THE plan, which the organisers have laboured hard, in the last couple of months, to keep faith with is to flag off the first edition of Igbo Cultural Diaspora Summit in Accra, Ghana tomorrow, August 28.
With the palace of Eze Ndi Igbo, Ghana, HRH Chukwudi J. Ihenetu as facilitator and convener, the summit has as theme, Restoring Igbo Custom, Language and Tradition in the Diaspora, featuring royal Ofala ‘Iriji’ (New Yam festival) of Eze Chukwudi Ihenetu, Eze Ohazurumee 1.
But the outbreak of the killer disease, Ebola and its wide spread in the West African region has forced the organisers to postpone the festival indefinitely.
In fact, Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration recently placed a three-month ban on all international meetings, conferences and gatherings in response to preventing the entry of the disease into Ghana.
In a statement announcing the postponement of the Igbo cultural diaspora summit, the trio of Eze Ndi Igbo Ghana, Dr. Chukwudi Ihenetu; President, Igbo Community Ghana, Chief Onyema Ndaraku; and festival coordinator, Tony White Meribe said, “due to the recent announcement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration on the three months temporary suspension of international meetings, conferences and gatherings in Ghana, HRM Eze (Dr.) Chukwudi Ihenetu, Eze ndigbo Ghana, the Igbo Community Ghana and the GA traditional council regret to announce the postponement of the Igbo Diaspora and Cultural Summit that was initially slated to hold from August 28 to 31, 2014.”
However, they are optimistic that “as soon as the government of Ghana lifts the ban, the Summit and cultural festival will hold with more vim and vigor. We like to assure our international visitors who have made plans and bookings for the event that what has changed is the date and not the programme as everything remains the same and will send the rescheduled date to all our stakeholders. All inconveniences are much regretted.”
With Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons, Ridge Accra, Ghana as venue, some of the highlights of the three-day outing include traditional dances, cultural festivals, as well as age grade performances by dance groups from different states in Eastern Nigeria.
Reiterated in the statement is the core objective of the summit, which is “to restore the Igbo culture and tradition for the teeming Igbo sons and daughters in the Diaspora and especially in Ghana.”
This objective is motivated by the understanding that “most of the Ndigbo in the Diaspora have lost touch with the language and those core traditional values that an Igbo indigene is known for,” noted Eze Ihenetu in a brochure that provides details about the festival.
According to him, “having come to settle in Ghana and having achieved a certain level of economic freedom, Ndigbo have integrated into the Ghanaian society by mostly inter-marrying with Ghanaians or other foreign nationalities. The children from these marriages and indeed children of Igbo families who have been living in the Diaspora for a long while have lost track with everything an Igbo man should hold dear.”
Also, it is stated that the summit will provide an opportunity for the Igbos in the continent of Africa to re-establish a firm relationship with their root through a process of tutelage, which will make the Igbos in the Diaspora be part of the decisions that affect Ndi-Igbo in general.
Moreover, it is asserted that the summit will create a window “to have a clear picture of the contribution of the Igbos to the economic well-being of the country while further cementing the socio-economic ties between some African tribes in Ghana and the Igbos.”
One major highlight of the summit which the statement underscores is the launching of Ezeigbo Foundation being set up to engineer growth in trade, business and education among Igbos in Ghana.
The monarch in his earlier explanation had traced the birth of the foundation to the discovery that “there are a teeming number of Igbos especially the youth loitering the streets of Accra, constituting themselves as nuisance and making the indigenes to paint the Igbos as bad.” Therefore, the foundation intends to rally them, identify those that need to be sent to school; those that need to be set up in business and those that need counselling. “With this data, the foundation will be able to empower them,” asserted Eze Ihenetu.
The king disclosed further that the foundation would be championing the erection of Igbo Village in Ghana to serve as a rallying point for the preservation of Igbo culture. “Already, 250 plots of land had been acquired for this purpose. Streets will also be named after illustrious sons and daughters of Igboland,” he said, noting that the foundation, since February 2013, has been running the Igbo language schools at different centres in the Greater Accra Region. The launching of the foundation during the summit in August, Eze Ihenetu hopes, will facilitate building of physical structures for the schools and extend them to other nine regions in Ghana and beyond.
Eze Ohazurumee 1 is happy that his palace is facilitating the creation of ‘new world’ for the Igbos in Ghana. He decried the fact that of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria, “Igbo is the only tribe that has no outlet anywhere in the world. The Hausa-Fulani Empire has Hausa/Fulani stretching all along the Sahel to Sudan. They are mostly Muslims and they have contacts with the Arab world. The Yoruba nation has Togo, Benin Republic, Sierra Leone, Brazil and Cuba to run to where their kinsmen are. Igbo has nowhere in the world where their language is spoken.”
And for hope in the Igbo future not to be dashed, the monarch admonished, “people would need to do a number of things. One is that the Igbo need to collectively arise and rebuff the bad in them by embracing that which is good and honest.
“Two is the necessity of seeking moral rebirth by the adoption of those qualities of life and conduct that are both ennobling and socially uplifting. These, in my thinking, are pathways to Igbo recovery in the present Nigerian society in which they have found themselves. It is only after the Igbo have recovered themselves that they can truly begin their search for the ‘good person’ (ezigbo mmadu) of the contemporary Igbo society.”
Eze Ihenetu believes strongly that the Igbo Cultural Diaspora Summit Ghana will act as a reconciliatory measure for all Ndi-Igbo in Ghana and indeed in the west coast and beyond. “This summit will serve as a rallying point, an educational and cultural excursion to create awareness about the Igbos, their plights, their achievements and the way forward,” he insisted.
Specifically, the Ofala and ‘Iriji’ (New Yam) festival of Ezeigbo Ghana and Ndi-Igbo Ghana is being envisioned to become a unique programme in the country’s yearly calendar of events.
Besides, the expectation is that it will serve as a day when the Igbos in Ghana and their friends will congregate to thank God for keeping them alive, in addition to being a day of stock taking when the king will give account of his stewardship for the out-gone year while projecting into the New Year.