THE ‘KPIM’ OF ODENIGBO CULTURAL FESTIVAL
Odenigbo lecture series which was established in 1996 by His Grace Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna will strike a landmark this year. In the past, we have witnessed varied lectures in the series but this year’s lecture which marks the 22nd anniversary in the sequence will be delivered by a core Igbo woman; a woman of substance, Dr. Mrs. Patricia Uloaku Okoye. She was meticulously picked by the Odenigbo searchlight to handle this all-encompassing topic…ISUZI, IDEZI NA IGUZI IGBO: MMASI NA AKAMGBA DI NA HA. The ceremony begins with a cultural exhibition on the 31st of August 2018 and wells into the 1st day of September with the annual celebration of the Owerri Archdiocesan day and the Odenigbo lecture.
It is important to note that the primary goal of the entire Odenigbo cultural festival is the promotion and propagation of Igbo Language and Igbo traditional values. It also embarks on the transmission of the gospel message in our own native language and culture. The heartbeat of this cultural fiesta is the authentication of our rediscovered Igboness. Odenigbo cultural festival has the primary aims of re-awakeningthe consciousness of the Igboman to his rich cultural heritage which was fast diminishing. This may be the reason why the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri prefers to call the two days’ ceremony a new life festival. Odenigbo festival therefore is a good morning addressed to the real Igbo men and women.
It is evidently clear that prior to the bold invention of Odenigbo lecture series, the Igbo Language and culture suffered from carefree neglect. Part of the reason was the fact that the white missionaries who brought Christianity to us, out of share ignorance branded everything in Igbo culture fetish and pagan. This position of the early missionaries which was orchestrated by our colonial masters got worsened by the attitude of some Igbo elites who furthered the uncanny approach by becoming ashamed to identify with Igbo Language and culture. As a result, our collective identity as Ndi Igbo suffered a deathblow was rapidly heading to extinction.
Portraying a gory picture of this situation and its recurrent decimal, a historian friend indicated that the chains of slavery with which the Whiteman came to Africa are no longer on our necks, legs, waists and hands. He opined that the chains are now on our minds. That is why, in some places today some of us still laugh at people and look down on them and even use derogatory terms on them for being unable to write and speak the Whiteman’s English language.
Furthermore, many of us bear the foreign English names with gifted pride. It is only the Igbos thatanswers Ebube and Joseph or Ngozi and Perpetua at the same time. Some of us even pride ourselves with double and even triple English names like John Jude Donald or Mary Blessing Victoria. Unfortunately, no one cares about the meaning or the moral import of these English names, the joy is that they are foreign names and they make us feel distinguished. Majority of us in the Catholic Church are all victims of this slip-up. No thanks to our missionary parents. The Russians, for instance are proud of their culture, same as the Greeks, Chinese, the Germans, Italians, French, the Koreans etc. But the Igbo man keeps drowning in the murky waters of self-hate self-pity and self-debasement.
Even today, when a woman is pregnant, the family is already shopping for two names for the unborn child, Gabriel for the English and Chigozie for the Igbo. The Whiteman does not search for other people’s name for their children. No matter how long a Whiteman lives in our midst, none of the kids will bear Igboname.
Here in Nigeria, certain people say that English is our official Language. Accepting this for the sake of convenience, should this Language also be the official Language of our Igbo men and women in our native land? What happened to our indigenous Language – our mother tongue? Some of us are comfortable and careless when we cannot read and write our indigenous language but we are proud that we read and write English, French, and German etc. Odenigbo lecture this year which is; ISUZI, IDEZI NA IGUZI IGBO: MMASI NA AKAMGBA DI NAHA, climaxed the wake up calls which the lecture series has continued to resound for the past twenty two years. The topic this year signals a warning for us never to go back to the mistakes of our fore-fathers. The alarm imbedded in the theme; ISUZI, IDEZI NA IGUZI IGBO is loud and clear enough. This clarion call is for you and for me. The root of our problem is located in ISU, IDE NA IGU IGBO.
Let us not forget that the UNESCO Red Book of endangered Languages has long indicated that Igbo Language is dying. For some Igbo elites who should stand up and defend their heritage, this situation makes no meaning. Worse still, some others are instrumental to placing our collective Igboness on the danger list. For instance, in 1996 a military governor in Imo State aided by our Igbo brothers and sisters banned the popular Ahiajioku lectures out of a make-believe religious inclination. Fortunately, it was in this same year that the hot brain of His Grace Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna gave birth to this world acclaimed Odenigbo Lecture series. It could be presumed that the banning of Ahiajioku lectures in 1996 was a happy mistake that gave rise to the institution of Odenigbo lecture series; a rebranded, well-articulated and religious form of Ahiajoku.
In the thoughts of the founding father, one of the major objectives of Odenigbo Lecture is the recovery, re-inauguration and strengthening of Igbo values, ethics and norms. Good behavior and decent life are bedrocks of Igbo life and those should not be allowed to be inundated or swept away by the hurricane of the Western life. Consequently, Odenigbo lecture this year is geared towards the resuscitation of Igbo Language which is not much patronized by her owners in their day to day linguistic transactions. It is sad to note that many Igbos find it difficult and at times irrelevant to read, write and pronounce Igbo Language correctly. Therefore our lecture this year; ISUZI, IDEZI NA IGUZI IGBO: MMASI NA AKAMGBA DI NAHA, is designed to inculcate into our Igbo men and women the need for speaking, writing, and reading Igbo Language as properly as they do with other foreign languages.
In addition, good cultures, customs and tradition are being upheld and exhibited in the two days event beginning from every first Friday to every first Saturday of every September of every year since 1996 till date. Thanks to God, Odenigbo is daily witnessing the fruits of her Labour. Currently, there are as many Igbo organizations with varied names like; Igbo Taa, Suwakwa Igbo, Igbo Ezue, Oja Cultural Initiative 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 started to manifest gifted interest in Igbo language and culture. In faraway 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 Archbishop has received invitations from our brothers and sisters in Diaspora for lectures in Igbo language. Few years ago, he was in the USA and in Torino, Italy for lectures in Igbo language.
It is interesting to note that 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 Archdiocese and beyond struggle to write addresses to the Bishops on pastoral visits in Igbo language, while most priests and pastors strive to deliver their sermons in unadulterated Igbo language. Some houses of assembly in the South-South have at one point or another attempted mapping out a day in the week when their session will be in Igbo. These successes might have led to the choice of this year’s theme; ISUZI, IDEZI NA IGUZI IGBO: MMASI NA AKAMGBA DI NA HA. One thing is to speak, write or read Igbo language and another is to do it appropriately.
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 selected carefully. Over the years, it has been observed that attendance has been encouraging and the Odenigbo Committee has been on top of it all. We can therefore say without any fear of contradiction that so far Odenigbo has done well. Kudos to the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, the clergy and religious, the entire Catholic faithful of Owerri Metropolitan and indeed all well-meaning Igbos all over the world.
Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
Director of Communications/Media
Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri