Odenigbo: A church’s celebration of Igbo culture
Anthony ObinnaJoe Nwachukwu, in this piece, examines the relevance of the Owerri Catholic Archdiocese annual Odenigbo lecture series to Igbo culture and chronicles the event’s history.
Odenigbo is an annual celebration initiated and organised by the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, Imo State, during which a lecture is delivered in Igbo language by a prominent indigene.
As explained by the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, His Grace, Most Reverend Dr. Anthony J. V. Obinna, the Odenigbo celebration is aimed at promoting Igbo language, custom and culture with religious connotation.
Precisely on August 27, a week before the commencement of Odenigbo celebration, Archbishop Obinna, while briefing the press, said the 2007 outing would be the 12th celebration of the Owerri Archdiocesan Odenigbo Day, which started in September 1996. The event, he explained, had attracted citizens of Igboland beyond Africa. He added that it had been enriched by “the spiritual grace of good news, lovely aspects of the Igbo culture and challenging lectures of Igbo scholars who speak on various important topics in the Igbo language.”
According to him, through the Owerri Archdiocesan Odenigbo celebration, the church recalled the elevation of the diocese to the apex church position of Archdiocese in Igboland and renewed its commitment to proclaiming the good news of salvation to Ndigbo, the entire land and humanity at large. This, according to the archbishop, had entailed the glorification of God and the rededication of Ndigbo to the one true God through the Lord Jesus Christ in worship and thanksgiving.
He stated that it had involved the promotion of authentic human and Igbo values, including the Igbo language, through recreation, entertainment and life reformation lectures.
“The aim of the Owerri Archdiocesan Odenigbo celebration is to glorify God for all His gifts to humanity, to rejoice in our restored dignity as fellow humans in Christ and in ‘Igboness,’ to refresh and refine our spirits and bodies with elevating entertainment and direct our minds, hearts and fellowship towards ennobling aspirations and actions.
“This year, a distinguished daughter of Igboland, the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Professor Dora Akunyili, is the active human and cultural ingredient helping to attract Umu Igbo and others to the celebration. “She will speak on a topic very relevant to the health and integrity of humans, particularly Ndigbo, namely Effective Drugs: the Genuine Art and Science and Its Fake,” he said.
Answering reporters’ questions, Archbishop Obinna said this celebration had already acquired a respect place in the heart of Ndigbo at home and abroad, adding that while helping to purify and dignify Ndigbo locally, it had helped to honour them nationally and internationally.
“It has stimulated interest on the internet. It is not a money making venture, it is a human development and enhancement project. Nevertheless, it requires financial support to sustain it into the future. I appeal to the Igbo public and lovers of goodness to show their solidarity in this regard,” he said. The first day of the Archdiocesan Odenigbo celebration usually involves a variety of cultural entertainment which includes dances of Igbo culture, wrestling contests and drama.
The second day begins with a thanksgiving Holy Mass. This is followed by fund raising activities for the projects of the Archdiocese. Some light refreshment is then offered for the relaxation of the people and to prepare the audience for the final stage of the Odenigbo lecture.
The first celebration of Owerri Archdiocesan day took place on September 6 and 7, I996. The topic of the maiden lecture in the Odenigbo series was Olumefula-Asusu Igbo na Ndu Ndigbo and it was delivered by Professor Emmanuel Nolue Emenajo, the Director National Institute for Nigerian Languages, Aba, Abia State.
The second Archdiocesan day celebration was held between September 5 and 6, 1997. The Odenigbo lecture for that year had as its theme: Chibundu-Ofufe Chukwun’s Etit Nd’Igbo. The lecturer was Reverend Father (Dr.) Theophilus Ibegbulem Okere of Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri. The topic of the lecture in 1998 was Onyegbule-Ndigbo na Nsopuru Ndu. The lecturer was the late Reverend Father (Professor) Edmund Emefie Ikenga-Metuh, who happened to be a victim of the Kenyan plane crash at Ivory Coast in 2000.
Reverend Father Metuh was a priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha in Anambra State and a professor of African Religion. He was a lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State.
In 1999, the Odengibo lecture took place on August 17. The topic was Echi di Ime: taa Bu Gboo. It was delivered by a most illustrious son of the land, the internationally celebrated novelist, Professor Chinua Achebe. The lecture generated so much controversies ranging from political to social and religious viewpoints at both local and international levels.
The topic for the Odenigbo lecture in 2000 was Ujunwa: Anuri uwa Niile. The lecture was delivered by the founder of the Odenigbo lecture series, Most Reverend (Dr.) Anthony John Valentine Obinna, the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri. The 2001 lecture topic was Uwa Ohuu Akamgbachere Igbo. The lecturer was Professor John Egbulefua of the Pontifical Urban University, Rome, Italy.
In 2002, the Odenigbo lecture’s topic was Agbwa Bu mma Nzuzi Na Nzujo Unnuigbo to which justice was done by a seasoned Igbo daughter and scholar, Dr. (Mrs.) Gabriella Ihuarugo Nwaozuzu. The 2003 Archdiocesan day celebration was held between September 12 and 13. The topic of the lecture was Odozi Obodo Ochichi Maka Ezi Oganihu Ala Igbo, a lecture delivered by a renowned professor and priest at the Urban University, Rome, Reverend Father (Dr.) Godfrey Onah.
The topic of the lecture in 2004 was Ahuike Ike Ogwu Na Ike Ekpere. It was delivered by Dr. Barnabas Anelechi Chukwuezi, a seasoned medical practitioner. In 2005, the lecture’s topic was Akobundu: Amamihe Na Ebute Oganihu. It was delivered by Dr. Victor Irokanulo Okereke, an associate professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the University of New York, Morishivile, United States.
The 2006 Archdiocesan day celebration was held between September 2 and 3. The topic was Ijeoma Ofo Ndigbo Na-Ago. The lecture was delivered by the Provincial Co-ordinator of the Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), Owerri Province, Reverend Father (Dr.) Maduakolam I. Osuagwu.
This year’s Archdiocesan Day celebration was held on August 31 and September 1. The topic for the Odenigbo lecture was Ogwu dire Ezi Nka Nruruaka and as Most Reverend Obinna had said, it was delivered by Professor Akunyili.