This year’s Odenigbo lecture, our ongoing annual Igbo intellectual harvest, scripted and delivered in the language of Ndigbo holds on Saturday, September 3rd 2016 at the popular Obiri Odenigbo.
The lecturer this time is non other than the world renowned Technological genius, a former minister of Mines and Power and a scholar of international repute, Professor Barth Okechukwu Nnaji. He will lecture on the theme, “OMENKA: NCHEPUTA NA MMEPUTA.
The Odenigbo lecture for this year is the twenty first in the series since its inception in 1996. Let us not forget that the maiden lecturer was Nolue Emenanjo, a Professor of linguistics. The second was delivered in 1997 by Rev. Monsignor Theophilus Okere, a Catholic Priest, while the third was delivered by Professor Edmund Ikenga Metuh, in 1998.
It was at the maiden lecture that the founder of this annual festival, who is the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, Most Rev Dr. Anthony Obinna, enunciated the aims of the lecture series. Prominent among the objectives are; the promotion of Igbo Language and culture and the fostering of harmonious relationship between the Good News and the Igbo Language.
But one may like to ask, “What could have sustained the interest of the real Igbo men and women in this annual Odenigbo festival? “What could have informed the progressive development of Odenigbo from one level to another over these years? For the true Igbos, the reasons are obvious. Many of us have observed with disgust that there have been a sharp decline and decay of Igbo Language inspite of a major language status accorded it along with Hausa and Yoruba by the Nigerian world.
Long ago our elders have muted that language decay is a gradual process which only a few critical minds could perceive and seek solution to.
Today, Odenigbo decries the continued marginalization of Igbo language in schools with attendant discrimination against it by students when it comes to choice of examination subjects at all levels. More perturbing, however, is the shameless and scandalous attitude of some Igbo elites who have continued to treat Igbo language and all that it stands for as degrading even to the extent of proudly asserting that they cannot speak or read not to talk of writing it. This is in sharp contrast to the attitude of their Hausa and Yoruba compatriots who proudly converse in their mother tongues in offices and public places. Hausa, Yoruba, Tiv, Efik and Fulani intellectuals even organize debates, talks and meetings in their native languages.
It was this state of affairs that informed the strenuous effort made by great Igbos like Ogbalu, Onwu and presently Archbishop Obinna. They have that zeal and collective determination to revive and promote the language to a high intellectual status.
They are convinced therefore, that it is language that makes an ethnic group or nation and gives them their most spectacular identity. Archbishop Obinna particularly understands in addition that Igbo language is a formidable ally in the propagation of the Gospel. And as Lee Whort rightly pointed out, “we dissect nature along lines laid down by our native language”.
History has it that both the English and the French as well as other linguistic groups at a certain point in their linguistic journey abandoned the prevailing language of their foreign over lords to re-discover their home cultural values. The concept of Odenigbo therefore, is a renaissance or reinterpretation of Igbo world view using the Igbo Language.
During the military regime development of the Igbo Language suffered a lot of retardation owing to the fact that the military administrators in Igbo States were largely non Igbos. But now that our own Igbo speaking brothers are at the helm of affairs in the Igbo speaking states, we expect them to come out fully to support and encourage any venture like the Odenigbo lecture for the promotion of our common Igbo Language and heritage. We salute our Igbo governors and the members of the state houses of Assemblies for their strides in this direction and beckon on them to do more. So far their best is not the best.
It is our candid opinion that the organizers of this laudable project, the Odenigbo lecture series, need encouragement from all people of Igbo extraction. It is wrong for anyone to imagine that it is the affairs of the Catholic Church in Owerri Archdiocese alone and their Archbishop.
Henceforth parents, schools and various groups in the society should play well their part in ensuring the speaking, reading and writing of Igbo language. Those occupying positions of authority should not demoralize learners of the language by shunning them when they speak it.
Let us join hands to ensure survival of Igbo language and culture as we march into the twenty first edition of Odenigbo lecture series. To guarantee the steady progress of Odenigbo festival, we call upon well-meaning Igbo men and women to come to our aid. No contribution in cash or kind may be too much or too little. Support the fight for the survival and promotion of our beloved mother tongue and culture.
REV. FR. GEORGE WC NWACHUKWU (PhD)
Director of Media/Communications
Catholic archdiocese of Owerri