By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu
In a similar situation, a one day Igbo Renaissance Collloquium held on Sunday June 10th, 2018, during the Golden Jubilee Birthday of Very Rev Fr. Prof BonaChristus Umeogu at the Communio Sanctorum Ministry International ground, behind Old Tourist Garden, Awka, ended with resolutions for a dedicated re-awakening of the Igbo spirit, culture and tradition in the contemporary era.
The Colloquium organized by Igbo Spirit , Destiny and Life (ISDAL), Christian Life and Destiny (CHRISLAD) in collaboration with Communio Sanctorum Ministry International Awka, was to celebrate Very Rev. Fr. (Prof.) Bonachristus Umeogu's 50 years birthday anniversary.
Rev. Fr. Prof. Umeogu, an incandescent scholar, a luminous star who has chosen to be pedagogic in his life, has his personality adored by the literati and intelligentsia because he is a notable patriot, a philanthropist, a bridge builder with a passion for humanitarian gestures, particularly in the development of philosophy education.
Bonachristus is imbued with intellectual artistry, coupled with God's grace and innermost self-disposition. His image is already made by his services to God and humanity. He is like the light that shines in darkness but which darkness does not comprehend.
Fr BonaChristus, a colossus, a titan of his class, was seen among the ancients in the days of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle; during the Medieval era, in the likes of Tertullian, Augustine and Aquinas; among modern intellectuals in the likes of the Encyclopedists, Immanuel Kant, Baruch Spinoza, Newton, Einstein, etc.
The colloquium tagged, ''2018 Great Colloquium for Igbo renaissance: Solving the problem of Unity and Division in the Cultural Hermeneutics of Igbo Identity'', was attended by a host of eminent personalities and clergy. The Colloquium insisted that it was now time for Ndigbo to close ranks to revitalize and re-align their cultures and traditions with their Christian faith to enable them to be at par with other major tribes in Nigeria.
The attendees called on Ndi Igbo to ensure they preserved and sustained their culture, language and tradition at all times.
The Colloquium which started with a Holy Mass, attracted many Rev Fathers and Sisters, academia, top government officials, and thousands of friends and well-wishers.
Speaking, a renowned Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Owerri, and the father of African Hermeneutics of Culture, Msgr. Theophilus Okere, noted that Igbo identity was never a matter of debate before the debacle of Biafra. He wondered why some communities in Nigeria, particularly South-South, who spoke Igbo and answered Igbo names still saw themselves as non-Igbo communities by even corrupting their names to sound strange in the Igbo Language and culture.
Msgr. Okere stated further: 'Some unity, some division, there always was and there always will be. But, the modern levels and versions of disunity and division seem to stem from defeat and loss of Biafra and the collapse of all its hopes.'
'Hermeneutics, like Archaeology, is a study of backgrounds, a baring of foundations, a digging for the pre-judgment behind the explicit judgments. Applying this to Nigeria for the purposes of peaceful co-existence, we must talk of our fears of each other, our mutual suspicions, prejudices and distrust, our hatreds, secrets, plans and plots, past and present. We must honestly examine our consciences and admit and confess wrongs done to individuals and groups. There have been too many wrongs, too many victims, too much oppression and, especially, there has been too much insensitivity.
'Hermeneutics is the act of interpretation. Interpretation means ''finding and getting meaning out of something. Bringing light to its hidden meaning, obscurities''.'
In his submission, a Catholic priest, Rev Fr Dr Raymond Arazu, went down memory lane to discuss the travails and ordeals of Ndi Igbo in the entity called Nigeria with its attendant challenges for over sixty decades.
Rev Fr Arazu further contended that the Igbo race was at a great disadvantage for it could not compete with its better placed and wealthier compatriots, noting that the meagre savings of the Igbos since 1960 went more into family, village and town rehabilitation projects, than into buying of shares in industries and other business concerns.He however said that Christianity had helped to mellow the spirit of the Igbos.
Rev Fr Prof Obi Oguejiofor, Director of General Studies, Unizik, said that being an Igbo man started from the home where the parents should start early to teach their wards their mother tongue.
In his paper presentation titled, ''Igbo Aphorism as guide and metaphors that presage Igbo renaissance'', a former governorship aspirant under PDP in Anambra State and former secretary to the state government, Mr Oseloka Obaze, said that Ndigbo needed to make the best of the circumstance they found themselves in Nigeria and regretted that the majority of the Igbo leaders, especially those in the corridors of power, had not done enough to alleviate the plight of Ndigbo.
Obaze, a former UN employee, declared: 'My point is that I had no choice in being made a black man and an Igbo man. But someone else made a choice for me to belong to a country called Nigeria and to be, for some exhilarating but anguishing 30 months, a citizen of a country called Biafra. Likewise, someone unbeknown to me, but with the tacit complicity of my parents, made me a Christian, and specifically, Roman Catholic. Yes, that I am, and as much I accept it and adhere to the tenets and dogmas of Catholicism. I am certainly not Roman. I am a Nigerian and proudly Igbo!'
For former Vice Chancellor of Unizik and President, Otusubakwa Igbo, Nigeria, Professor Pita Ejiofor, while regretting the attitude and nonchalant posture of Ndigbo to their language, tradition and culture, encouraged Ndigbo to engage in active speaking of their mother tongue without apologies to rekindle interest in it to avoid the prediction by UNESCO.
He traced the efforts of the Otusubakwa Igbo in ensuring the language and culture of Ndigbo was respected and recognized world over.
Earlier in a homily, Rev Father Dr Chika Okpalaike, said the convener, Fr Bona, was born to help the spiritual and healthy evolution of man and to ensure that the Igbos did not lose their identity, even as he advised for the discovery of all that made Igbo what they were.
The moderator of the colloquium who is the Dean School of Post Graduate Studies, UNIZIK, Professor Ike Odimegwu, said though teaching was done in the English Language, vernacular offered deeper meaning, especially by using idiomatic expressions.
Another speaker, Prof. Tracie Utoh-Ezeajugh, Dean, Faculty of Arts, UNIZIK, insisted that the challenge against the Igbo Language, culture and tradition should not be only focused on men. She said that it was disgusting and against Igbo tradition and culture for women to strap their child on their back and be begging along the roads or on top of bridges.
Contributing, an expert on Entrepreneurial Studies, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam, Prof Felicia Ucheghara, in her paper entitled: ''How does culture influence the entrepreneurial behaviour of the Ndigbo?'', said though culturally, Ndigbo were endowed with proven acclaimed character-traits of successful entrepreneurs, there were challenges facing the achievement of those potentials.
She said that to arrest that situation, social entrepreneurship needed to be encouraged. Social entrepreneurship, she said, differed from commercial entrepreneurs that sought financial gains.
'The successful Igbo entrepreneurs need to be encouraged to use part of their profit to establish/encourage the economic development of the unemployed and vulnerable groups in Igboland.
'What the Communio Sanctorum International Ministries is doing today and always, such as attending to the sick, empowering the youth through imparting knowledge, and attending to other social problems during first Thursday in the monthly prayer sessions, is called social entrepreneurship. A priest who finds time to attend to the social needs of the people is referred to as “Clergypreneur”. It follows therefore that very Rev. Fr. Prof. Bonachristus Umeogu is a Clergypreneur,' he said.