By Nkiru Opareke
It was fun and laughter this Saturday at Civic Centre Lagos when some Igbo professionals under an umbrella body called Ola Ndi Igbo (Treasures/Jewels of Igbo Land) decided to celebrate their own who have distinguished themselves in their different fields. The Igbos as a people believe in “Ikwa Mmadu na Ndu” which means to show honour to one’s own when they are alive.
This event was not only a celebration but it was also a time of sober reflection and an opportunity for strategizing on what and ways to make a reversal in the under-development of Igbo land.
Treasures of Igbo land from the diaspora and within Nigeria were all on hand to discuss and share ideas on this issue. The main issues affecting Igbo land are: High male school drop-out rate, declining number of people of Igbo descent still speaking the Igbo language especially among the children of the elites, lack of jobs and opportunities for professionals and semi-skilled Igbos in Igbo land, and the insecurity in the region.
This event was devoid of political interference or under-tones as everyone invited and who participated were all professionals from all fields spanning media, arts and entertainment, public service, human rights, education, medical, corporate and entrepreneurship e.t.c. The event was divided into 2 – the morning/afternoon session was more of a think-tank and high level strategy session while the evening event was the celebration event.
In the evening session, the rich Igbo culture was in full display in the dance and song performances, foods, drinks and the gaily dresses Igbos who graced the occasion in their ethnic Igbo attires. Awards were given to Igbos in the following fields as follows:
Entertainment, Literature and Arts –
Igwe Laz Ekwueme
Oluchi Onweagba Orlandi
Chief Tony Okoroji
Business and Entrepreneurship –
Law and Human Rights –
Prof Obiora Okafor
Academia and Education –
Prof Anya O. Anya
Prof Leslye Obiora
Prof Ben Nwabueze
Medicine and Public Health –
Prof Ernest Madu
Prod Stanley Okolo
Dr Fiemu Nwariaku
Dr Ernest Ndukwe
Public Health –
Chief Emeka Anyaoku
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Dr Kingsley Moghalu
Prof Pat Utomi
Realizing that we stood on the shoulders of some giants to get to where we are, we also recognized some of these our people who had died. The following people were post-humously recognized:
Entertainment, Literature and Arts: Ben Enwonwu
Sports – Richard Iherigbo Iheku a.k.a Dick Tiger
Chief Michael Okpala a.k.a Power Mike
Human Rights, Public Service – Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe
Margaret Ekpo Nee Obiasulor
Justice Louis Mbanefo
Mazi Mbonu Ojike
Justice Dadi Onyeama
King Jaja of Opobo
Business Entrepreneurship – Sir Louis Ojukwu
Academia – Prof Kenneth Dike
Prof Chike Obi
Medicine – Dr Fabian Udekwu
A tribute, “Lest we forget” was made for all Igbos who have lost their lives in different communal, sectarian and religious crises/riots in Nigeria going back as early as the 1950s.
The day ended with a tear inducing and mood sobering elegy to the recently departed Prof Chinua Achebe – a powerful advocate of the Igbo people – which left no eyes dry in the audience.
I knew we had got it right when at the end of the event, my daughter Olaedo who is from this entitlement generation excitedly told me that she couldn’t wait to come for the next event and that she would love her younger sister to also experience it. In her words she said, “Mom, today is one of my best days because I have truly met giants of Igbo land”. We all are lucky to have known and have been given this rare opportunity to celebrate and honour them in their life-time. Ji di ka unu ji.
Igbo Kwenu !! Nya gazie ……