The Imo State capital, played host to numerous distinguished Nigerians who besieged the city for the 2019 Ahiajoku festival.
Imo State governor, Emeka Ihedioha has said that the immediate past governor, Rochas Okorocha discontinued the Ahiajuoku Festival and Lecture series because he never valued the culture of Ndigbo.
Ihedioha who stated this during the 40th anniversary of the Ahiajuoku Lecture held at the Ahiajuoku Convention Centre, Owerri, also lamented that he inherited from Okorocha a state that is in ruins and one that has suffered monumental neglect in the last eight years.
But he said: “Today, Imo State is on the march again” as he declared that work is ongoing in 25 critical roads across the state capital just as they have awarded contracts for rehabilitation and reconstruction of parts of five major federal roads in the state.
Angry over the deplorable condition of the state he inherited from Okorocha, he vowed that “never again a man without character will rule Imo State.”
Governor Ihedioha noted that ever since the institution of the Ahiajoku lecture series by the late first civilian governor of old Imo State, Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe, the lecture series has remained an intellectual and cultural harvest of Igbo people where they gathered to examine the situations of Ndigbo.
He said: “It is important in this short narrative to note that during what is clearly now properly categorized as the locust years (2011 – 2018) when a man who rode on the popularity of an essentially Igbo party to beguile Imo people, but who turned out to despise everything the Igbo hold dear, a man who limped into Douglas House Owerri on a lie of the garb, never held the lecture; instead, the name of Ahiajoku Centre was changed to Imo State Investment Centre and anything that could amount to an intellectual journey of discovery for the Igbo was shunned by this man for eight years. Even all the cultural artifacts at the Mbari centre were equally destroyed and termed as idols.”
He noted that the Ahiajuoku Lecture has metamorphosed into a pan-Igbo intellectual harvest of sorts that seeks to spotlight the contributions that the Igbo have made and are still making to culture, civilization, and humanity.
Governor Emeka Ihedioha regretted the neglect of the Ahiajoku lecture by the immediate past administration in the state and assured that the 2019 edition was in accordance with the spirit of his “Rebuild Imo Agenda”.
Renowned academic and Professor of Literary Studies, Michael Joseph Echeruo, in his lecture entitled ‘Ogu Eri Mba’(We Shall Survive), disclosed that the slave trade in Igbo land was the most social event or crisis that destabilized the Igbo society.
Prof. Echeruo, who delivered the first Ahiajoku lecture in 1979, some eight years after the Nigerian civil war, warned that the Igbo stand to gain nothing by claiming a Jewish identity parallel to that which they already have as Ndigbo.
He stressed that what they need to do is to understand the history and aspiration of the
Jewish people and to participate in an intelligent even if in a spirited way in discussing issues, concerning them.
Unlike in Yoruba land and Dahomey where slavery was part of the process of state formation, the Professor of Literary Studies noted that slave trade in Igbo land was strictly a private business.
“People went into slave trading the same way they entered the palm oil trade when that became the going line” adding that in Igbo land, it was a straight forward entrepreneurial effort financed and promoted by brave daring men, using funders and capable field agents.
He argued that nothing more was expected or gained than the accumulation of wealth and the personal power that usually came with it and the public recognition which followed.
Obi Onitsha-Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, speaking on the occasion praised the late Chief Sam Mbakwe for initiating the Ahiajoku lecture series in 1979 which he described as a celebration of Igbo intellectual harvest.
Among the dignitaries includes; the Obi Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd), ex-governors Achike Udenwa and Peter Obi, former FRSC Corps Marshal Osita Chidoka, King Jaja of Opobo, governors of Abia and Akwa Ibom states, Okezie Ikpeazu and Emmanuel Udom; Nnia Nwodo, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and several Igbo traditional rulers, while the governors of Ebonyi, Delta and Bayelsa States sent representatives.
Former Nigerian Ambassador to USA and Israeli Professor George Obiozor, Professor O.C Nwanna, captains of industry, religious leaders and members of the academia were also in attendance.