Last Saturday, the 3rd day of September 2016, all Christ faithful in the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri in joyful reunion with their sons, daughters, friends and well-wishers from within and outside Nigeria, gathered at the Maria Assumpta Cathedral Owerri to celebrate this year’s Owerri Archdiocesan day which led us into the 21st edition of this event.
The Owerri Archdiocesan day is an annual event which primarily recalled 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. To this end, Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna, the first Archbishop of Owerri strongly felt that the day of the inauguration of the Archdiocese, September 3, 1994 should be recalled yearly with thankful festivities. This all important celebration which began modestly has been spiced and enlarged over the years with the popular Odenigbo cultural festival.
This year, the celebration kicked off on Friday September 2nd with cultural entertainment. It was rounded off on Saturday with a thanksgiving Mass, fund raising and Odenigbo lecture which has become the usual climax of the annual Owerri Archdiocesan Day Celebration.
The Lecture series founded by the Metropolitan of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, his Grace, Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna on September 5, 1996 are directed towards a genuine upliftment and enhancement of Igbo people and their culture. The lecturer this year was none other than the world renowned technological genius, a former minister of power and a scholar of international repute, Professor Barth Okechukwu Nnaji. He is a distinguished engineer credited with being creative, inventive and productive. He lectured on the theme, “OMENKA; NCHEPUTA NA MMEPUTA. A rough translation of the lecture topic into English would be – the highly skilled worker or the expert – thinking out and producing things or innovating and fabricating or manufacturing; creativity and productivity.
While God is Ochee-Odiri, Okaa-Omee, humans take their cue from God’s creativity and productivity. For God has given us the spiritual, mental and manual capacity to think out new things including new ideas, new structures, institutions and new conveniences for the good of humanity and the praise of God. This is a topic that should challenge every one of us, especially Ndigbo to think out new ideas and new ways, to fabricate or manufacture new products for our own good and the good of other humans. Every domain of life, learning and work can profit from more creative, innovative thinking and productivity.
It is important to note that following the recent technological advancement, Odenigbo which was merely OdenOwerri has gone to a higher level. It can now be seen or read all over the world; in the Face-book, Twitter, and WhatsApp etc. While we thank our great Igbo heroes like Mazi F.C. Ogbalu, the forerunner of the society for the promotion of Igbo language and culture, we congratulate the organizers of Odenigbo cultural festival. The Igbos should sincerely remain grateful to His Grace Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna for his wise institution of ODENIGBO lectures. Let all and sundry support this intellectual giant of our time in his restoration and reconfiguration agenda of our dignity as NDI IGBO through the ODENIGBO LECTURE SERIES.
Following his unrelenting efforts, various people now take pride in speaking Igbo language. 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 and program promotions in Igbo language.
Today, we have joyfully noted that in many Parishes, homilies, messages and announcements are now read in Igbo. In certain gatherings, those who for some constraints have to deliver their messages in English, apologize for doing so. This state of affairs has impacted positively on our culture as well as the enhancement of Igbo scientific and technological development.
However, there are still lots that need to be addressed to move the Igbo language and culture to our desired enviable height. To this end, we suggest that the trend whereby some parents use only English language as a medium of interaction with their kids should be reversed. Home videos in Igbo language should be given adequate patronage. The electronic and print media in our land should create more special programs for the propagation of Igbo language and culture. Today it has become difficult to discover craftsmen like blacksmiths and goldsmiths within the Igbo social structure. In those days this trend gave vent to an increasing rate of employment. Odenigbo cultural festival constrains NDI IGBO 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.
In this Jubilee year of mercy we wish also to add that Odenigbo lecture series endeavors to spread the message of charity for one another, the message of forgiveness and the message of making sacrifices for the good of our neighbors. Odenigbo carries the message of truth, the message of dropping all forms of discrimination, Osu, Diala, Ume and the likes. 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 by upholding the Igbo principle of live and let live.
At this juncture, we should hasten to point out that we must not lose sight of the fact that the task of supporting and upholding the Odenigbo lecture series rests squarely on every Igbo man and woman irrespective of their denominations. It would be unwise and unrealistic to leave the financial burden of this noble venture mainly to the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri since its objectives are not parochial and the choice of its lecturers cuts across states and the various Christian denominations. Let Ndigbo come out en-mass to work and pray for the salvation of our collective Igboness
All hands must therefore be on deck in an effort to re-orientate the psyche of our people in the right direction. Ndi Igbo are called upon to take the fruits of Odenigbo to the next level. We pray that the ideals of the lecture series become actualized in the day to day lives of our people, all to the greater glory of God. Let us be sure of the fact that whoever loses his language and culture has lost his identity.
George Nwachukwu PhD
Director of Communications/Media Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri