Every year, precisely in the first week of September, the entire Igbo Christendom with their friends and well-wishers from all over the world gather at the Maria Assumpta Villa to give thanks to God for His goodness. Bishops, Priests, lay faithful, men and women of Goodwill from the four corners of Igboland and beyond converge to begin this unique celebration which has become an annual festival in Owerri Archdiocese.
The Owerri Archdiocesan Odenigbo celebration is an event anchored in the Goodnews of salvation. It is a ceremony which glorifies God for all His goodness and ennobles humans particularly the Igboman, the Igbo culture and the Igbo world. By implication, this festival ennobles the world at large.
To this end, every year, Igbo Catholics, other Christians and Nigerians at large as well as nationals from around the world look forward to this acclaimed Christian ritual. Odenigbo, an ecclesiastical infotainment of our era has helped to curb most of our inherited and cultivated prejudices in Igboland. It has gone a long way in helping to expose and eliminate some cultural biases.
Normally, every year’s outing begins as soon as the earlier one is over. The Owerri Archdiocesan Odenigbo celebration is a two days’ event, each day’s covering an aspect of the entire festival. This year the events will kick off on Friday, the 6th day of September with cultural entertainment. It will be rounded off on Saturday, the 7th day of September with a thanks giving mass, fund raising and Odenigbo lecture.
History has it that barely one year into the episcopate of Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna which took place on the 4th day of September 1993; the Vatican authority created six new ecclesiastical provinces the following year which included Owerri. Realizing that this new status of Owerri has major evangelization significance, his Grace, Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna, the first Archbishop of Owerri, a versatile and seasoned educationist brought his manifold experience, extensive exposure, and his clearer vision of the local church to bear in our lives as Ndi Igbo nay Christians. Realizing the need to welcome the goodnews of salvation into the intimacy of Igbo life and culture, a special prominence was accorded to Igbo Language through the annual series of lectures given in Igbo Language by Igbo scholars.
However, as an emblem to this onerous festivity, the Archbishop has since 1996 established the world acclaimed ODENIGBO lecture series as a way of promoting the speaking, reading and writing of Igbo Language. He pointed out that in one of his numerous press conferences that what informed his decision to introduce the lecture series was the discovery that Igbo Language was in danger of becoming extinct inspite of the prime status the language enjoys in the company of other major languages in Nigeria.
This year we are witnessing the eighteenth Odenigbo in the lecture series since the inauguration of the lecture in 1996 by His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Owerri Catholic Ecclesiastical Province. The initiative therefore becomes a major step towards the volarization of the good aspects of Igbo cultural practices, dances, folklores, sports, and other details of our cultural heritage. This project has won the admiration of almost all the Igbo people across the world. Statistics have shown that it has brought together on yearly basis resourceful men and women, eminent scholars, clergy and religious, young and old, Catholics and non-Catholics, even traditionalists nicknamed pagans.
Today, this new life festival as the founder calls it, has grown from a lecture series into a veritable institution with a stable and honourable landmark at the heart of Maria Assumpta Villa where the popular OBIRI ODENIGBO has been erected. This annual Christian festival has also been given a permanent status in the Archdiocesan annual Calendar.
The concept ODENIGBO which is the brain child of Archbishop Anthony J.V. Obinna was chosen as a banner of the lecture series because we as Ndi Igbo are constantly praying that through Igbo Language and genius Christ will dwell in our various lives and families. According to the founding father, Odenigbo is meant to foster a harmonious relationship between the Igbo culture and the goodnews brought to Ndi Igbo by Jesus Christ. It is designed to spread the gospel and promote the good aspects of our culture. Therefore, all Igbos irrespective of our Christian belonging, are called upon to join hands with the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri in her effort to salvage our mother tongue from annihilation. Let us with one heart embrace ODENIGBO – NKUZI OHA NA EZE.
It will be recalled that the first ever Odenigbo lecture took place on the 7th of September 1996. It was titled OLUMEFULE: ASUSU IGBO NA NDU NDI IGBO. Professor Emmanuel Nolue Emenanjo, who was then the Director of National Institute for Nigerian languages, was the designated lecturer. Coincidentally this year’s Odenigbo lecture comes up on the 7th of September 2013. It is titled OGANIHU IGBO: ONODU ASUSU IGBO. It will be delivered by a world acclaimed Igbo scholar, Professor Peter Ejiofor, who is the President of a Pan Igbo Organization called SUBAKWA IGBO.
It is our hope that this annual communion, this annual harvest of the riches of the goodnews and of the Igbo heritage, this moment of consecration and joy will eventually steer us into rededicating the entire Igbo race to God. We pray that this joyful moment of celebrating who we are will challenge us to proclaim wholeheartedly that Jesus is our source of strength on our journey through life. We pray that through this festival every Igbo man and woman will accept Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour. Jesus is indeed the actual Odenigbo and Ode n’uwa niile. As we continue with Odenigbo in the years to come, we pray for a day when our Children will wake up proud to be born Igbos. Welcome one and welcome all. ANYI JENU.
Rev. Fr. Dr. George Nwachukwu
Director of Communications/Media
Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri