President of Senate, Federal Republic of Nigeria

On the Occasion of Igbo Day, 2001

at Okpara Square, Enugu

on September 29, 2001




In January 200p, the maiden Igbo Day was celebrated at Enugu under the auspices of Ohaneze. The theme then was Onye kwe chiya ekwe, Attendance at that maiden edition was impressive, I récalled”that ideas, well articulated thoughts and suggestions on the best approach to ameliorate the plight of Ndigbo within the context of Nigeria were deeply canvassed. I also recalled that at the end of the week long celebrations, far reaching propositions were adopted as beacons to guide Ndigbo through conscious efforts to achieve their optimum within and outside Nigeria.


I am delighted that we have again assembled here today with the view of taking stock on the socio-cultural life of Ndigbo in Nigeria of today. I salute the steadfastness of our elder statemen within the rank and file of Ohaneze for sustaining the tempo and spirit of the apex Igbo Organization. I equally salute the courage and self-lessness of many silent supporters of the objectives of Ohaneze. To my compatriots either from Nkanu in Enugu State, Aba in Abia State, Amasiri in Ebonyi State, Ikeduru in Imo State, Onitsha in Anambra State, Obigbo in Rivers State or Ogwashiuku in Delta State I say welcome. Ndewo nu o!


The theme for this year Igbo day is Orue Na Omume (Time for Positive Action). Consistent with the theme, I have elected to speak on the topic, Ndigbo: A people of common identity and destiny. Nigeria since the amalgamation of 1914, has remained a plural society. Nigeria is ethnically diverse. It is multi-religious and multi-cultural. Interactions amongst the people of Nigeria in all facets of life probably with exception of international football competitions are largely influenced by these inherent factors.


A reflection on the history of Ndigbo shows that our Heroes past, recognized the uniqueness of our tribe. They indeed emphasized strongly, those unique cultural characteristics of Ndigbo which set them apart as people of common identity and destiny. Perhaps, that explains the glorious days of the Igbo State Union.


Ndigbo in their march to destiny have passed through phases and trying times. They have like all other mankind passed through evolutionary process. These evolutionary process which took different forms e.g. political set-backs, economic hardship, technological invasion, value erosion and cultural anemia indeed did dilute our bindingness as people of common identity and destiny. In my view, of all these symptoms, the most devastating to Ndigbo as a people are value erosion and cultural anaemia.


These symptoms and/or syndrome is becoming endemic. To my mind, this is the time to re-awaken Ndigbo to their rich cultural heritage and timeless values. The progenitors of Ndigbo bequeathed on them intrinsic value traits which are easily distilled and passed down from generation to generation. These values and cultural traits were consciously imbibed through Ibo language of varied dialects but of same message and meaning.


These cherished Ibo values were also imbibed through artistic dancing, celebration of new yam, marriage festivals, funeral rites, communal engagements like farming, age grade system, hunting expeditions, inter-ethnic conflicts, apprenticeship in blacksmithing etc.


Evidently, these manifestations of a people’s way of life eventually coalesced into a unifying factor. Thus, you hear such aphorism ”Onyebiri ibeya ebiri”; “Agbata Obi one bu nwanne ya”; “Onye aghala nwanne ya”; ‘Eziokwu bu ndu”; “Oha bu ike”; “Oha bu eze” etc.


A moment reflection on these simple but weighty Ibo aphorism will undeniably draw home the message that Ndigbo going by their heritage is a people of collective identity and destiny.


I am persuaded to hold the view that our fathers in the distant past made conscious efforts to actualize our mythical collective identity and destiny. With that realization I believe, they painstakingly and faithfully practiced the fundamentals of Igbo way of life e.g. One biri Ibeya ebiri, One aghala Nwanne ya etc. 


Significantly, they achieved greatness. They achieved pre-eminence. They earned respect. They dominated their environment and beyond. And above all they left legacy of truth, courage, tolerance, accommodation and sincere worship and submission to their Creator.


However, recent development amongst Ndigbo appears to be in direct opposite to our cherished heritage. And the impact without doubt is unsettling. Granted that a dynamic society cannot insulate itself from contaminating influences. There are bound to be fringe behaviours.


But they should not be predominant. There are bound to be differences in views. But they should not be destructive. There are bound to be conflict, but they should not be allowed to jeopardize the interest of the majority.


It appears that the predominant notion of Ndigbo today is a people that have given up their ethnic identity. For example, speaking of our cherished Ibo language in our homes, schools, meetings, market place is seriously threatened. This unfortunate development cut across all strata of our people. Ndigbo now seems to extol ultra egalitarianism and extreme individualism. 


We have gone our individual ways. No aspect our life is spared. It is a sad commentary that our failure to always realize that we are a people of collective identity and destiny have dwarfed our indispensability in our country, Nigeria.


Ndigbo cannot continue like that. It is time to have a rethink. Anthropologists says that history of a people is a process. Time has come for Ndigbo to commence a patterned and structured process of retracing their steps to those attributes that bind them together as a people of common identity and destiny.


My message to Ndigbo both in Nigeria and diaspora is that we as a people have reached a turning point. We must begin to preach the gospel of retracing our steps to our age-long ways of life which facilitated the greatness Our fathers and forefathers achieved for us as a people. We should begin to dismantle the contemporary signpost of 1960 “Akubueze” and replace it with “ China emeze”


Similarly, we must reenact those heritage and values which are the hallmark of Igbo communal and collective identity and destiny. Anything to the contrary, will expose us may be, irreversibly to the proverbial single broom unlike the bunch of broom that is always vulnerable to been broken by the slightest force.


We have options though. Either the single broom illustration which renders Ndigbo as a people vulnerable. Or the bunch of broom option which symbolizes unity of strength and purpose which will make us resilient as a people with common identity and destiny. Which one do we chose? Orue na omume.