Okon-Esaa, known as the yam title is a principle tradition of the Eleme people of Rivers state, Nigeria.
The yam title tradition of the Eleme people has gone into extinction for over 45 years, it was revived by king Appolus Chu few years ago. Since then till date, many have been celebrated, respected and honoured in the community as high chiefs. These high chiefs have fed the community, they are highly respected.
The revival of Okon-Esaa, the yam title has boosted the food production in Eleme kingdom and Rivers state as a whole. Aside the boost in food production, economic and commercial activities, it has resulted in a drastic reduction of idleness, crimal activities and youth restiveness in the community. This is because more youth, and even the elderly ones are embracing farming activities. They are been celebrated, respected and elevated in the community as high chiefs.
In Eleme, a yam title holder is more respected and honoured in the community than others. It is a coefficient of an Eleme man’s hardwork, productivity, industrious, diligent and resourcefulness. Yam title holders are the personalities in the community before western education and white collar jobs. It is a measure of a man’s capability and strength which is relative to the number of yam he is able to farm and harvest.
Okon-Esaa, the yam title has five stages which are; the Achu, Obo, Obere Obo, Ota-a Obo, and Achuete.
For an Eleme man to be conferred with the first stage of the yam title, he must have farmed, harvested and displayed 2100 tubers of yam on a barn, and to qualify for the second stage of the title which is the Obo, it requires that 4200 tubers of farmed and harvested tubers of yam be displayed on a barn, and for a prospective Obere Obo yam title holder, he must have followed the same procedure with 12,600 tubers of yam. Similarly, for the fourth stage of the Eleme yam title, it requires 16,800 tubers of yam to be farmed, harvested and displayed. The final and the overall stage of the yam title is the Achu-ete, this involves the display on a barn 42,000 tubers of yam.
The yam title is done in stages and at the convenience of the individual. Most people ended at the first or second stages of the yam title, a few tried the third stage, while only one or two persons have attained the final and the overall stage of the yam title, based on their strength. Irrespective or any stage a of the yam title a person aims to accomplish or acquire must be farmed in one season
Yam title holders are respected and honoured because it involves a lot of efforts, dedication, perseverance and discipline to farm and achieve such harvest for the title.
The Egbere Emere Okori and Oneh Eh Nchia X of Eleme kingdom, His Royal Highness king Dr Appolus chu, is not only respected and honoured as a king, he is also the only highest Yam Title holder in the land.
The paramount ruler of Alesa clan, one of the clans under the rulership of king Appolus Chu and a lecturer in the University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Isaac Ngulube celebrated yam title, yesterday the 03/03/2022, to feel and earn all the respect and honour of his kingdom.
In the course of the yam title celebrations, king Appolus Chu collected and displayed walking sticks on the ground. This is a challenge to others, any one who picks a walk stick has agreed and made up his mind to farm in the next season. One stick indicates the first stage, that is, the Achu yam title which means he will work to farm and harvest 2100 tubers of yam, two sticks indicates the second yam title stage which is the Obo that requires 4200 tubers, and respectively.
An 82 years old chief of Aleto clan, high chief Godwin chu Opara, celebrated the second stage, Obo, after over 45years of attaining the Achu title. Chief ChuOpara made a promise to his father, that he will work hard to achieve the Obo yam title, this promise has been fulfilled few weeks ago.
In Eleme, a lazy man can not talk where a yam title holder is, because he will checkmate him with a question, which is, has vulture or ants eaten your food? This means that he has never gather people to feed them in the community playing ground, which allows ants or vultures to eat left overs.
A lazy man not only embarrass himself by not going to farm, he embarrasses his family too, a parent of a yam title holder uses his son’s title to boost and brag as a father whose son has made an achievement and is highly respected to a father whose son is lazy.
Even in the circle of his age mate, a lazy man can not raise shoulder or talk without caution in the present of a yam title holder. Again, if anything gets missing in the community, such as goats, fowl or anything, all fingers points to the lazy man who stays around when others goes to the farm.
What ever you become, without yam title, an Eleme man won’t see any pride in you.
By Hadiza Babakatcha