the entire Igbo race migrated from Igbo- Ukwu, hence, it upholds and propagates those virtues of Igbo cultures and tradition which promotes unity, progress and peaceful co-existence.

During the festival, papers/lectures on crucial cultural issues are presented. Other features are exhibitions of great works of arts, masquerades, cultural dances and above all, guided tour of tourists sites, museums and the King’s Palace are packaged for visitors and tourists.

Odo Ngwo Festival, Enugu State

Odo Ngwo Festival is celebrated by the Ngwo people in Enugu -North LGA.It is the most important festival in Ngwo Kingdom. The festival is as old as creation and the people believe that there is a manifestation of a supernatural force to the existence of Odo.It is therefore seen as god. The Odo is superior to all other masquerades; hence other masquerades go to sleep when the Odo comes out after the Odo has retired. The people offer prayers and sacrifices to Odo-Magala which is a deity of unification and removal of misfortune. It is celebrated once in two years specifically, the last Saturday and Sunday in the month of February amidst pump and pageantry. The festival attracts a lot of people during the period.
Ikeji Cultural Festival, Imo State

Celebrated in mid of April every year in Arondizuogu, Ideato-North LGA of Imo State, and this popular festival brings the Igbo-speaking community from around the world together. Its origin dates back over five centuries and it is acclaimed as the biggest Pan-Igbo cultural community festival, with strong heritage and international recognition. High points of the celebrations include a symposium, music fiesta, a football competition, cultural pageants, an award and gala night.

Ozuruimo Cultural Festival, Imo State

This is one of the most colourful festivals in Nigeria. It involves all the cultural troupes in all the Local Government Areas in Imo State. It is a carnival featuring dances, songs, wrestling, masquerade parade, archery, folklore music, beauty contest and fashion show. The host capital city, Owerri is always thrown agog with merriment coupled with splendour and hospitality of the people. The festival is celebrated annually between the month of October and November. It is a cultural festival to behold.

Omerife Festival, Oguta, Imo State

The Omerife festival is held among the people of Oguta Kingdom in present day Imo State. It is usually a period for purification, ancestral worship and appeasement of the gods and goddess in the town and the symbolic destruction of the evil spirit (Igbube Ekewnusu) traditionally performed only by full members of the ancient and prestigious Igbo title holders in the community. The high point of the Omerife festival is the traditional Ogene celebration when young people dress in funny attires and dance around the town. The festival is usually held between July and August every year.

Iri-Ji Festival (New Yam), Ahiajoku, Imo State

New Yam Festival is traditionally bequeathed to Igbo nation. Yam is an important food crop in Igbo land. Its cultivation and harvesting are traditionally linked with Ahiajoku which is called in Igbo land as Ifejioku, Ufiejoku, Njoku, Ihinjoku, Ahajoku, Fijioku etc.All communities in Imo State from the month of August to December celebrate the harvesting of the New Yam annually. Being an occasion to offer special prayers to God for a fertile land and bumper harvest. It is marked with pump of pageantry. The famous’Ahijaoku Lecture’ which run for seven days is usually organized by the Imo State Government annually to commemorate the event.Ahiajoku is pan-Igbo because it embraces all Igbo people both in ideology and identity. It is also said to be an exercise in interpretation of Igbo ways and contributions in the arts, science, technology and civilization. The topics being treated are contemporary issues on Igbo culture and civilization. The lecture which is usually held in November starts with a colloquim.The grand finale features colourful procession of Professors in all the nation’s universities in Igbo land to usher in the guest lecturer. This is followed by funfair, dances by various cultural groups and entertainment. At the closing of the ceremony, guests are treated at gala night for cultural shows. The new yam and other traditional foods are served at the occasion.

Gorgaram Fishing and Cultural Festival, Yobe State

Gorgoram is situated about 56km south-east of Gashua town in Jakusko LGA.The festival takes place between February and March every year. The festival involves catching of the biggest fish and cultural display.

Nwonyo Fishing Festival, Ibi,Taraba State

Nwonyo fishing festival is one of the prominent major festivals celebrated in Taraba State. It is celebrated in Ibi Local Government Area which is usually held in April of every year. It is a festival that involves the catching of the biggest fish in Nwonyo Lake. It is a two day festival. During the festival, activities such as canoe racing, swimming, competition and cultural dances are held.

Calabar Carnival, Calabar, Cross River State

The Calabar Carnival occurs every year and is organized by the Cross River State Government to celebrate the end of the year as well as Christmas season. Cross River State uses the occasion to showcase the rich culture, history, natural beauty of the State and celebrate its African heritage. The carnival started in the year 2000 when the then Governor Donald Duke was in office. The carnival is an exciting rallying point not only for residents but also for indigenous Nigerians living away from home as well as foreigners. The participants of the carnival are organized into bands required to display their skills, talents, costumes, masquerades and dance routines during the parade that stitches along a 12km route through the city of Calabar.

Calabar Carnival has erupted in grand festival style unifying people from all works of life, from pigmentation i.e.Negroid, Caucasoid and Mongoloid all jammed big time at the carnival. Every segment had performing professional artists who spiced up the merriment with their act.

Everybody who came to the carnival gyrated side by side with one another be it senators, bankers, tailors, film stars, musicians, farmers, governors, politicians all leveled up at the carnival. The carnival starts every Boxing Day, December 26 of every year. The festival begins at the end of November with the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Dotted around the many interesting venues within the region, visitors can attend fashion shows, food demonstrations, cultural exhibits, talent shows, musical concerts, funfairs, carol services, parades and picnics. The annual boat regatta is a colourful display of flamboyantly decorated boats pitting local riverine teams against each other.

Throughout the festival, one or more events are organized everyday. Below is the annual calendar of events:

• 30th November-The Festival Theme Song
• 30th November-The Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
• 1st December-The City Walk
• 1st December-Release Of White Pigeons And Balloons
• 1st December-The Christmas Arcade And Cultural Village
• 1st-29th December-The Local Government Days
• 2nd December-The Cradle Of The Bantu
• 5th December-Kiddies Talent Hunt/Exhibition
• 1st-31st December-Film Shows
• 1st-30th December-Calisthenics Display
• 7th December-Traditional Hair Show
• 8th December-Cultural Fiesta
• 12th December-Parade Of Masquerades
• 13th December-The Land Of Natural Beauty
• 14th December-The African Weekend At The Ranch
• 14th December-The Rebirth Of Africa
• 15th December-Down Memory Lane
• 16th December-Shout For Joy/Dance For The Lord
• 19th December-African Food Expo
• 24th December-The Nativity Play
• 24th December-The Carol Night: Carol Of Nine Lessons/Street Singing
• 25th December-Family Funfair
• 25th December-Family Picnic
• 26th & 27th December-Calabar Carnival
• 28th December-The Tinapa Star Walk
• 30th December-Boat Regatta
• 1st January-The Inter-Denominational Service

Boat Regatta Festival, Cross River

Regatta involves a series of rowing or sailing races organized as sporting and social events. In Nigeria, the regatta has become part of a socio-cultural activity that is unique to the riverine people of the Niger Delta. The boats used for the regatta are not powered by outboard engines but are rowed manually with traditional paddles by twenty to forty people or more depending on the size of the boat.

In Cross River State, boat regatta is a special cultural festival that celebrates the peoples’ attachment to the water, as fishing remains one of the dominant occupations of the people. The regatta is usually done annually during festivals or when there a bountiful catch. During the celebration, the boats are filled with gally dressed paddlers in different traditional costumes. The festival is traditionally associated with the riverine people of the state.

The Ceremonial Regatta: The festival is celebrated once a year among the Efiks to mark their various conquests in tribal wars in the ancient days. It is now observed during the coronation of a new Efik (King) also known as Edidem.

The Competitive Regatta: The competitive regatta is a social event for entertainment by the Efik and Qua communities. It is generally staged between the months of May and June when the waters of the river are at high tide.

Leboku Festival, Ugep, Cross River State

Leboku is popularly called ‘new Yam Festival’ which is celebrated by the people of Yakurr Local Government Area of Cross River State, every month of August. The festival holds once every year to commemorate the bringing home of the new yam as a mark of thanking the gods for a bountiful harvest which is designed by the cultural seasonality that set into the periods of preparing the land for cultivation of yam and other crops during the planting seasons and the period of harvesting. The festival is also used to showcase various cultural artistries of the people. Great farmers are recognized and encouraged to farm more.

People use the occasion to engage in charity works.During the celebrations, people cook different kinds of food for all and sundry; eating and drinking is free for all, relationships are strengthened while new ones are contracted.Activities and side attractions during the festival includes; beauty and handsome pageants, male and female wrestling competitions, colourful masquerade display and other traditional African Art forms and abundantly offered to visitors.

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