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May 21, 2018

Owerri Archdiocesan Day Celebration/Odenigbo Lecture Series, 22 years after

Odenigbo 2017
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Next, Saturday, the 2nd day of September 2017, all Christ faithful in the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri will in joyful reunion with their sons, daughters, friends and well-wishers from within and outside Nigeria, gather at the Maria Assumpta Cathedral Owerri to celebrate this year’s Owerri Archdiocesan day.

The Owerri Archdiocesan day is an annual festivity which primarily recalls the 1994 elevation of the Catholic Diocese of Owerri to an Archdiocese and ultimately to the status of metropolitan See within the Owerri Ecclesiastical province.

Over time, the renowned Odenigbo lecture – “NkuziOhanaEze,” scripted and delivered in Igbo Language has turned out to be the climax of the annual Owerri Archdiocesan Day celebration. The principal goal of Odenigbo is the promotion and propagation of Igbo Language and Igbo traditional values, culminating in the transmission of the gospel message in our own native language and culture. Odenigbo focuses on the authentication of our Igboness. In line with the rudimentary aim of the early Christian missionaries, Odenigbo lecture series endeavours to spread the massage of charity for one another, the message of forgiveness and the message of making sacrifices for the good of our neigbours. Odenigbo carries the message of truth, the message of dropping all forms of discrimination. Odenigbo tries to reintroduce the Christian world view which points to the primacy of love and the hope for eternal life. It embodies the passion to win souls for Christ bearing our Crosses. Odenigbo cultural festival aims at re-awakening the consciousness of the Igboman to his rich cultural heritage which is fast diminishing.

It is important to note that the UNESCO Red Book of endangered Languages has long indicated that Igbo Language is dying off. For some Igbos this situation makes no meaning while others are instrumental to placing our collective Igboness on this danger list.

Normally, no sane person wants his mother tongue to decay or die out. It is after all, the language that makes an ethnic group or nation. Without a language of its own, an ethnic group or nation becomes merged and lost in the group whose language it speaks.

One of the major goals of Odenigbo Lectures is the recovery, re-inauguration and strengthening of Igbo values, ethics and norms. Good behavior and decent life are bedrocks for Igbo life and those should not be allowed to be inundated or swept away by the hurricane of the Western life. Again, Odenigbo lecture is a definite move towards the resuscitation of Igbo Language which is not much patronized by her owners in their day to day linguistic transactions and functions.

At the inaugural ceremony of this festival on September the 4th 1996 the founder made it emphatically clear that it was no longer enough to use Igbo orally either to speak or to explain things. One who speaks and reads Igbo must also write it. Twenty two years after, we could say without fear of contradictions that the lecture series is on course and has come a long way.  There is therefore no doubt whatsoever that the goal of the lecture series as a channel of development and spreading of Igbo Language is effectively being realized.

Today, there are as many Igbo organizations with diverse names like “Igbo Taa”, “Suwakwa Igbo,” “Igbo Ezue” etc. Some individuals have  single handedly  spearheaded some Igbo programs and instituted essay competition in Igbo language while some others have given scholarships to students to study Igbo language and culture in the Universities. Our brothers and sisters all over the world have continued to manifest gifted interest in Igbo language and culture. In far-away Maryland USA an Igbo village has been erected by the Igbos. Many publications in Igbo language have followed this interest.  Almost every summer for the past ten years, the founder of Odenigbo, Most Rev. Anthony JV Obinna has received invitations from our brothers and sisters in Diaspora for lectures in Igbo language. In almost every part of the world, there is an Igbo community where masses are celebrated in Igbo language.  Here at home, various parishes in Owerri and beyond write addresses to the Bishops on the pastoral visits in Igbo language, while most priests and pastors struggle to deliver their sermons in unadulterated Igbo language. Some houses of assembly in the South-South are deciding mapping out a day in a week when their session will be in complete Igbo.

Today more people take pride in speaking the language, enjoying Igbo diets, music programmes, folklores etc. Some indigenous authors can now write their books, addresses, pamphlets and journals in Igbo language. Some current newspapers today include Igbo columns. Even some telephone networks presently do their adverts in Igbo language.  The line of successes in this regard continues.

Following the current technological advancement, Odenigbo which was merely Odenowerri has gone to the next level. It can now be seen or read in the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp etc. To this end, Odenigbo which is also Odenigwe has become OdenAmerica, OdenaEurope and indeed OdenaUwanile.

So far this lecture series has continued to come up with thought provoking topics that help the Church in its evangelization mission. The lecturers are carefully selected and over the years, attendance has been encouraging and the Odenigbo working Committee has been great. We can therefore say without any fear of contradiction that so far Odenigbo has done well. Kudos to the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, his clergy and religious, the entire Catholic faithful of Owerri Metropolitan and indeed all well-meaning Igbos all over the world. Odenigbo has helped us to affirm that we shall no longer live to resemble the proverbial night watchman who keeps watch and pre­vents thieves from stealing other peoples’ goods but has no time to watch over his own.

However, there are still a lot that need to be done to move the Igbo language and culture to the enviable height already occupied by its two leading counterparts; the Hausa and Yoruba languages. These include the fact that the number of those who understand and speak Igbo but cannot read or write it is still on the high side, the refusal of few elite class to encourage their children to take interest in Igbo language and culture and the failure on the part of many Nursery and Primary schools in Igboland to enforce the love for Igbo language. All these have continued plague our strenuous efforts in Odenigbo.

We need not be reminded that in the history of mankind the greatest writers and thinkers have done their think­ing and writing in their mother tongue. For instance, the original text of the Bible was written in (Aramaic) Hebrew, the mother tongue of the writers. The great Roman laws and literature were written in Italian language. The famous French philosophers did their writings in French language. A great scholar like Confucius recorded all his writ­ings in his Chinese Language. The English write in English and the Greeks in Greek.

Given the already established Christian atmosphere in Igboland, it is expected that this 22nd edition of the lecture in the series entitled Uwadiegwu,MmanaUjo di n’ala Igbo is going to be outstanding. The lecturer, Most Rev. John Okoye, the Bishop of Ogwu Diocese and an erudite Scholar of international repute is expected to bring the good news of salvation into greater intimacy with all aspects of Igbo life and culture through the explication of this well thought-out topic.

As we celebrate this year’s Owerri Archdiocesan Day, we should hasten to state that we must not lose sight of the fact that the task of supporting and upholding the Odenigbo lecture series rests squarely on all Igbos irrespective of their denominations. It would be unwise and unrealistic to leave the financial burden of this noble venture merely to the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri since its objectives are not parochial and the choice of its lecturers cuts across states and various Christian denominations. Let Ndigbo come out en-mass to work and pray for the salvation of our collective Igboness. It is wrong for anyone to imagine that it is the affairs of the Catholic Church in Owerri Archdiocese alone and her Archbishop.

As we celebrate the Marian year in our country, Ndi Igbo are called upon to take the fruits of Odenigbo to the next level. May the ideals of the lecture series, through the intercession of our Blessed mother, become actualized in the day to day lives of our people, all to the greater glory of God. Let us not forget the fact that whoever loses his language and culture has lost his identity.

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Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu

Director of Communications/Media

Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri.

 

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