One of the most popular festivals in Nigeria happens to be the annual New Yam Festivals celebrated by different tribes of people in all the ethnic groups in Nigeria. Among the celebrated New Yam Festival that gained international recognition happens to be Leboku New Yam Festival.
Leboku Festival is an annual New Yam festival celebrated by the Yakurr people (Yako People) in Cross River State, Nigeria. Yakurr is a Local Government Area in Cross River. Yakurr has about eight villages; Asiga, Ugep, Agoi, Idomi, Ekori, Mkpani, Nko, and Nyima are the Yakạạ speaking-people. Leboku is a Yakaa word that means Festival.
It is an annual three-week event set up to appease the goddess of the land and the ancestral spirits while appealing for a great harvest. Each village has its appointed day for the celebration within itself.
Since 2007, MTN, one of the leading telecom companies in Nigeria, has been the Major Sponsor of this famous Festival. Leboku Festival is engaged with events beginning with the parade of engaged maidens of the land to the ancestral home in Ugep.
Starting from mid-August to mid-September is a holiday as the people are not permitted to engage in any farm work. It is also expected of them to pay visits to their loved ones and celebrate. The next day’s event is the Janenboku – the women’s Festival, which comes with various dance groups having their cultural dance.
Ledemboku is the male’s Festival, which fell on the third day of Leboku. On this day, Etangala Masquerades usually come out. On the fourth day, Nkokeboi follows, which is the day of rest. The youths are allowed to go out and make friends.
The next day is the poetry contest among the ladies in a community, Leteboku. A dance appearance by a group of people on leg bangles. After the Leteboku, comes the Yekpi. Yekpi is the day the youths of the community, which are members of the Libini group, parade to usher in peace and prosperity to the land. It is only held at night.
During the Leboku Festival, young boys and girls would engage in a one-week musical Festival. The girls have their dance group called Oka, while Egbendum is for the boys. Each neighborhood has its dance groups.
The ending of the Festival comes with lots of fun as everyone feast on porridge yam and palm wine.
Yakurr people are mostly agrarians. They are blessed with fertile land and are among the leading people in yam production. They are good at fishing equally.