By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, Special Projects Editor, South-East
Igbo language is one of the four major languages in Nigeria. Igbo language is a member of the Niger-Congo family of languages. And it is spoken by about 18 million people in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, etc.
Love it or hate it, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, an organ of the United Nations, UN, in 2012 has said that the Igbo Language will be extinct by 2050.
UNESCO predicted that “half of the 7000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of the century” Already, we are in 2018 and so many Igbo groups rather than focus on the solution via promotion of the language, culture and tradition of Ndigbo were rather busy ranting over the comment by the world body. Any sustained plan to reinvigorate the Igbo tradition, language and culture is a welcome development.
This is one mission the Igbo Village and Centre for African Civilisation (IVACAC), a Directorate in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, created in the 2016/2017 academic session by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Joseph E Ahaneku, FAS has taken to achieve before the deadline of 2050. The center has Very Rev. Fr. (Prof.) BonaChristus Uchenna Umeogu as the pioneer Director and Prof. Okodo Ikechukwu as the Deputy Director. IVACAC has marshalled out plans to ensure Igbo Language, culture and tradition reign supreme first in Nigeria, Africa and the world.
According to the Director, Very Rev. Fr. (Prof.) BonaChristus Uchenna Umeogu, the Directorate was created to preserve and foster “Igboness” (Ejirimara Igbo) in relation to the people who regard Igboland as their ancestral homeland and who think in and speak Igbo language and have their life, and existence in Igbo tradition and culture.
The idea is to expose the Igbo civilisation to the Igbos, Africa and the world at large. That is the deciding reason why the motto of the directorate is: Enlightening the world through Igbo African Heritage. Since we are talking about “Igboness”, that is, what concerns the Igbo people, the term, “Igwebuike” which connotes the spirit of oneness, collectivism and communalism represents the ideology on which Igbo Village and Centre of African Civilisation can be developed from a university as an Ivory Tower.
Fr. Bona who holds a Television programme with the ABS Awka on The kingdom of God and Igbo University, said that the absence of “Obi” in an Igbo community is like the absence of soul in a body, for Obi Igbo is the quintessence of Igbo civilisation. The absence of Obi Igbo anywhere in Igbo community will always be a tragedy, because it is indicative of the fact that such a community has no origin, no history, no authority, no people, and no life. So the presence of Obi in Igbo community is always a clear indication of the being and existence of Igbo spirit. So Obi Igbo is the place from which the spirit of Igboness emerges to connect with and possess the Igbo people for the authorisation and generation of enlightenment and civilisation.
Igbo village and the centre for African civilization is consequently founded on Ohazurume Igbo. Ohazurume simply means “it is the Igbo communal spirit that does things.” That is to say, whether in Igbo or in Africa or in the world, oha is greater than anyone (Ohaka), that is, the community as instituted by Obi Igbo and personified by eldest males or most important individuals, is supreme. In Ohazurume, Oha represents the spirit of Igboness or the Igbo spirit or the spirit of Igbo people (both living and dead) which, even though it is arrived at by “consensus communi” and ipso facto by representative or sovereignized, Obi Igbo leadership of the council of elders and most important individuals, cannot be faulted by any single individual or village or town, or group, etc. So, Igbo Village and Centre for African Civilisation is here to constitute and institute Obi Igbo Ohazurume ideology.
Very Rev. Fr. Umeogu noted that the aims and objectives of the Igbo village and centre for African civilization is aimed at excavating the contributions of heroes of the past such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Mike Okpala, Power Mike, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Chinua Achebe, etc, as the foundations of today’s Igbo civilisation. From their works and achievements we hope to establish a background to form a foreground in expanding the frontiers of Igbo civilisation through Research, Science, Medicine and indeed every aspect of human endeavour. It is important to note that ignoring the works and achievements of such elders and heroes of the past has created a huge gap between them and the present generation and it is this gap that the directorate hopes to fill.
Also, the directorate has a view of indigenizing researches by instituting Igbo studies in areas of Igbo Science, Igbo Medicine, Igbo architecture and engineering, Igbo physics, etc. The idea is that before the colonial times, the Igbo society was functional in every sense, but with the coming of the colonial masters, all aspects of these functional structures were abandoned. It is our objective and vision to explore these areas with a view to remodel same for the civilization of mankind.
This, Fr Bona hopes IVACAC will achieve by drawing and executing programmes to highlight and showcase the culture and tradition of Igbo extraction to the world; By annual “Ohazurume Igbo Festival” to promote Igbo language and thought through building and remodeling of thought process in a way that will unify the entire Igbo people; Promotion of programmes geared towards engraving the Igbo ideology in the mind of the new generation which is fast loosing hold of what the Igbo culture and tradition really are; Enlightening the world through Igbo-African heritage, by the use of Radio, Television, and Social Media vehicles and programmes among others, etc.
Fr Bona, a first class brain all his life and the only Magister Maximus concluded that : ‘’IVACAC has been created to preserve the order of Igbo spirit amidst the march and progress of Igbo civilization. Yes, IVACAC has come to act as the conscience of Igbo people. Of course, “Conscience is an open wound and only truth can heal it”. So IVACAC is concerned not only with fostering and preserving Igbo civilization in the world, but also, with using Igbo spirit, to organically measure and maintain the order and homogeneity of Igbo civilization amidst the changing and heterogeneity of the Igbo times.
IVACAC has come to make sure that all Igbo traits and natural inclinations are in consonance with the Igbo spirit. To be sure IVACAC has come to connect Igbo civilization to its source: Igbo spirit, so as to give the world worthwhile enlightenment and civilisation.
Matching words with action, a maiden Ohazurume Igbo festival was organised as well as fundraising and awards ceremony at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka. At the event, the foundation for the Directorate of Igbo Village and Center for African Civilisation, IVACAC, was laid. The construction of the center is to cost six hundred and ninety-six million, three hundred and seventy-six thousand, eighty-eight naira, fifty kobo (N696,376,088,50).
Speaking during the maiden Ohazurume Igbo festival, fundraising and awards, the Director, Directorate of Igbo Village and Center for African civilization (IVACAC), Prof. Bonachristus Umeogu said the sum would be raised to build a befitting center for IVACAC in Unizik and appealed for support to make it a reality.
The Unizik renowned international Philosophy Professor, Fr. Umeogu appealed to Governors in the South-East led by Ebonyi State Governor, Chief Engr Dave Umahi, lovers of Igbo nation, philanthropists and well-meaning sons and daughters of Ndigbo to rally round and make the center a reality for the future of Ndigbo.
The Vice-Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Prof Joseph Ahaneku, FAS said the University was responding to the fear of the eclipse of Igbo language and culture hence the university decided to set up the Igbo Village and Center for African Civilization to research on, revive and revitalise Igbo language and culture in the context of contemporary times and to promote/propagate same in tandem with African civilisation.
Prof. Ahaneku appealed to Igbo sons and daughters to assist the university in making the center a center of attraction in Igbo land.
In his lecture, the lecturer and President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo commended Prof. Ahaneku for instituting a General Studies in Igbo in the university to ensure that every student graduating through the institution had a smattering of Igbo language and culture, describing it as a milestone in advancing the culture and language.
He frowned at the attitude of some parents who not only discourage their children from grasping the language and culture but ensures they do not speak it with them at home even as he appealed to parents to be vanguards of promotion of the language and culture at all times and shun those who refer to Igbo language and culture as vernacular.
He further commended the development strides by the Unizik VC , encouraging him to continue leaving his footsteps on sands of time as history would judge him creditably.