It was also a gathering that was aimed at finding out what could be done for the people to re-adopt the old values which had been found to be much better than what they have at the moment.
Though many of the Igbo extraction have realized even before now that all was not well, not many of them have been so concerned as to stake their resources in finding solutions to the nagging challenge. While many remained complacent and some others incapable of doing much, considering the resources required to effect the necessary change, one man decided to invest in the intangible, but essential project to re-orientate the Igbo values, so that the Igbo would again be rightly directed and rightly focused.
Mr Godwin Ezeemo, offered himself, his resources, and his energy, physical and mental, to become the vanguard of re-orientation. He provided the much needed finance and called in the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Anambra State Council to assist in organizing a successful workshop.
Representation at the workshop was so large and so carefully selected that no segment of Anambra community was left out. The first day featured the opening ceremony and all and sundry were in attendance. The second day also featured the traditional rulers, presidents general of the 177 communities in the state, community leaders, local government administrators, Igbo groups, security chiefs, vigilante groups, national and state legislators.
Day three drew participants from the representatives of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), market leaders, ASTA members, ANCOPS, NBA, NUT, professional organizations and business leaders, political party leaders and academics after which participation was segmented in that order until it was rounded off on day five. Members of the NUJ participated actively.
Eminent scholars who delivered papers at the unique workshop which had former Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukuwuemeka Ezeife as Chairman include Prof Ben Osisioma, Msgr. Jerome Madueke, Dr. Nnamdi Emma Onuekwusi, Rt. Rev. Prof. Godwin Izundu Okpala, Prof. Ike Ndolo, Mr. Emeka Ejide, Prof Kate Nnabuife, Prof Kate Omenugha, and Dr. Bakky Adirika of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.
Keynote address at the opening ceremony was delivered by the former Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, an advocate of Igbo language speaking, Prof. Peter Ejiofor, while the Chairman South-East Nigeria Economic Commission, Engr. Chris Okoye and Prof. Nonso Nnabuife of Nnamdi Azikiwe University were the discussants. Dr. Echezona Ihejirika and Dr. Mrs. Ifeoma Mbachu both of Anambra State University were the raportuers of the day.
Papers delivered at the workshop include “The Great Ndigbo Heritage”; “Addressing Our Current Mindset”; “Productive Cultural Values”, “Repositioning Ndigbo For Greatness” and “The Strategy For Our Recovery”.
One significant feature of the workshop was the keynote address written and delivered in Igbo by Prof. Pila Ejiofor. It was not surprising to those who knew Prof. Ejiofor and what he stands for, that Igbo language which the Igbo themselves have inadvertently sentenced to extinction must not be allowed to die, but must in fact be revived at all costs.
He believes in leading by example and so as he champions the course of Igbo language revival, he has since adopted the culture of communicating with all Igbo people in the Igbo Language. Prof Ejiofor traced the history of the Igbo that contributed not only in the development of Nigeria, but Britain and American, pointing out that recently, Americans built an Igbo Farm Village in Staunton State Vagiana in appreciation of the contributions of the Igbo towards the development of America.
Going into history, Prof. Ejiofor recalled the efforts of the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in gaining independence for the counrty, how the British handed over the leadership of Nigeria Army to General Aguiyi Ironsi, how Prof Kenneth Dike became the first Vice Chancellor of a Nigeria University, Prof Chike Obi of blessed memory became the first Nigeria Professor of Mathematics; Emeka Anyaoku became the Secretary of Common Health, Olaudah Ekweano became the first Nigerian to write a book on stave-trade, Iwene Tansi became the first Nigerian to be canonized, the first autonomous Nigeria University was in Igboland, Chief Dennis Osadebe was the Champion of the creation of Delta State as the first state created by any civilian government in Nigeria.
According to him, things changed for the Igbo since the end of the civil war as he said that “education, which was the bedrock of Igbo development began to dwindle, the people’s values began to change and our industries began to collapse.”
Business concerns in Igboland which had collapsed, according to his research, include Nigerian Cement Nkalagu, Sunrise Flour Mills, Emena, Iron and Steel Factory, Onitsha; Permatex, Enugu; Niger Steel, Emena, Cooperative and Commerce Bank; Turners Asbestors; Emene; African Continental Bank; Progress Bank; Anambra Vegetable Oil, Nachi, Ibeto Cement Industry, Nnewi, Eddy Motors Industry, Onitsha; Anambra Aluminum Industry, Ohebe-Dim; Olympic Maiz Mills, Awka and City Biscuits, Onitsha.
He noted that of the four refineries built by the Federal Government in Nigeria, none is located in the South-east. In his lecture entitled, “The Selling of Our Birthrights: National and Global Consequences”, Prof. Ben Osisioma x-rayed the Igbo and how the people have abandoned their high old values in place of new ones that are rooted in money.
He noted that the Igbo now operate on misplaced values which have no regard for hard work, respect for the elderly and which have little or no regard for character. He expressed the view that the present way of life could be seen to be working perfectly at the moment, but warned that with time, their real damaging consequences could began to emerge.
Prof. Osisoma said that Anambra State has the potentials to lead the South-east in carving a nitch for herself and her people as it is endowed with some of the best brains Africa has produced. He noted that Anambra State which was reputed for taking the lead in many spheres now lags behind in many areas.
His words: “Today, a materialistic society questions the value of education, and the man of letters is derided and run down in community and society.” According to him, “the most tragic consequence of our lifestyle is that we are ruled by renegades, those who hold the reins of power and authority today in the land are men despised in the past for their crooked ways.”
Osisioma did not just stop at identifying the problems, but also gave solutions, among which are the pursuit of education, value reconstruction, eschewing religious bigotry and the education of the people on basic indices of success.