By Ugochukwu Alaribe

ABA — Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Dr Anthony Obinna, has said that he established the Odenigbo Annual Lecture series about 21 years ago to promote the growth of the Igbo language and culture among the native speakers in the country.

Obinna spoke at a National Stakeholders Conference on Acculturation at the National Institute for Nigerian Languages, NINLAN, Aba, which featured delegations from the Federal Colleges of Education Yola, Zaria, Kano, and Ondo.

The bishop who bagged  an award at the conference spoke against the backdrop of the campaign for Igbo parents to teach and speak their native language among themselves.

•Archbishop Obinna at the lecture, and •Guests at the NINLAN acculturation conference

He commended the Institute for its contribution to the development of indigenous languages in the country, adding that he developed an interest in Igbo language after studying foreign languages at the university in Rome.

The fiery cleric expressed joy that the Odenigbo lecture series had celebrated its 21st edition since it was founded in 1996 saying, “I took a personal interest in Igbo language while I was a student in Rome.

“I had studied French, Latin and English languages in Nigeria. But when I went to Rome, I had to study Italian. It was while I was studying Greek in the university, that a voice came to me, asking what about Igbo language? After this, I pledged to God Almighty that if He gives me life, I will definitely give Him glory through the Igbo language.

“This is how I gradually came to establish the Odenigbo lecture series in 1996 when I became the Bishop. I was struggling for an opportunity but God gave the opportunity by making me a bishop and giving me the space to invite others. I started the Igbo language series in communication, the good news of salvation and development of Igbo language. I received the first award from NINLAN in 1998 when Prof. Nolue Emenanjo was the Executive Director.

“I invited Prof. Nolue Emenanjo who was my colleague at the Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri.   Prof. Emenanjo was the first guest lecturer for the first Odenigbo lecturer series entitled ‘Olu m Efula (May my language not be lost). The second series entitled, ‘Chinwendu’ (God is Life) was delivered by Monsignor Okere in 1997. The third is ‘Onyegbule’ (Thou shall not kill) by Prof Metu in 1998. In 1999 was ‘Echi Di Ime, taa bu gboo’ (Tomorrow is Pregnant) by late Prof. Chinua Achebe.   “While in the year 2000, I, the founder of the Odenigbo series, delivered the lecture titled, ‘akuru uwa nile’ in honour of Jesus Christ, the saviour of the world.”

Other dignitaries who bagged awards at the event include Executive Secretary, National Commission for Colleges of Education, Prof. Muhammadu Bappa-Aliyu; Executive Secretary , TETFUND, Dr Abdulahi Bichi, Chancellor Gregory University, Dr Gregory Ibe, among others.

Earlier, Acting Executive Director of NINLAN, Prof Obiajulu Emejulu, had said the acculturation programme was designed to enable students who were studying other Nigerian languages aside from their mother tongues to get better insight into the language and culture of the native speakers of the language.

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