– A New Life Festival
On Saturday, the 1st day of September 2018, all Christ faithful from all the parishes in the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri will in joyful reunion with their sons, daughters, friends and well-wishers from within and outside the country, gather at the Maria Assumpta Cathedral Owerri to celebrate this year’s special Owerri Archdiocesan day.
The usual two-day celebration kicks off on Friday August 31st with cultural entertainment. It will be rounded off on Saturday with a thanksgiving mass, fund raising and Odenigbo lecture. This year’s festival is unique in several ways, (1) It constitutes the high point of the celebration with a unique brand of Odenigbo lectures (2) The lecture is going to be delivered by an outstanding woman who seems to be a pillar in Igbo language and culture Dr. Mrs. Patricia Uloaku Okoye, (3) The topic is symbolic and all encompassing, ISUZI, IDEZI NA IKPOZI IGBO; MmasinaAkamgba di na ha.
Let us not forget in haste that the Owerri Archdiocesan day is an annual celebration which primarily recalls the 1994 elevation of the Catholic Diocese of Owerri to an Archdiocese and ultimately to the status of a metropolitan See within the Owerri Ecclesiastical province. In recognition of this marvelous work of God, the Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Archbishop of Owerri strongly felt that the day of the inauguration of the Archdiocese, September 3, 1994 should be commemorated yearly with thankful festivities.
To make the day’s merriment more remarkable, Odenigbo lecture, written and delivered in Igbo language was made an essential part of the Owerri Archdiocesan Day celebration by the same Archbishop. This is a special kind of lecture; it is a lecture that carries a vibrant intellectual spirit, it is a lecture whose goal is the authentication of our Igboness; it is a lecture whose cardinal aim is to stimulate a novel appreciation of the Igbo language and other healthy Igbo values.
In the main, Odenigbo is an event anchored in the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ which glorifies God for all His Goodness. It is an event that ennobles humanity particularly the Igbo man, the Igbo culture and the Igbo world. By implication it ennobles the true Christian world at large. This may be the reason why not only the Igbo Catholics and other Christians, but Nigerians at large, as well as people of other races, tribes and tongues look forward to this yearly celebration.
Given the already established Christian atmosphere in Igboland, it is expected that this 22nd edition of the lecture in the series centered on the Igbo language itself, is going to be outstanding. It is expected to bring the core Igbo language into greater intimacy with all aspects of Igbo life and culture.
In addition to the correct speaking, writing and reading of Igbo language, 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, Osu, Diala, Ume, Ohu and the liks. 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 Jesus Chris.
Going down memory lane, we discovered that before the introduction of the Odenigbo lecture series in 1996, the Igbo Language and culture suffered from a carefree neglect by the white missionaries who brought us Christianity and who out of share ignorance branded everything in our culture as fetish and pagan. This position of the missionaries and our colonial masters was worsened by the attitude of most Igbo elites who furthered this uncanny approach by becoming ashamed to identify with Igbo language and culture. As a result, the Igbo language was rapidly heading for extinction before this patriotic Igbo clergy, an original Nwafo Igbo a pathfinder and a trailblazer, Archbishop Anthony J.V. Obinna took up the challenge when he introduced the Odenigbo lecture series. From this moment the globe rotated and the situation of our Igboness changed for the better.
Today, more people now take pride in speaking the language, enjoying Igbo diets, music programmes, folklores etc. Some indigenous authors and other writers 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. Joyfully, we wish to announce that the British broadcasting corporation has just opened up an Igbo program from far away Britain. Igbo villages have been established in most parts of Europe and America. The litany of successes in this regard continues.
However, there are still lots that need to be done to move the Igbo language and culture to that enviable height already occupied by its two leading counterparts; the Hausa and Yoruba languages. The topic this year ISUZI, IDEZI NA IGUZI IGBO aims at fighting this battle to a win. Some of the challenges militating against the steady growth of Igbo language 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. They also include the refusal of few elite classes to encourage their children to take interest in Igbo language and culture. We deeply regret the failure on the part of many Nursery and Primary schools in Igboland to instill the love for Igbo language in their pupil.
At this point, we wish to gladly thank some great Igbo minds all over the world who have embraced the efforts of His Grace Most Rev. A.J.V. Obinna. Worried about the negative influence of Western culture on Nigerian youths everywhere, these noble men and women, numerous to mention, through their practical contributions have determined to revive Igbo language and culture and guarantee the desired intergenerational transmission of Igbo language and culture.
In the same vein, we appeal to the State ministry of education to make Igbo language compulsory for students. The so called ministry of happiness and couple fulfillment can for lack of any meaningful assignment fashion ways whereby pupils and students may identify more actively in promoting Igbo dresses rather than blindly copying the dress pattern of other cultures.
Finally, we ask that the Odenigbo lectures should not be a one dose medication which instantaneously rejuvenates the endangered Igbo language and culture purported to die in 2025 by UNESCO. We are optimistic that after this land-breaking 2018 Odeigbo lecture, 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 this year’s 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. Let us be sure of the fact that whoever loses his language and culture has lost his identity.
Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
Director of Communications/Media Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri