Chuks Onuoha, Umuahia
The first Igbere Cultural Carnival, which was held at Camp Neya Carnival Village in Igbere, Abia State, on January 6, 2018, appeared to have opened the eyes of many to the rich cultural heritage of the Igbo. While it was meant to showcase the tradition and culture of the people of Igbere only as was explained by the man whose foundation sponsored it, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, the event turned out to be a state gathering.
Groups from different communities outside Igbere who heard about the event came with their dances to add colour to the ceremony, which was the first of its kind in the area.
It was a colourful event that attracted personalities from Igbere in particular and all walks of life, including political bigwigs, government functionaries, serving and retired public servants, as well as communities from other parts of the country. It was, in fact, a roll call of who is who in the political circle, business sphere, and security outfits.
Shortly before the commencement of the event, Dr. Kalu, whose foundation sponsored the event said they staged the event to accomplish the mandate of President Muhammadu Buhari, who had advised them to go back home and think how to generate money. He said that carnivals all over the world were meant to generate money for the people:
“The carnivals I have seen in other places are smaller than what we are doing here, yet people go to such places to spend their money and time for recreation. This is the first of its kind here and because I never wanted it to coincide with the Calabar Carnival, I decided to schedule it as a yearly event and the organizers have put the date of January 2 every year.
“We want to ensure that next year’s event will be more structured, organized and more prosperous. We want people from all walks of life to come and see what we are doing here in Abia State in particular and Nigeria as a nation.”
Kalu narrated how he was approached about the cultural festival and after few meetings he gave the committee a blank cheque to kick-start the ceremony. He disclosed that the event would be done annually in line with President Buhari’s directives that politicians should go home and think of how to bring foreigners, who would in the course of their visit decide to invest here.
The carnival was also attended by the Hausa community in Abia State led by Alhaji Danjuma, who explained that they were at the carnival to identify with Kalu who he said has always carried them along right from the time he was a governor till now:
“Kalu has always been our friend from the time he was a governor to the extent that he appointed some of us into his cabinet.” The carnival featured dances from different parts of the community after which prices were distributed to winners at the event.
In his speech on the Igbere culture at the 2014 Igbere Day, Prof M.A. Ijioma, said that humility was important in cultural advancement because it enables people to recognize that the positions they occupy was from God:
“Hard work and perseverance are important values of culture, all efforts should be geared towards encouraging these values on the people, as things like education, skills acquisition, trade and others come from hard work. Culture that recognizes ill-gotten wealth or quick money stalls development.”
In his address entitled “The Cultural Heritage of Igbere,” chairman of Igbere Cultural Carnival, Jones Udeogu, defined culture as a system of living, which is peculiar to a people and transmitted from generation to generation for peaceful co-existence and development of the people.
He said the word heritage means things like property, arts, dances, literature, which are handed or passed on from one generation to another: “The people will today gather in this ambient environment to reinvent our cultural heritage. That is to say that we are gathered here to see, appreciate, preserve and pass on to younger generations the arts, dances and literature of Igbere people.”
Some of the personalities who attended the event included Mrs. Bennie Mordi, who represented the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed; Chief Sam Nkire, an APC chieftain; Chief Emeka Nwogu, one-time Minister of Labour and Productivity; former Chief Judge of Abia State, Justice Sunday Imo; Prof Mrs. Mgbada, Rector, Federal College of Agriculture, Ishiagu, Ebonyi State; Chief Martin Azubuike; Chief Princewill Ukaegbu; Brigadier A.K. Ibrahim, who is in charge of Army Settlement in Ohafia, the mother of the former Governor, Chief Mrs. Eunice Uzor Kalu, who participated in one of the dance groups.