Perspectives on Igbo History and Culture: A Festschrift for a Respected Historian


Ernie Onwumere

In the ivory tower, a Festschrift is a book honouring a respected and accomplished academic and published while he or she is alive. It is usually a compendium of original essays written by the honoured academic’s close colleagues as well as his or her former doctoral students. The essays could dwell on the honouree’s contributions to their specialized scholarly field, but can include important original research by the authors. According to Wikipedia, the term Festschrift, of German origin, is typically translated as a celebration publication or celebratory (piece of) writing which literally means ‘party-writing’ or ‘feast-script’.

Now, a new book titled Perspectives on Igbo History and Culture: Festschrift in Honour of Mazi Professor Okoro Ijoma is indeed a Festschrift, but it is more than just a mere ‘party-writing’ as mentioned above. Of course, the book is in celebration of Mazi Professor Okoro Ijoma, a highly respected Nigerian scholar, teacher, intellectual and authority on Igbo history, culture and civilization. Published just last year and edited by a trio of Dr. D. I. Ajaegbo, Kelechi Johnmary Ani and Dr. Paul Obi-Ani, Perspectives on Igbo History and Culture: Festschrift in Honour of Mazi Professor Okoro Ijoma is a voluminous text of serious multi-disciplinary scholarly studies, explorations and reflections on the past, present and future of the Igbo, a major ethnic nationality in southeast Nigeria and one of the world’s most culturally rich, socially dynamic and entrepreneurially profound peoples in history.

By the way, the scholarly study of history has always been an engaging discipline. From a distance, history may appear as an arcane and tedious subject which bears no direct relevance to contemporary human realities. That perception of history
is grossly misleading. More than anything, what today’s human experience or reality relies on is our understanding of history and our ability to make decisions based on that history for our collective future.

History is not linear. What we gain from history is the knowledge of the past, the recognition of that information in the present, and the ability to change the future. When recently, the US First Lady Michelle Obama said in her speech at the 2016 National Democratic Convention that the White House was built by slaves, what she was doing was inserting history into America’s present to light a flame beneath Americans. So, history is indeed a relevant reflection as well as a dynamic reconstruction of human experiences from the past, through the present and into the future. Any nationality or people without a sense of history are a people without a sense of identity and direction.

Thus Perspectives on Igbo History and Culture: Festschrift in Honour of Mazi Professor Okoro Ijoma is no doubt a quintessential contribution to the body of knowledge about the history, culture and civilization of the Igbo people. Anyone interested in understanding the origins and dynamics of the Igbo would find within the pages of the book a treasure trove of information and insights never before available elsewhere. And any serious scholar of Igbo history and culture would ignore this new book at his or her own intellectual peril.

At a glance, Perspectives on Igbo History and Culture: Festschrift in Honour of Mazi Professor Okoro Ijoma flaunts an attractive blue-yellow cover festooned with the picture of the honouree in typical Igbo-Aro attire, while the book’s title looks like a shy footnote in the right top corner. To a scholar’s eyes, the book from its cover may not strike one as a serious academic text. But once you begin to delve into the 526 pages of the hefty book, you discover profound scholarly thoughts of thirty eight diverse authors who know their onions on the multidisciplinary subjects they write about.

Structured into thirty one chapters, Perspectives on Igbo History and Culture covers virtually every ramification of Igbo nationality, ranging from politics, education, religion, economy, security, culture, political economy, colonialism to war and diplomacy. The rich literature is further organized into five sections, each section covering a broad theme of study. Section A covers Historical Traditions and Igbo Cosmology. Section B deals with State Formation, War, Diplomacy and Security. Section C dwells on Colonialism and Religious Activities while Section D is all about Political Economy. And Section E covers Education and Social Formations.

Now, what makes the book under review outstanding in content and import is the sheer magnitude of the diversity of subject areas covered. This also reflects the unique enormous ramifications of Igbo history and civilization as a people. The thirty one chapters of the book open up to excellent reading at the turn of every page. Right from chapter one to the last, the multifarious subjects extensively covered include personal recollections by former two students about the Festschrift honouree, Mazi Professor Okoro Ijoma, as an eminent historian of over four decades pedigree and distinguished scholar at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Going further, the book’s interesting chapters also deal with such subjects as “The Pure ‘Tribe’ Notion and the Origin of the Igbo; Living Together in African Cosmology: A Case Study of Igboland; Oral Tradition and Cultural History of Pre-Literate Segmentary Societies in Igboland: A Case for Inter-disciplinary Approach; State Creation and Nigerian Unity: The Case of Igboland Since 1967; The Igbo Factor in the Evolution of the Nigerian State; Nigerian Civil War and the Spirit of Entrepreneurship and Industrialization among the Igbo: A Sociological Examination; War and Diplomacy in Traditional Igbo Society up to 1914; The Tutsi and the Igbo: A Nexus of Genocide in Rwanda and Nigeria, 1959-1994; Societal Policing and Peace Building in Abakaliki Division during the Colonial Era; European Influences on Traditional Igbo Crafts; The Missionary Activities of Rev. Isaac Uzowulu Ejindu in Ngwo Clan in Agbaja Area of Old Udi Division, 1917-1930; Beyond a Man of God:

The Life and Legacies of Bishop Madubuko Uzodike; Afikpo Women in Traditional Religion, Christianity and Islam; Mamam Shaib and the Introduction of Islam in Ovoko, Northern Igboland; Aba Women Riot: A Protest and Resistance to British Colonial Rule; Beyond Mere History: Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative as a Veritable Tool in Igbo Development Agenda; Slavery, Slave Trade and Emancipation: The Ogbaru Experience; Merchants of War: A History of Igbo Women’s “Afia Attack” in the Biafra-Nigerian Civil War; Re-inventing the Dwindling Igbo Politics in Nigeria’s Polity; Natural Resources and Economic Growth:

African Historical Perspective; The Struggle for Derivation and Resource Control by the Niger Delta; The World Bank and the Changing Pattern of Development in Orie Orba Market in Enugu State; Igbo Enterprises in Kano: A Study of Igbo Automobile Spare Parts Business, 1969-Date; Dynamics of Girl-Child Education in Igboland; Reinventing the Igbo Personality in 21st Century Nigeria: Challenges and Imperatives; Uju Ede Cult and Gender Equality in Pre-Colonial Ikwuano Community; The Place of Title System in the Socio-Political and Economic Organization of Pre-Colonial Imerienwe; Masquerades and Kola-nut Culture in Igboland: Continuity and Change; and Onitsha Society and its Institutions: The Place of Diokpala in Onitsha, 1900-1999”.

From all the foregoing insightful themes comprehensively covered in the book’s chapters, the patient and perceptive reader will come away much more enlightened by new insights, knowledge and facts never before known about the history and culture of Igbo people. History not only comes up in the book as an exciting journey down memory lane, the Igbo culture, mores, nuances, folklore, peculiarities, dynamics and civilization become more real and exposed more than ever before.

All this makes Perspectives on Igbo History and Culture: Festschrift in Honour of Mazi Professor Okoro Ijoma a truly befitting immortalization tribute to the honouree who is himself a widely respected authority on Igbo history in general and Arochukwu civilization in particular. The book comes highly recommended for all those who seek a better, deeper, fresher understanding of the Igbo nationality and those scholars and institutions who are serious about Igbo history and culture discipline in academics.

Mazi Onwumere is a culture activist, and brand management consultant based in Lagos.