The drive to reinvigorate the Igbo language gets much fillip from Igboekulie Association led by its charming President Prince Ben Chidi Onuora. On Saturday, November 17, at the Main Hall of St John of God Secondary School, Awka, Anambra State, Igboekulie hosted the “National and State Recognition/Award for Excellence in Igbo Language to Deserving Students, Teachers and Schools as Adjudged by the West African Examination Council (WAEC).”
There was also a public lecture on the need to promote and preserve the Igbo language entitled “Keeping Igbo Language Relevant in Our Modern and Technology Driven World” delivered by Dr Ngozi Emeka-Nwobia, Head of Department, Language and Linguistics, Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki.
Igboekulie bears the banner: “Asusu Igbo Amaka”, that is, “Igbo Language is Beautiful”. The event is indeed a remarkable celebration of Igbo language, culture and tradition. The organization holds aloft the Barrack Obama dictum: “together we can” and makes bold to stress its vision: “maka odinma Igbo”, to wit, “for the good of the Igbo.”
Emeritus Professor Chinedu Akpuaka, the only Emeritus Professor of the 36-year-old Abia State University, served as the chairman of the proverbs-laden event. The guest lecturer, Dr Ngozi Emeka-Nwoba enjoined the students to be proud of studying Igbo as knowledge of the language had taken her far and wide all over the world beyond her peers in other disciplines. According to her, “I have students who gained admission the same year in our university, and one shouted ‘God forbid!’ when she was asked if she would like to study Igbo language, but years after graduation, the Igbo language graduates have long secured employment, because a lot of opportunities abound in the area and there are only few people in the field, but those who studied other courses enter into competition on how to secure a job”
In the prize-giving, it turned out that Sacred Heart College, Uwani, Enugu produced the three best students of Igbo language in Nigeria. Incidentally, all three students hail from Anambra State, namely Chinemelum Juliet Nwosu (National First Prize Winner), Adaobi Peace Okeke (National Second Prize Winner) and Kenechukwu Christopher Anyichie (National Third Prize Winner).
St Joseph’s High School, Umuona, Aguata LGA of Anambra State produced all the three winners of the Host State (Anambra) Prize, namely Kingsley Nwafor, Adannaya Ezeh and Chinecherem Ike. The three contenders had the same score from WAEC and had to undergo some on-the-spot tests on proverbs to separate the first, second and third place standings.
The teachers of the winning schools were also presented with cash gifts for their endeavours.
The grading was directly taken from WAEC by the Igboekulie Association. The partnership of Igboekulie and WAEC ensures that there is no bucking of the process.
The Anambra State Governor Chief Willie Obiano was represented at the occasion by his hardworking Principal Secretary, Sir Willie Nwokoye who revealed that the governor had put in place great incentives for teachers of Igbo Language in Anambra secondary schools. The teachers of Igbo or some science subjects get as much 30 percent on top of their salaries. The teachers posted to the riverine areas are equally rewarded.
In highlighting Governor Obiano’s uncommon drive, Sir Nwokoye said: “Anambra is the only state where teachers of basic science subjects and Igbo language are paid higher salaries as incentives. In Anambra too, you know that Wednesdays have been marked as days when we speak only Igbo language, both in schools, government establishments and other places. Even Igbo traditional attires are the only acceptable form of dressing on those days; so you can see that we have done all that we can to ensure the preservation of the Igbo language here in Anambra State.”
Nwokoye informed the audience that Governor Obiano would in his usual way host the award winners after returning from his overseas trip with President Muhammadu Buhari.
The event had all the paraphernalia of a traditional Igbo ceremony with opening prayer, the breaking of kola nut, welcome dances and drama skits. Barrister Dan Okoye of Igboekulie did the necessary introductions for the beginning of the event in which HRH Igwe Michael Okeke of Enugwu-Agidi and HRH Dr Christian Nwajajgu, Igwe Gburugburu of Akpugoeze, Oji River, were the Royal Fathers of the Day.
The inaugural edition of the Asusu Igbo Amaka event was hosted in 2017 by College of Immaculate Conception (CIC), Enugu.
According to the President of Igboekulie, Prince Ben Onuora, in his address, “We have a responsibility to ensure that the Igbo language which our parents bequeathed to us is equally successfully transmitted to our children.”
Against the background of the nagging fear that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had predicted that the Igbo language was among the languages that may go into extinction by 2050, Prince Onuora stressed: “We are motivated by the need to encourage our students to see Igbo language as not inferior to other subjects where prizes are regularly given to winners. We are motivated by the need to have more competent speakers of our language, especially among children and youth. We are motivated by the desire to have more Igbo teachers and more books published in Igbo language. Above all, we are motivated by a compelling determination to ensure that Igbo language does not go extinct or die as predicted by the UNESCO. We will continue to support the speaking of Igbo language, to ensure that the prediction does not come to pass.”