May 27, 2023

Obioma Ugorji: The valedictorian who thrilled with IGBO KWENU in California

Obioma Ugorji: The valedictorian who thrilled with IGBO KWENU in California

By Prisca Sam-Duru

Irrespective of how badly our leaders and politicians have dented the image of Nigeria through corruption, the citizens through individual efforts, keep shining like stars and telling the whole world that there is hope for the country.

The celebration of Nigeria’s history-making chef, Hilda Baci, is still in the air, only for our dear Obioma Somtochi Ugorji, a 22-year-old Nigerian-American, to begin making headlines for another great achievement.

Ugorji was the valedictorian at his graduation ceremony; meaning, he emerged as the best graduating student of his university- Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, USA, in 2023. That’s a big one! This is a proof to the world that the Igbo, Nigeria and indeed Africa are richly endowed.

The young achiever not only made his family and Nigeria as a country proud by coming tops in his school, he displayed a deep knowledge of his roots as well as sense of respect to his culture as an Igbo man.

The excitement at the venue of the ceremony which was packed full with an enthusiastic audience was enormous, and the young valedictorian didn’t fail to engage them with the power of oratory. Obioma Ugorji who does not bear a single foreign name, began his speech by chanting the phrase, ‘Igbo Kwenu’ which is customary in Igboland. That’s fascinating!

Enthused and elated, the jolly good fellow held staff and students of the university spellbound with his speech. “What an honour and special moment this is. I Have the pleasure to stand before you today but before we get started, I will like you all to help me feel a little bit more at home up here,” he began saying.

“I’m a Nigerian, my family is from a tribe called the Igbo tribe and in our culture, we often say the phrase, ‘Igbo Kwenu’. This essentially means endorsement, agreement. It refers to a bondedness in the collective strength that we all enjoy as a people and I will like to invite you guys into that collective strength today.”

Being able to explain why the Igbo uses that phrase at the beginning of their statements especially during meetings, means he has been well tutored by his parents.

Obioma went further to teach the massive crowd what their response should be when he chants the phrase, ‘Igbo Kwenu’. They complied and the feeling was ecstatic.

On behalf of his peers, he thanked the institution, “that has dedicated their lives to enriching our minds while remaining committed to the Jesuit values that this institution holds dear; facility workers that have worked tirelessly to make sure that this campus is a beautiful and safe environment for us to learn. And staff that regarded students’ interest as the highest priority.”

And to his parents, he expressed gratitude for the opportunity they gave him to become the best in his school.

“Mom and dad, four years ago I stood in this field and asked you to bless me with the opportunity to make you proud, and four years later, I’m in the same field and your son is valedictorian.

“Please join me in honouring those that have paved the way so that we can celebrate today.”