For three days, contestants from 11 states across the Eastern region of Nigeria converged in the city of Enugu to participate in the regional socio-cultural and traditional sporting event known as “Ayo.” Highly regarded among enthusiasts of culture and tradition in the South-West, the game of Ayo is equally popular among the people of the South-East and South-South where it is called "Ncho" or "Iche."
The Ayo Championship which has become a regular feature in the South-West was organized byGrand Oak Limited, marketers of Seaman's Schnapps. The championship started on Wednesday, September 10 and ended on Friday, September 12. It was a compelling cocktail of cultural displays, comedy, traditional and contemporary music as well as peerless brand activations.
As scheduled, the event started off with a prayer and libation by MaziChukwumaOssai, an elder who hails from Amachalla in Enugu-Ezike in Igboeze North Local Government Area of Enugu State. Ossai poured libation with Seaman's Schnapps calling on Almighty God to guide and protect the competitors and the spectators alike.
The four females who qualified for the female singles quarter finals were the first to play while the men’s game with so much fierceness followed subsequently.
NkiruAzodo, winner of the female’s third place position had this to say, “I am grateful to Seaman's Schnapps for giving me thisgolden opportunity to participate, I will use the money to buy textbooks for myself”. She also showed her appreciation by dancing toAdada traditional music to the delight of the audience.
V arious folk songs and traditional music were played to entertain the audience while the competition was in progress.
The double finals between mixed sexes, two women and two men, placed the gender issue to the background. The male doubles was won by Damian Joseph from Cross River and Peter Nwafor from Enugu State.
To HonourableIfeanyichukwuOkereke, a participant from Udi, the home town of Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State,”the Ayo championship organized by Seaman's Schnapps is wonderful as it is internationally acclaimed by the elders. We thank God for Seaman's. The Ayo competition has re-awakened our traditional and cultural values."
Indeed, the entire audience chorused that Seaman's Schnapps has actually come to stay.
The uniqueness of the game was that there was no class consciousness in the game as both educated and people with less formal education took part in the competition.
One Roland Chikelu from Akuku Igbo in Delta State said being a graduate of Industrial Chemistry did not stop him from participating in the competition.
"I pray that Seaman's Schnapps people will continue to organize the Ayo competition. Apart from engaging the youths, it breeds peaceful co-existence among people of different ethnic nationalities", he added.
Speaking on the competition, Grand Oak Senior Brand Manager, NnamdiEzeani explained that the Ayo game was meant to propagate and promote the traditional game among the people, adding that it was in conformity with the goal of positioning Seaman's brand as number 1 custodian of Nigerian tradition and culture.
According to him, the competition cut across all segments of the society, adding that the Ayo league started in rural area before it came to the regional level. "We want to sustain our culture and tradition through Ayo game competition. We chose Enugu because it is the heart of the South-East," he added.
The high point of the occasion was the formal presentations of cheques and cup trophies to winners.