Prominent among the fading cultures of the people of Rivers State is wrestling. In the good olden days, almost all communities in Rivers State could boast of producing wrestling champions. But today, it is difficult to even hear of wrestling as a sport.
Its revival has been a serious issue to some communities within the state while others are yet to decide whether to revive it or not.
The near-death of the wrestling culture is blamed on the influence of westernisation, just like other cultural activities such as the masquerade or Owu Dance, etc.
Wrestling is also one of the local sports that does not require much resources to organise because all the needed instruments as well as the human resources are available within the locality.
No doubt, the rebirth of wrestling has become a major issue in some communities in Rivers State, today. It is said that the wrestling was among the main sources of recreation and entertainment in several rural communities even in some cities where it is still practised.
The game (wrestling) as The Tide One Sunday gathered, does not involve much risk because it is usually a battle between two males of equal body size or persons within the same age bracket.
It is only in few cases that men of different age brackets or body sizes are allowed to wrestle. At times, such pairings are done to produce a champion who will represent the community in an external wrestling championship or even in inter-communal conflicts.
In some communities, champion wrestlers are used as body guards of their traditional rulers and chiefs who are viewed as the custodian of the people.
They (champion wrestlers) were used for almost all the risky jobs and errands in the community, because of the common notion that they possess extra-ordinary prowess.
It is this sentiment that makes the wrestling champion the favourite of young girls even in marriage. It is said in some communities that every parent would in their inner most mind prefer that their would-be son-in-law is a champion wrestler, not even an ordinary one. The reason being that he will be of great importance to the family both in the areas of family work and defence.
The Tide On Sunday was told that in recent past some parents would give their daughters to any available champion wrestlers at almost no cost, because they want their family to be respected.
Today, Rumuogba community in Obio/Akpor local government area of Rivers State has taken the bull by the horn to recreate the art of wrestling. To this end, the people have finalised plans to revive the wrestling culture.
The Paramount Ruler of Nye Nwe-Eli Rumuogba, HRH Eze (Barr) Temple N. Ejekwu (JP), Eze Ogba Iji Nu Ede, reasoned that wrestling remains the main source of popularity in the communities.
Eze Ejekwu noted that wrestling also brings peace and unity in the communities where it is still practised.
The monarch pointed out that wrestling is one of the notable cultures of the Ikwerre people and should not be allowed to fade away like many other cultures which he said are almost gone.
He argued that plans are in top gear to bring the wrestling culture back to life in his community.
According to him, both the wrestling drums and drummers are intact, saying that in the nearest future wrestling activities will begin to boom again in the community.
He also told The Tide’s Culture and Tourism desk that in his first anniversary which is underway, wrestling match will top other activities as part of the community’s effort to ensure that the younger generations do not forget it totally.
The Eze Ogba Nu-Iji Nu Ede, hinted that the community is also planning to invite other communities for a wrestling championship in order to bring back the lost glory of the wrestling culture.
According to him, wrestling, is the easiest way by which the locals can know who is who, adding that it also brings out the best in the man.
The Rumuogba Paramount Ruler, maintained that wrestling promotes unity and friendship among communities, adding that its near-death has done some havoc to the rural communities.
He said champions who emerge during the community’s wrestling championship, would be projected to the state level, just as the Woji people have taken their cultural dance to the state level.
He argued that since wrestling promotes peace and unity, the community will always experience a huge turnover in various aspects of its trade due to the friendly environment.
He also informed The Tide On Sunday that the wrestling culture has no fetish practice, wondering why the people are shying away from it.
The young monarch, regretted that the wrestling culture which serves as a huge tourist attraction for the people is fading away with a great speed.
He called on the organisers of the CARNIRIV annual festival to always include wrestling as one of the cultural activities of the Rivers people.
That, he said, will do the much expected magic in the bid to revive the wrestling culture of the people of Rivers State.