Chief Solomon Ogbonna Aguene is the Chairman, Board of Truestees, Aguene Art Foundation. He is the current President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Lagos State.
In this interview with Moses Nosike, he narrated the outcome of Ooni of Ife’s visit to Aguene Art Foundation and Ooni’s commendation of the Art Foundation. He argued that our cultural heritage is key to national development and we should not abandon it for western culture.
According to him, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, is an advocate of peace, unity and development here and beyond, saying, ethnic groups in Nigeria should embrace unity, tolerance so that the country would experience development that will benefit all. Excerpts:
As chairman, Board of trustees, Aguene Art Foundation, how was Ooni’s visit to the foundation?
It was fantastic considering the personality of Ooni as first class traditional ruler in Nigeria and Africa; and the calibre of personalities present at the occasion. In fact, Ooni’s visit attracted the crème of personalities of Igbo and Yoruba society to the art foundation on that day.
What was Ooni’s reaction?
He was impressed and marvelled at the master pieces of art including those from Ile-Ife kingdom at the foundation. He said, seeing is believing and commended my effort in collecting and preserving those arts, thereby protecting culture and tradition. He gave an adage that a prophet is not known in his place. He was so excited with what he saw and promised to inform other people in love with art to visit the foundation to see and appreciate the beauty of African art and what they portray. He also made me an honorary member of his palace.
How do you feel about the visit?
I am excited and honoured that through hard work, one can dine and wine with first class kings and queens. It was equally an honour welcoming the crème of Igbo and Yoruba society who made the occasion glamorous. I use this medium to extend my gratitude to all who graced the Ooni’s visit to the art foundation.
There is a report circulating in the social media, alluding that you said that Ndigbo are from Ile-Ife and not Israel…
No! I debunk that report. That is not what I said. My response when Ooni made the statement that Ndigbo are from Ile-Ife was: Whatever will bring peace between Igbo and other tribes including Yoruba, I am in support of that. It is one of Ooni’s moves in advocating unity and peace among Igbo and Yoruba. It is pertinent to note that His Royal Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife is an ambassador and advocate of peace. He demonstrated this sterling quality shortly after his coronation by meeting with the Alaafin of Oyo. That meeting with the Alaafin of Oyo initiated a new era in the history of Yoruba states, as he effectively broke the jinx of institutionalised discord between the thrones that has plagued Ile-Ife and Oyo for decades. I am neither historian nor an archaeologist, but an art collector, so it is not my place to state the origin of Igbo. The problem of Ndigbo getting their rightful position in Nigeria has nothing to do with where they came from. My plea to Igbo especially our leaders is to make sure Igbo unite and embrace our culture and tradition. No matter how enlightened, educated and wealthy one way be,as far as you are a black man, you should embrace your culture and tradition. That is more important than where you originated from. The black Americans know they are Africans, but their root in Africa is none of their business. What matters to them is to excel in their chosen vocations.
What is your perception of Ooni as a person and a Royal father?
I admire him and revere his stool as first class traditional ruler in Nigeria and Africa. What impresses me more is his humility.
He is a leader worthy of emulation by other leaders, especially political leaders who usually see themselves as tin gods associating only with the rich and famous, say, bank directors, industrialists, etc. Such superiority complex is not in the character of this first class Oba known across the world.
I also admire his philosophy as peace builder; and as an advocate for the empowerment of women, young people and the less privileged.