It’s always a better December when it’s a December spent in my hometown. And yes, I’m Igbo, Onye Mgbidi, Imo state and I’m your typical nwa-afor. Every year, in December, my family embarks on the mass exodus alongside many other Igbos who live outside Igboland.
Mgbidi is the headquarters of Oru West LGA in Imo state. It originally was the headquarters of the Oru LGA before it was further divided into West and East. Mgbidi is located in the oil-rich Njaba river sub-basin along Oguta, Awo-mmamma etc.
One of the oldest towns in Imo state, it’s bounded on the north by Ibi-Asoegbe and Aji, on the east by Amiri and Otulu, on the west by Ozara, and on the south by Oguta LGA and Awo-mmamma. Mgbidi is located in the far north of Imo State, which is why it is bounded by Amorka in Ihiala LGA of Anambra State.
Obana River or Mmiri Obana originates from Mgbidi and drains into the famous Oguta Lake, forming one of its tributaries.
Mgbidi has eleven communities, which are merged to form the six Autonomous Communities found in Mgbidi. The eleven communities are Imeoha, Eziali, Umuekwe, Okwudor, Umuorji, Umuokpara, Umuehi, Umuabiahu, Uzinaumu, Ihitte and Ugbele. Umuorji is my village.
Mgbidi is known for a traditional ritual, called Ikwesi, which is performed by young girls when they hit adolescence. Every girl is required to do this before they can become a mother. The ritual predates the advent of Christianity in the town. Nowadays, there is a Christianized version of Ikwesi even though some have opted against it. I personally did not go back home for the ritual but my over-zealous family did the ritual on behalf of myself and my sisters.
Going back home to Umuorji is always a fun experience though the excitement has waned now as an adult. The greatest appeal of country lifestyle is it’s closeness to nature. This is slowly being taken away from us by urbanization. My village which is rich in oil has seen an influx of oil companies and with it more modern building structures and hotels.
Of course, this is development but a little part of me still misses the mud roads and few mud houses that still survived from the olden times. But then, my family clings to traditional methods of cooking and even sweeping with the native brooms made from large palm fronds, which I find very fun to do.
During the December holidays, the Mgbidi day festival is one of the highlights. Different local masquerades put on a show at the village square and attract a large crowd. The masquerades often chase the crowd with a cane but masquerade chases have become less frightening as the ritual process is now subtle or even non-existent.
Another interesting fact about Mgbidi is, it’s an abomination to hunt and kill monkeys, fish and pythons. So imagine how many pythons must be running lose in my territory. Research says animals instinctively protect those that protect them (who says I made this up?) , so think twice before you diss an Mgbidi person.
The never ending parties are also a great plus. Every compound throws at least one party in December. These parties always have a life band who arrive with exotic traditional dancers that just blow everyone away. The combination of beautiful high-life tunes and cold fresh palm wine would never not be a phenomenal experience.
Igbo Decembers are the absolute best.