Annually, the Igbo-speaking people in Nigeria set aside 29th September to mark and commemorate the vision of its founding fathers. This year’s event took place at the Michael Okpara Square, Enugu which witnessed the presence and participation of seven states that comprises of Ohaneze Ndigbo. IFEANYI EZUGWU writes on the significance of the event while unraveling the primordial sentiments that marred the celebration.
Historically, people are bounded to each other or group stemming from cultural affinity, tongue, tribe and tradition which distinguishes them from the larger society thus entrenching a deep rooted identity on them as an entity.
Premised on the foregoing, the Igbo-speaking people in Nigeria came together in 1976 to establish the apex Igbo socio-cultural body, Ohaneze Ndigbo. Seven states coalesced to form the umbrella body. The sates are; Enugu, Imo, Rivers, Delta, Abia, Ebonyi and Anambra.
Retrospectively, the body was founded to advance the course of the Igbo man in the scheme of things in the country in such a manner that it will address the agenda of perceived marginalization and inequality which have plagued the region and rived a socio-political imbalance in the structure of the Nigeria state.
People from that region are supposed to embrace the body as their own and hold tenaciously onto it while identifying it as their rally point where they could come to seek redress for certain issues as it affects their day-to-day endeavour while going about their lawful businesses.
Economic and social integration of member states is equally at center for which the body was formed in order to key into the latent potentials in the region to trigger an exponential growth when compared with other regions in the country.
September 29th of every year is earmarked for the celebration of World Igbo Day. All splinter groups and organizations that champion Igbo agenda usually rally around the Ohaneze Ndigbo as the apex body to support all events lined-up to mark the celebration.
From past years celebrations, the glamour, pageantry and display of rich cultural values, tradition, dances and ethos of Igbo forbearers dotted the venue copiously in such a manner that guests at the end of the event will are left with nostalgia obviously waiting with bated breath for the next year’s celebration.
Unfortunately, this year’s celebration of World Igbo Day was not only lacking in attendance from the states of Ohaneze Ndigbo, the colorful display of Igbo culture was profusely missing, casting the event in a cooled, lull and moody congregation of strange bed fellows exhuming a sense of mutual suspicion in the minds of anybody in attendance.
Sits at the Michael Okpara square venue of the event was sparingly filled just as grapevine has it that South-south/South-east governors forum was stipulated simultaneously at the same time World Igbo Day celebration was going on.
Sources close to government quarters reveals that the action of the governors was primarily aimed at whittling down the efficacy of the celebration even as the source lamented that Ohaneze Ndigbo has been polarized down the center adding that the body is now a political tool in the hands of power merchants masquerading to be advancing the sentiments of the Igbo man.
The President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Gary Enwo-Igariwey while addressing the audience at this years celebration which has as its theme, “Uplift the Igbo land. Think home Ndigbo”, explained that his message is that, “Ndigbo is endowed with enormous human and natural resources and can on their own, recreate Abuja or Lagos in Igboland. We have, as a people achieved tremendous feats in all we have set our minds on. As individuals, we have made great strides in all fields of endeavour. Our recovery from a three year civil war is legendary. Many nations of the world, who went through our experience, still bear the marks of defeat and war. What we have lacked is collective action”.
“We can recreate these achievements and direct them towards uplifting Igboland. As a people, we have burst the rims of the space, Nigeria and poured out all corners of the world. In all of these places, we have left marks of success in all fields. In this country, we have taken all corners as home and have made our contributions; building homes and businesses. The marvels of Abuja and Lagos amongst other places bear marks of our contributions. And now the question; what have we done about Igboland? Have we given thought to how we can build industries and other businesses to create employment for our teeming youth in Igboland? Have we wondered why our young and not too young are streaming out of Igboland in search of greener pastures to other lands? Why have we chosen to invest so intensely in other lands to our detriment? Ohaneze PG queried.
Chief Igariwey adduced that the way forward is to, “speak with one voice in a clear direction. Emphasis must be in generating and directing these energies towards growth poles. We must unite in pursing commercial and industrial objectives and much more importantly, political challenges. Unity is the word. For instance, we have the numerical strength to dictate; the course of political affairs in Nigeria by reason of the fact that we have the spread and constitute the second largest population group after the indigenes anywhere in this country. Ohaneze is committed to formulating an Igbo agenda. The processes, through a colloquium are in progress. We intend to draw our resource persons from our best hands to address the various challenges facing the Igbo nation. We expect that those who will be called upon to participate in the summit will give their best to the glory of Igbo land”
Continuing, he further stated that, “We reiterate for emphasis that Ndigbo must seek the Presidency of this country at the expiration of the tenure of the south-south. This is in keeping with our stand that equity, justice, and fair-play demand that we, the only zone remaining to hold the prime office in the country, should be allowed by our fellow Nigerians to so occupy it in unbroken succession after south-south. This is an appeal to the political class of Ndigbo to put their house in order. We cannot afford to play a second fiddle forever”.
Bemoaning the lackluster outing of this years’ celebration, first generation parliamentarian, Chief Mbazuruike Amaechi, frowned at the attitude of present crop of Igbo leaders especially the political class asking, “were are governors of the south-east states in this event?They are busy blaring sirens all over the place and chasing us out of the roads. What we are witnessing today is that no Igbo leader is passionate about the Igbo course. The politicians are busy buying and building skyscrapers in London, Dubai and Paris. Look at an event like World Day, none of the governors attended. What a shame! We elected them to represent us. But what we are having today is that they are representing there pockets”.
While presenting President Goodluck Jonathans’ address, his representative, Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo expressed profound gratitude to Igbo people for,”being the greatest pillar of support to my person and administration. My administration have taken cognizance of the unalloyed support of the Igbo. Igbo is the ethnic group that has supported my administration greatly and I promise that it will not be taken for granted”.
“This is evident in the level of Federal attention the infrastructure in the south-east is receiving as examplified and in the roads, commencement of international operations at the Akanu-Ibiam airport, Enugu, the dredging of the river Niger to boost inland water ways transport. The Akanu-Ibiam airport will have all the trappings of an international airport. Federal Government is working assiduously to build Aerotropolis and inject vibrancy at the cargo terminals, befitting of international standards” said the President.
President Jonathan disclosed that Igbo has been frontal in the believe of the co-operate existence of Nigeria adding that the Igbo is the highest investor in Nigeria’s economy even as he explained that,’Igbo carry the banner of Christianity and culture as they traverse the country in search of greener pastures typical of a republican’.
He further urged Igbo youths to eschew the vices of kidnapping, armed robbery and assassination while appealing to them to imbibe the virtues of their forebearers in their various endeavours.