Ndigbo in Lagos State recently marked the Igbo Day celebration, an annual ceremony where Igbos gather to discuss, pray and interact with their friends and loved ones. Amaka Eze reports
Clad in colourful and fascinating outfits that made this year’s celebration a special one, it was a season of glamour and joy, when sons and daughters of Igbo land were recently joined by friends and well-wishers to celebrate their unity at the 2012 Igbo Day in the city of Lagos.
With varying drumbeats, and dance steps, the 2012 Lagos Igbo day festival was a celebration to reckon with, as Ohaneze Ndigbo from all parts of the country who were well represented swayed to different rhythms, a trait constantly observed among illustrious Igbo sons and daughters to celebrate their culture and uphold their traditions at any given opportunity. The event, which was used to showcase some Igbo beliefs, practices and norms, was equally used as a channel to discuss some teething problems believed to have bedeviled today’s nation-building and economic growth.
In his key note address, the former Minister of Information, Mr. Walter Ofonagoro appealed to the Igbos in Nigeria and in the diaspora to develop their homestead; creating employment through investments in order to reduce the cases of kidnappinf, insecurity and other crimes.
He also urged the Igbos not to be discouraged by seemingly unfavourable circumstances towards building a progressive and prosperous Nigeria, and called on other tribes to emulate the Igbos in their efforts towards nation building to further the growth of the nation.
Ofonagoro further stated that although the Igbos plight during the Civil war was aimed at breaking them, they have remained steadfast in their quest to develop and advance the nation.
He disclosed that the controversial oil rich region, Bakassi Peninsula belonged to the people in the present Cross River State of Nigeria, but was ceded over to Cameroon to stop food from coming into the defunct Republic of Biafra by General Yakubu Gowon.
The former minister stated that when the Nigeria Army discovered that it would not be possible to defeat the Biafran soldiers with arms, they opted for economic blockade of the old Eastern Nigeria.
He further stated that when they discovered that food and arms were still coming into Biafra through Bakassi, Gowon decided to cede the region to Cameroon so that the blockade would be effective.
His said, “I want to say that Bakassi Peninsula belonged to the people of the old eastern region. But during the war, the Nigerian soldiers discovered that Biafran soldiers were not their match and opted for economic blockade of the region. It was in the process that Gowon went into negotiation with the president of Cameroon and ceded the oil rich region to them so that the blockade would be effective. We all know what happened though some people are now feigning ignorance.”
He commended the Igbo sons and daughters, and urged them to continue playing noble roles not only in Africa but world over, adding that their efforts and hard work would not go unrewarded.
Ofonagoro however lamented the imbalance of the Nigerian political system, and stated that the south east is not well represented at the senate level.
According to him, “15 senatorial seats is a poor number for the south east. Even if the senate president is zoned to the south east during the next elections, they cannot produce a senate president of their choice because of the small number and that must be addressed,” he said.
In his welcome address, the president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos State and in Diaspora, Mr. Oliver Akubueze, commended the Igbos for their unity and urged them to keep the flag flying high.
Akubueze said: “I want to inform you that this is a significant year for Ndigbo in Lagos. It is a year we have started showing some significant unity of purpose and must endevour to continue that way.
He further said that although it is a year when we the Ndigbo have been hit by the most serious conflict of interest, they have learned to survive.
He however added that Ndigbo must learn to emulate the social strides being made in Lagos as a state and work towards making such stride a dream come through in their home lands.
He stated that this year’s Igbo day with a theme ‘Anyi Nwe Mmeri,’ compels one to look around and wonder where that victory would come from.
“We need to step back and see things in the longer perspective. Over the last 12 years, which represents the life span of the present republic, we as Ndigbo, both in Lagos and in the Diaspora, have met and tackled many challenges successfully. Taking further, closer look into the past, we would recognise that we have made very giant strides and must keep up the good work,” he said.
Akubueze further stated that the recent election of the Ndigbo Lagos was the question of uniting Ndigbo and promoting unity while striving to democratise and institutionalise the nation and the Igbo organisation.
He said, “This campaign has caught fire by what we are witnessing here today; we hope to build on that message across all Igbo groups, organisations and people and by this, we intend to start a major crusade that will educate our population, and forge our different communities into one united people here in Lagosand across the country,” he added.
He expressed concern over the recent in-house fighting between some Igbo leaders and said, “We are quite confident that we will overcome the present confusing challenges, in-fighting, blasphemy and back-biting, where some tiny minority still do not see the wisdom in working together as one.”
Akubueze called for Ndi Igbo to tackle the myopia to enable the achievement of long term objectives.
He further called on Igbos to be united in the message they put out as a group, and said, “We must be united in our actions, programmes, purposes and projections. We must be united and stand behind our chosen leaders. Instead of back-biting or stabbing them at the back
“We must not condone some evil people who serve as detractors to the common Igbo-will and agenda; we must also not support those unhealthy negative actions that set us in bad image against the will of the generality of Ndigbo.”
Some of the dignitaries at the ceremony included the Chairman of MTN Nigeria, Mr. Pascal Dozie, who served as the chairman of the occasion, Prof. Anya O Anya, the current President Ndigbo Lagos, and brother to the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Chief. Martin Agbaso.
Others were Mr. Joseph Ikem Odumodu, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (Rtd), and Chief Ebele Ubani Eze, the Kalu Kalu Ogba of Abiriba who served as the royal father of the day, among others.
Agbaso, who was given an award and the chieftaincy title of Agadaga Gburu Gbauru of Igboland in recognition of his contributions to the Igbo race by the king makers at the event, expressed his joy for being chosen and said the recognition would spur him to further work hard for the success and triumph of the Igbos.