It was a happy moment for the Igbo at Owerri yesterday when the governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi and his predecessor, Dr. Chris Ngige embraced and chatted with each other explaining his role in the political conflict between them.
But both used the event for reconciliation, with laughter all over.
But from the tumultuous gathering at the Annual Ahiajioku lecture held at Owerri yesterday came a thunderous verdict unity among the Igbo.
The lecture delivered by the novelist Chinua Achebe who arrived the venue with his wife, Christie and three children: Ike, Chidi and Nwando, was chaired by the Asagba of Asaba, Prof. Chike Edozien.
There were also the governor of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, and Anambra governor, Mr. Peter Obi as well as Abia, Delta, Ebonyi, Rivers, Enugu who were represented.
There were delegations also from the Obong of Calabar and Jaja of Opobo, several traditional rulers including the Obi of Ogwashi uku, Prof. Chukuka Okonjo, Ikelionwu of Ndikelionwu, Prof. Chukwumemeka Ike, among others.
However, Achebe in his lecture entitled Igbo, Intellectualism and Development praised the lecture rebranded by the state government to be the framework for development and not just for intellectual sake, the series would help redirect the miseducated Igbo caused by colonialists.
Using samples from his novel, Things fall apart as illustration, Achebe said the Igbo share a lot of brotherhood and yet have their differences.
Saying the worldwide celebration of the novel is not about him but the story, which is Igbo story.
But h used the little difference in the name, Ahiajioku and Ifejioku which means the same thing: celebration of the yam god in Igboland to share the little differences tat exist in the dialects of the Igbo, saying the Igbo should not allow the little differences among them cause their disunity.
The Igbo, he told the audience made of ministers, senators, the academia, the clergy, Achebe blamed the problem in the use and study of Igbo language on a white missionary who he said could nit grasp the differences that exist in the Igbo dialect. He did not know the Igbo speak in their various dialects: Igbo na au na olu na olu, he said. Dialects are a tiny thing that should not divide the Igbo. Igbo unity is paramount, he maintained.
It is therefore a thing of madness for anyone to call anyone whose dialects sounds different from the other as non-Igbo, adding that even in the markets, the people speak in their dialects.
It is therefore sacrilege for anyone to tell a teach that its is wrong to speak in his mother tongue. Nobody, he said, has the right to stop any child from speaking his mother tongue.
Achebe also spoke out for women integration in Igboland. He used the exile chapter of Okonkow in Igboland illustrate this, said that mother is supreme.
Igbo people have developmental ideas and knowledge as can be found in their creation stories, he pointed out.
However, the Asagba of Asaba, Prof. Edozien saying all Igbo are one, itemised seven agendas which he said are essential for Igbo unity which he said for two years, Ohanaeze ndigbo could not achieve.
He harped on the need for creation of two more state for Igbo people out of the present Delta and Rivers State to give equal states to three regions, under one region,
He also asked that state governors in the seven state Igbo dominate should empower Ohanaeze financially and the eze ndigbo proliferation across the country and beyond should be stopped.
Th e Asagba asked that the Igbo should rater elect one king as Eze Igbo through the traditional rulers and tat the ruler should rule till death as is the case with the papacy.
Ohakim in his contribution also spoke on Igbo unity as did Prof. Pat Utomi who introduced Achebe. Utomi had located the problem with the Igbo in lack of humility and reverence for vanity.
But Ohaikm asked Ohanaeze not to allow division among it, nor allow internal contradictions thwart its efforts.
He also blamed Nigerians under development on injustice and ethnicity.
Things, he went on, do go wrong in societies but such are moments to work and repair and not to apportion blames, saying that Achebe’s message is essentially all hope is not lost.