By Chidi Nkwopara
OWERRI—March 15, 2016, was another day of soul searching for Ndigbo as Imo State Government launched an Igbo newspaper, Ikoro Ndigbo, in Owerri, the state capital.
People from all walks of life started gathering at the Imo International Convention Centre, Owerri, IICCO, as early as eight o’clock and before Governor Rochas Okorocha, his Deputy, Prince Eze Madumere and the Speaker, Chief Acho Ihim arrived the venue, the hall had filled to the brim.
The event started with traditional dances, Igbo plays, songs and beautiful recitations in Igbo language. Government aptly branded the outing as “the globalization of Igbo language.”
Addressing the audience, the Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Chief Acho Ihim, promised that the lawmakers would do everything possible to ensure that Igbo language does not go extinct as predicted in some quarters.
The Speaker, who stated that Igbo language forms part of the custom and tradition of Ndigbo, also disclosed that already, a Bill for a Law to this effect has passed through the second reading in the House of Assembly.
“The Bill for a law, for the teaching and learning of Igbo language has passed through second reading in the Assembly. When the legislative engineering on the Bill is finished and signed into law by the Governor, it would be mandatory for the subject to be taught in all schools in the state,” Ihim said.
The Speaker expressed the hope that the Igbo language newspaper would further help the efforts of Archbishop Anthony J. V. Obinna of the Owerri Catholic Ecclesiastical Province and other groups in sustaining Igbo language.
Delivering a lecture in Igbo language at the event, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration), Imo State University, Owerri, Rev. Fr. Professor Jerome Ikechukwu Okonkwo advised against the multiplicity of autonomous communities in the state.
“It is advisable that anybody angling to be a royal father in Igboland, must first be tested in the customs and traditions of Igboland. This idea of enthroning all manner of persons, who know next to nothing about Igbo customs and traditions, as royal fathers in Igboland ought to stop”, Okonkwo said.
While recalling with glee how Igbos worked as one family to tackle their common problems, Okonkwo however expressed regret that Igbos were now lagging behind in national affairs and can hardly feed themselves in this day and age.
“What has happened to farm settlements established in the former Eastern Region. What has happened to the palm plantations that made Ndigbo self sufficient before the Nigeria/Biafra war? Igbos, please think”, Professor Okonkwo said.
Expanding his advice further, the fiery Catholic priest recalled that in Owerri municipality alone, over 100 cows imported from the Northern States, are slaughtered in the registered abattoir everyday.
“With a minimum cost of N120,000 per cow, residents of the municipality part with over N12 million daily, for just one food item. This staggering figure excludes the cost of carrot, yams, water melon, sugar cane, guinea fowl, as well as cows, goats, rams slaughtered in other towns in the state”, Professor Okonkwo said.
The audience went virtually dead when the erudite university don added the cost of cows slaughtered in all parts of the South East geo-political zone and said: “How many Igbos, especially those in government, have given a sincere thought about this? If we do a simple Arithmetic on the other goods Ndigbo import from the Northern States, we will then appreciate the high level of capital flight facing the South East geo-political zone”.
Taking a cue from Professor Okonkwo’s admonition, Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, said his administration would construct Igbo Development Centre, which would ensure, amongst other things that Igbo language would not go extinct.
Governor Okorocha, who stated this while launching the Igbo newspaper, also ordered that all subjects, including Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry and all, would be taught in Igbo.
“The prediction making the round is that Igbo language will go extinct in no distant date. It would be sad if we allow this to materialize,” he said.
The Governor named the Deputy Vice Chancellor, DVC, Imo State University, Owerri, Professor Jerome Ikechukwu Okonkwo, as the Director General of the new Igbo Development Centre.
He charged the DVC to come up with ideas and policies that would ensure the sustenance of Igbo language and culture.