Igbo’s yearly pilgrimage to home land

The Igbo, one of the major ethnic groups in Nigeria, are found in the eastern part of the country. The people, known for their rich cultural background, are also renowned  to be very industrious.

Before British colonisation, this people had lived in autonomous local communities, but by the mid  20th century, they had developed a strong sense of ethnic identity. During conflicts in 1966, many of them in the northern part of the  country were killed while some were forced into their traditional homelands in the East. In 1967 the Eastern Region tried to secede from the entity called Nigeria as the independent nation of Biafra, a struggle which has over the years remained a pipe dream.
To a typical Igbo man, ‘home going’ most especially, during festive period is a sort of tradition which must not be missed. In fact, it has turned to a yearly pilgrimage, without which they stand the chance of been booed by kinsmen. It is believed in many quarters that during the Christmas and New Year season, all they have struggled to gather in the  year round are ‘squandered’ within a few weeks, all in the name of one ‘home coming’.

Within the Lagos Metropolis, preparation for the 2009 Yuletide festival has begun in earnest. Regardless of the foul crying by the people over the recent credit crunch, indications have emerged that the Igbo  and some  minority groups are indisposed to the issue. “We just have to go home,” as one traveller puts it.  
Some of the travellers who were home-bound for the season at different motor parks in Lagos reliably informed the Nigerian Compass that ‘home going’ has been a culture and tradition of the Igbo since the civil war. They stated that it has become a recurring tradition to go back home to celebrate the season.

To most people according to  Nneoma Eze, a worker at ABC motor park, Christmas is a time for families to meet on affairs relating to their well-being.
He added, “It is a thing of joy to celebrate the season with your family down the east, this is the only time some will travel home in the year. It is a time when some family members re-unite. I have been travelling with my family for the past five years and I have no cause to regret.”

Ikechukwu Opara, who was on his way  to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, after a visit to his family in Lagos, said he was not surprised to see the crowd at the ABC terminal.
“It has become a ritual  which the Igbo cannot do without. They believe in spending the Yuletide with their people back home in the East or their homeland every year despite the economic meltdown, kidnapping cases and the bad road at the Benin Ore road.”“

Obinna Okoli has just come from the United States (US).  He  was travelling down to Aba with his family at the Chisco terminal when he was encountered by the Nigerian Compass.  He said it is fun celebrating Christmas with members of his family including the extended .

 Okoli said, “It is always peaceful and relaxing to celebrate this season in your home town. I cannot imagine what temperature the bottled beer would be in the local road-side bar in the village. It is a strange feeling to be a minority. Walking through the village, children stop and stare at you, each and every day. Older people, whatever the level of English will though, without failing to say ‘you are welcome’. I do not seek to overly romanticise life in the village. I will always remember the warmth of the welcome and innumerable sights and sounds of village life.“

“Having a place to call home is something that instils a sense of humour in the human psyche. A home should offer some security, safety and sense of belonging. Thousands of such homes had been destroyed in Abuja, Jos, Kano, and Lagos over the past few years, causing the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Igbo people. The reason for destroying the homes, simply put, they did not fit in the Master Development Plan for the city. These are part of the reasons why the Igbo see themselves as strangers in any land they are. That is why most of them prefer to travel to their home town where they can never be intimated,” said Uchena Ikedimma““A pastor at the Ekene Dili Chukwu terminal at Jibowu, John Okoro , said that  the Igbo believe they are from Israel, and it is recently discovered that so many old Igbo traditions were Jewish.

 “We are Israelites according to the bible and to my own understanding, the Igbo are God’s own people. Traveling is part of our culture and the season is a season of celebration, we are celebrating the birth of our lord Jesus Christ. Though the road is amazing,s we are praying for a good leader that can hear the cry of the masses because they are under perpetual bondage.

Also speaking with the branch manager of Chisco Transport at Jibowu, Lagos, Ojabulu Ezekiel said this period is the peak period for them. “For this reason, we brought out 20 new buses which was brought in during the U-17 world cup and they are under serious maintenance.
Comparing the fares, Ezekiel said there is no much difference. He stressed that the Igbo have seen it as a tradition to spend the Yuletide in their respective home towns since the experience of the civil war.

“The war has actually made the Igbo to value their home towns.  A typical Igbo man sees it as priority to have a self home in his village than any other place, in case of the unknown. There is no place like home,” he added.

Kidnapping or no kidnapping, Igbos are travelling en mass to the East to spend their Christmas. Many of them said no amount of fear would stop them from going home to be with their loved ones.

 “To me the kidnappers are doing their own business. There is no amount of distraction that can put this age-long tradition on hold. It is God that protect, he will usually protect his children.” said Okoro

“Where do you want me to run to, Igbo land is my home, I can not because of some people who are doing their business refuse to go home to spend the Christmas.”Ikedimma added.

While Okoli said he was not scared because he believed Jesus was with him.

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