As part of their determined effort to rejuvenate and rekindle, preserve, propagate and promote the princely and cherished cultural heritage of the Igbo nation, the Ohaneze-Ndigbo Abuja Chapter, had celebrated their cultural heritage which according them was weaved around hard-work, resilience, kindness, egalitarian, respect for elders, love for one another and above all fear of God.
However, cultural enthusiast and custodian of culture disagree on the dwindling culture of the people and the need for its revival.
While some posits that the rich cultural heritage of the people is not losing its relevant amongst the people of the region, notwithstanding their culture of migration out of their immediate locality.
Couple of others argued that the younger generations are losing grip of their culture to alien way of life due to the effect of globalization or what African communication scholars may describe as media imperialism of the western powers on third world nations.
Meanwhile, what is of great concern in Nigeria, particularly among Ndigbo are pockets of effort been made by government, critical stakeholders in the cultural sector and custom admirer to revive the dying cultural values of the people.
Nonetheless, to better appreciate the benefits of culture and cultural values to any giving society; it is imperative for us to attempt a definition of the term or concept ‘culture’ before delving into the imperatives of rejuvenating it.
In the words of Good, culture is defined as “The aggregate of the social, ethical, intellectual, artistic, governmental and industrial attainments, characteristic of a group, state or nation, and by which it can be distinguished from and compared with other groups or nations. It includes ideas, concepts, usages, institutions, associations and material objects.”
To a Polish-American anthropologist, Professor Bronislaw Malinowski, “Culture is a vast apparatus, partly material and partly human, by which human societies are organized into permanent and recognizable groupings”
According to Tylor culture is seen as “The complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, and morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habit acquired by man as a member of society.”
On their part, Hunter and Whitten, defines culture as “The patterned behavior, learned by each individual from the day of birth as he or she is educated (socialized and enculturated) by parents and peers to become, and remain a member of the particular group into which he or she was born or joined.”
While the cultural policy for Nigeria (1988), defines culture as “The totality of the way life evolved by a people in their attempts to meet the challenges of living in their environment, which gives order and meaning to their social, political, economic, aesthetic and religious norms and modes of organization thus distinguishing a people from their neighbors.”
Having explored multiple of these definitions, it is pertinent nonetheless to note that the important of culture to any giving society cannot be overemphasized and it is in line with that conviction that the Igbo community in Abuja under the aegis of Ohanaeze-Ndigbo rolled out drums to celebrate ‘Igbo day/New yam festival.’
The apex Ndigbo socio-cultural group explained that the double celebration of Igbo-day/New yam festival is a platform used by Ndigbo to remember their brothers and sisters whose lives were cut short before, during and after the bloody civil war, as well as thank God for blessing and keeping them alive to eat the new yam.
This years’ celebration witnessed large turnout of prominent sons and daughters of the Igbo race within and outside Abuja, prominent among them were the former governors of old Anambra and Abia states, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, the immediate past Chairman, Governing Council of National Examination Council (NECO) Dr. Paddy Njoku, the leader of Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASOB) Chief Raphael Uwazurike amongst many others.
According to Dr. Ezeife, “The culture of the Igbo is blossoming rather than the unsubstantiated insinuations in certain quarters that the cultural heritage of our people is witnessing a consistent decline. The only problem I notice is decline in the spoken language but a lot is being done to arrest the situation. What is happening here today is an eloquent testimony that our cultural heritage as handed down by our fathers is being strengthened and modified by this generation.
“So I do not subscribe to those who say that our culture is dwindling, it is not. If you look around, you will discover that majority of those who populated this arena are youths, and the organizers are youths. So what that tells you is that the youth is taking ownership of the culture and therefore there is hope that the Ndigbo cultural heritage is growing from strength to strength.” He contended.
To the Chairman Association of Igbo Media Practitioners, Mr. Abanobi-Eku Onyeka and Abuja based legal practitioner, Barrister Maxwell Opara, the day is a great day for Ndigbo all over the world.
They explained that 29th of September every year was set aside by the apex body for Igbos all over the world to remember their fallen heroes whose blood where shared for the unity of the country, before, during and after the war.
They further noted that though, the day was a sorrowful day; it creates a credible platform to the people to further unite themselves.
“This annual gathering shows how united we are, especially those of us resident in Abuja. With these twin celebration going on today, the younger generation are learning and imbibing the cultural values of our people so that they can continue to showcase it long after we have left the mother earth.
“Other ethnic nationalities in the country should learn from us, so that their culture will not go extinction. The new yam festival is also significant because we are good yam farmers and every year, we used these opportunity to thank God for his blessing and protection all through the year and for rich harvest.” They explained.
Supporting those who opined that the cultural value of Ndigbo is well rooted and cannot go extinction as predicted or speculated by United Nations, an accomplished Igbo son and promoter of the cultural norms, Dr. Paddy Njoku discountenance the views and position of the world body on Igbo language and culture, and salute the resilient nature of Ndigbo.
“They do not know anything about the Igbo culture and language so why pay attention to their prediction. Are they here now to witness what we are doing here today with these arrays of youths who have congregated to remember and pray for the souls of their brothers and sisters who lost their live to the pogrom committed against them before, during and after the war?
“This is in addition to the new yam festival which of course is purely cultural fiesta. They will just seat in their office and predict things that are unrealistic. Igbo culture cannot dwindle; anywhere they are, home or abroad they are conscious of their root so nothing about them can go extinction. Show me that Igbo sons and daughter here who cannot speak the language.” He queried.
He however advised them to redirect their energy in their businesses and stop complaining of imbalance in the appointment into government offices by APC led administration or marginalization of south east geo-political zone, boasting that he who is blessed by God cannot be relegated.
To this end, it is heartwarming to discover the fact that Ndigbo are unanimous on the need for authorities, corporate institutions and good spirited individuals to invest energy, resources and time in revitalizing the cultural heritage of Nigerians. A situation that suggests that though the nation had derailed in the preservation of Nigeria’s cultural heritage, there is high hope that the ugly tend will be reversed. It is however on the premise of this that one is safe to conclude that whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.