NSULU is one of the towns at Isialangwa-North local Government Area of Abia State. It shares boundaries with Ntigua at the West, UmuohialIkwuano at the North, Akwa- Ibom State at the NorthEast, Obingwa local council area at the East and Isialangwa-South at the South. The people are mainly farmers who engage in the production of kola-nuts, Palm oil, oranges among others. The predominant language is Ngwa with a slight difference from the one spoken by the surrounding other Ngwa villages that’s the reason it is called Nsulu dialect. Nsulu person would say “we nde” meaning “them” while someone from Ntigha and Ngwaukwu would say “we lile” to also mean them.
The Nsulu people have well-cherished traditional festivals among which is Abada. This festival is used to showcase maidens between the ages of (16-18) ripe for marriage and to subsequently send them off to the homes of their lucky husbands.
This festival was celebrated every five years either in October or November. This is when the rains have subsided. They choose five years for the festival- to allow those given out in marriage by their parents at the age of twelve years to get to sixteen years at least before they were given out to their husbands.
Preparation for the festival was in stages. First the Amala (council of elders) will meet at the village square not less than six weeks before the festival. At the meeting, application for participation was made by the parents (father) of the girls that were due for marriage that season. This application was done in the form of presenting one jar of palmwine called “Atuma Akwau” with four pieces of kola-nuts. The father would first salute the elders after presenting the items, which is laid on the floor, he will make his intention known, that is, his desire to have his daughter participate in the festival. The name(s) of the daughter will be mentioned. It should be noted that the father of the participant must be an indigene: The mother must have been properly married.
She was not put in the family way before getting married. And both of them have not offended the gods of the land for example engaging in abortion or stealing. Though it is extremely rare for application not to be approved, because before the parents would apply they must have known this condition as stated earlier, so if they had offended the gods, there was no need to apply. Also during this period, the whole village becomes a beehive of activities.
Youths between the ages of 12 and 16 were responsible for clearing the roads leading to the village square and other roads that connect the town with other towns and villages under the supervision of some elders.
During this period, the native drummers would not be left out, as they too would be practicing towards the festival at night after their meals. Suitors who may have found whom to marry would visit the home of their In-laws to be with gifts of wrapper which the girl may wear on the festival day and yam tubers meant for the girl’s consumption, who is now restricted to “Irumgbede” (fattening room). ‘This is meant to let the girl’s parents know their intension to marry the girl. This is a good sign, signifying that those ladies that would participate have already got a suitor.
At the home of the participating ladies, the preparation was even more intense. Relations would be busy peeling melons as much as possible so as to be able to entertain large turnout of guests that would come visiting.
The lady to be showcased is usually not allowed outside as she is confined to the fattening room where she was decorated with “uli” (canwood) and only close relatives or maidens were allowed to see her. About three days to the festival, the young girl was inspected by women from her maternal home, who would now prepare her for the festival. An experienced craft woman applies a fresh application of uli mixed with “uhie” on the girl. On a second visit, the suitor who had concluded the marriage rites would visit with ranging from yam tubers to ornament like beads. This is to re-assure their in-laws to be that they were still interested. Although a lady might receive gift from her parents and members of her maternal home sanction more than one suitor, but only one.
The Village Square would be given a facelift. The place where the drummers would sit will be decorated with “omu”. At each entrance to the square, which is also a linking road to the component quarters in the village called “Onuman”; cannon guns were placed to herald the arrival of visitors.
On the eve of the festival, middle aged men will after their dinner move about with the beating of drums, visiting the homes of the participating ladies. This visit was intended to congratulate the family and to felicitate with them. These group were given gifts like yam tubers, kolanut, and Ugba (prepared oil bean).
On the festival day, the participating ladies will then be given a final decoration with uli and beads of different sizes and colours will carefully be selected to bring out the beauty of the ladies. After eating a well-prepared meal, the ladies were escorted to the venue by relatives including young girls who may succeed them in the next five years. All ladies would have George wrapper worn round their waists. Upon arrival at the village ground, the cannons placed at the entrances to the square would be fired until the ladies had all arrived.
Elders from the component quarter’s “onumara” who have converged at the middle of the square would pour libation to appease the ancestors of the participating ladies. It was believed that if the spirit was not appeased the lady, may risked not being picked by a suitor or loses a prospective suitor, and as such may never get married. After the pouring of libation, the ladies would move to the middle of the square and the crowd would cheer them. The drummer would begin playing their drums with the ladies dancing to the rhythm of the music.
The leader of the women who must have the title of “Emere-eme” and not Okpoo” would come out to formally hand over the ladies to the elder or village head who must be a titled man or was chosen by the council of elder to chair the festival for that season.
The ladies, after being received by the elders will now continue their dancing and intending suitors through their sister would move in and place a piece of George wrapper on the shoulders of the chosen lady. The crowd at this point would cheer and the father of the girl would fire his dance gun into the air to signify his approval. A suitor also picked up the showcased ladies who might not be lucky to have gotten a suitor on Abade festival days. However, if the father failed to fire his gun, the wrapper would be collected by the lady who placed it, and the drummers will quickly sing a song that would make jest of the young man.
Though this is a rare situation as this only happens when a young man from any of the surrounding towns just felt like taking part in the festival with no serious intention in mind. After sometime, the young suitors and their wives would dance together amid cannon shots. Both would then be escorted home for the final marriage rites. At the home of the girl’s parents, both parties would be cited in the “ovu” (family sit out) where proper marriage rites would be performed. This was the time for bride price to be presented, blessed and paid in a wooden plate called “Okwandi ichie” the bride price is regarded as some thing very important. Therefore the Nsulu regard marriage as something that can only be terminated by death. After the payment of the bride price, the bride is formally sent off to the husband’s house that Night after some entertainment.
The Abada festival which was designed not only to showcase young ladies for marriage, but also to send them to their husbands homes is now extinct due to the influence of western civilization as people now regard the whole process as unnecessary. But the payment of bride price is still cherished and practiced by the people.