By Patrick Lumumba
I am truly aware this is a cultural event.
It also gladdens my heart that I have the opportunity this evening of being present in the land that I became aware of as a young man.
I remember over 25 years ago when I started my education, I heard about this land of Igbo from great writers such as Chinua Achebe. If it was not for the books of Chinua Achebe that I read with other Nigerian authors such as Flora Nwapa , the poetry of Christopher Okigbo and Wole Soyinka.
Even in those early days I was able to recognize that what a young man cannot see even standing on the Iroko tree, an old man will see while sitting down. I remember those days with nostalgia and I also remember that it was not only in literature that I met great Nigerians. I actually learnt English from a Nigeria author, Ogundipe through his books.
This means that Nigeria and Igbo land has always been present in our lives in Africa and when we started talking about the independence of Africa one will, of course, read ‘The Great Zik of Africa’ if not, one hasn’t read history.
So, therefore, there is a sense that Nigeria and Igbo land has always been present.
I remember a saying in jest that if you go to any part of the world and you did not find an Igbo man, run away from such a place because that is not a good place.
That is why I am able to say in the presence of greatness that Nigeria has always remained the life. If with the departure of Chinua Achebe, Flora Nwapa and then one thought Nigeria could no longer produce literature, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has emerged in the world and if Hollywood and Bollywood thought Nigeria could not produce theatre, the great Pete Edochie and Yul Edochie have emerged from the land. And every day we are excited about Genevieve Nnaji and Patience Ozokwor is also in our minds and when we go further to the land of Oduduwa, Olu Jacobs is also present.
So Nigeria remains great because Nigeria has been the cradle of culture in the continent of Africa. When one signs about Nigeria, one will see Nigeria has the greatest county in the continent of Africa.
And if one wants to be dramatic about it and at the risk of repeating what others have said; one will say when Nigeria catches a cold, all other African countries get cancer. Without being melodramatic, we are simply going to recognize that we are all present in this assembly courtesy of the Obi jackson Foundation to celebrate culture and culture is not anything that is fossilized in the past. Culture is dynamic it changes on a daily basis but it is true that unless we are wedded to our cultural values then we as a people whether we are in Okija, Nigeria or in Nairobi, Kenya or in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia or in Dakar in Senegal, we the people of the continent of Africa will never be recognised for who we are.
For those who now say that as long as the lions do not have historians; it is the exploit of the hunter that will be celebrated rather than the bravery of the lion.
Today, therefore, we are here to celebrate the culture at the helm. The Obijackson Foundation is an event that started five years ago, so it is no longer an event, it has graduated into a festival and I dare say it must even have graduated into a movement, that is why agreement has been made that people have been drawn from different parts of Africa to be present here this evening at midnight! To celebrate Culture. I have sat down, listened and understood and I now say that I have reached the stage in my submissions to you Igbo! Ekene munu.
Now that I have saluted the Igbo who are present in this assembly, let us remind ourselves why it is we are celebrating culture. There is a great and immortal Swahili saying “He or she who does not recognize his or her culture will be eternally a slave” and we are here to remind ourselves that the times has come for Africa and Africans to demand of the world that we can no longer afford the misfortune of communing with other civilisations as if we are children of a lesser god.
We are here to tell ourselves that we can no longer apologize to our condition. We have come here to remind ourselves that we can no longer be nostalgic of the past without projecting into future. We have come here in order to celebrate the future as informed by the past and that is why the Face of Okija is the re-energization of what is, and the recognition that we must search for that Africa that is the cradle of humanity.
Time without number, that those who are in the business of revising history have attempted to deny that fact but now it is recognized beyond peradventure that humanity and civilization started here in Africa when Europe was still dwelling in the caves. There were organized kingdoms in this part of the world when Europe does not know what astronomy was, Africa is the cradle of civilization and Africa is where we must be!
But you know our civilization was rudely interrupted. It was a rude interruption that saw some of our men and women being spirited away into other parts of the world. If Europe is what it is, it is because of Africans, If America is what it is, it is because of Africans and if Latin America is what it is, it is because of Africans. If the Greeks are great philosophers, it is so because the great philosophers were in the land of Oduduwa, if the Jews have the gift of prophecy it was because of the Igbo of Africa.
I have sometimes heard the Igbos say they came from Israel, No it was the Israelites that moved away from Igbo Land to Israel and then the Igbos say they worship like the Jews; I say no. It was the Jews that worshipped like the Igbos and I say this not to romanticize our culture and tradition but to remind us that for a long time we have enjoined ourselves too harshly and the time has now come to recognize ourselves for who we are. Remember I said our civilization was interrupted, even with the interruption we have always been alive to the fact that we must regain our self-esteem and indeed we have regained our self-esteem and today as I speak to you, Africa has over 55 artificial boundaries but we have come here today to dramatize the artificiality of those boundaries so that we may have a day when I can move from Nairobi, Kenya to Lagos, Nigeria without a necessity of a visa, I look forward to those days.
I look forward to a day when I can move from Johannesburg in South Africa to Bangui in the Central Africa Republic without needing a visa. I look forward to the day when I can move from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and I will have only one currency to contend with, not 38. I look forward to the day when Egusi soup will be consumed in East Africa as it is consumed in Nigeria. I look forward to the day when Hollywood and Bollywood will not have space in our television and will be replaced with Nollywood, Ghollywood and etc.
I look forward to the days when we shall celebrate Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and know her as an author. And I am reminding us and the young men and women who are present here that that can happen and will happen! But we must work at it.
Oh fellow Africans, it pains me times without numbers when I see African men and women moving from Banjul in Gambia, from Cotonou and Lome, from Accra in Ghana and from Lagos crossing the Sahara and meeting their death in the Mediterranean in search of greener pasture yet the pasture is greener on this side. I look forward to day when Africans will be treated with dignity at every angle in the world.
This is why we are here in Okija to remind ourselves that we have the ability, intellectual, the capability and capacity not only of demonstrating to ourselves but demonstrating to the world that we can achieve it and Okija in a manner of speaking is the beginning of that journey.
A journey that started five years ago, you know I don’t possess the prophetic gift of Egungun of Igbo land but I am able to look at the future and I use the Face of Okija as my Fountain point and I see many things. I see Africa rising in agriculture, and I see the jollof rice and rice being consumed in Nigeria is produced in Nigeria and produced in Ghana and Senegal. I see that!
I see yams and plantains being produced in Nairobi, Kenya, and Ethiopia, I see that!
I see the beautiful clothes worn by Nigerians not being made in the Netherlands but in Kaduna in Nigeria. I see the beautiful things that are being done in this part of the world happening here.
When I visited the Obijackson Children and Women Hospital and I saw the state of art and I saw how lifeless children were regaining life, I am convinced that time is coming when no Nigerian will visit the United States of America to receive treatment. I look forward to the day when no Africa will go to India or Dubai to receive treatment. I look forward to those days.
I look forward to the day when we will not go to Dubai to buy anything; we will rather come to Lagos, Anambra or Onitsha in Nigeria. I see those days! One need not to be a Jewish prophet or related to one to realize that it is a possibility.
It is written on the wall that as long as we have our own self-esteem, history has demonstrated not once nor twice but times without number that when our people make a decision or a resolve they cannot be stopped. Okija, Face of Okija and this cultural festival is a dramatization of that and demonstration that we can achieve it but if we are going to achieve it, we will because of the young men and women who are present at this event.
Through-out History, countries and places have changed because young men and women have taken a resolve. So today, I am urging all of us who are present here today to make a solemn vow that we will from today only seek the things that requires effort by making effort and make a solemn vow that we will not run away from our countries and develop our countries and that we are not children of a lesser god.
I am asking all of us who are present here to tell the world that Africa has the capacity in any field whether in engineering – Africans has the capacity to our roads. I am reminding each and every one of us here to tell the world that even if it is in medicines, Africans have the capacity to treat ourselves and in agriculture – we are capable of feeding ourselves and in technology. So that when we meet with the rest of civilization whether it’s the Chinese, the English or the Americans they will be able to say, lo and behold! The Negros is capable of delivery, producing and are not children of a lesser god.
I have no doubt in my mind when I look at those who are present here, such as the Ooni of Ife and the Igwes that today is a great day.
It is a good day because we are in the midnight; the Igbo are good in the business of generating proverbs. One of the great proverbs is “when one sees a frog coming into the daylight then you know something is after its life”. It is midnight and courtesy of technology we are in daylight.
There is a realisation that if we are not faithful to our cultural pursuit then we will not realise what we deserve. And now we need to remind ourselves that each, every one of us has a role to play and remind the younger people that they must listen to the older people. We remind ourselves that mothers are great and that is why the Igbo name their female children Nneka and we are going forward.
We are reminding ourselves that the 55 countries in Africa are artificial; we are recognizing that Africa will be great because the Face of Okija has started it. The Igbos are once again beginning to re-generate Africa energy and that we are the solution to our problems.
Being excerpts of Professor Patrick Lumumba’s address at the just concluded Face of Okija 2018