Nigeria’s Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Toby Okechukwu, weekend, declared that peer pressure is one of the factors pushing the youths into various forms of criminality.
The lawmaker spoke in his Ugbo Community, Awgu local government area of Enugu State as top political and traditional leaders in Enugu State, led by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, gathered to celebrate Iwa Akwa, known as Aju festival, in the community.
Governor Ugwuanyi was represented by Bar. Steve Oruruo, his Special Adviser on information. Also in attendance were former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, member representing Udi/Ezeagu federal constituency, Hon Dennis Oguerinwa Amadi, among others.
Okechukwu revealed at the event that the tradition dated back to 1800, stressing that, “for purposes of industry, when you become a man, when you celebrate your age grade, it is expected you begin to contribute to the common wealth by way of paying dues, you are now authorized to marry, you are now permitted to do what men do.
“It is a severance between adolescence and age of maturity.
“Criminality comes within the context of peer pressure, when you have a good number of people who are your mates achieving, you will be under pressure to achieve.
“In the past, when you do your age grade, it is expected you leave your community, go and fend for yourself, go and find work to do; it is expected that you begin to be very responsible, because then, you are expected to contribute to the community.
“So, it is an opportunity for peer review, an opportunity to aggregate our youths, it is an opportunity for all of them to come together and have some mentoring. It is meant for industry, it is meant to motivate the youths, it is meant to censor deviant behaviour.
“Security-wise, our expectation is that those who are behaving well will mentor the other, we will counsel them, make sure they don’t go into anything that is anti-social.”
Also speaking, Senator Ekweremdu stated that the age-long tradition had seen thousands of Ugbo men being initiated into adulthood.
He noted that the community had used the ceremony to achieve a great landmark in terms of development.
The Senator representing Enugu West, said, “I know this is a period in Ugbo when illustrious sons and daughters come together both within and outside Nigeria to celebrate their sons who have reached the age of adulthood.
“For eighteen years, every three years, I have celebrated the Aju festival with Ugbo people and I participate in every ceremony the Ugbo people are doing.
“We thank God for the land of Ugbo today; Ugbo was not like this in the past twenty years but today, Ugbo has electricity, good roads, water, schools and other things.
“I urge you all to hold firm your strength and zeal, so that when you go back to your base, you can tell people about your tradition and be proud of it anywhere, anytime
“Despite the modernization in Ugbo today, I am so happy that in Ugbo we still remember the culture and tradition and I pray that our culture and tradition will never die.”
He commended Hon. Okechukwu for the development he had brought so far in the land of Ugbo and prayed that God will continue to strengthen him.
Earlier, the Chairman, organizing committee of the Aju festival and National Publicity Secretary, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia said the event had remained a very important factor in the life of the community.
it reports that the festival is performed every three years to mark the rite of passage for every male child between the ages of 19 and 21.
It is one of the major cultural landmarks of the Ugbo community, Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State.