November is fast becoming a very important month in Igbo land. In the past three years, an Igbo association – the Igboekulie Association has been conducting an Igbo language award ceremony tagged “Asusu Igbo Amaka”. (AIA).
The program rewards students that excel in Igbo language in the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate examination (WASSCE).
This year’s event held on Saturday November 23 at the school hall of Owerri Girls Secondary School in Owerri in Imo State. The tradition of the association is to rotate the event amongst all indigenous Igbo speaking states and states with significant population of Igbo in the nation, and Imo State had earlier been selected as this year’s host.
The event which started exactly by the scheduled time of 12 noon, and had the Chairman of ABC Transport Plc.; Mr. Frank Nneji presiding was very well attended and was remarkable in a lot of ways. With almost 20 schools from within and around the South East and over 700 students participating, learning and watching, the event turned out a mini carnival featuring several Igbo dance troupes.
On display were: the very popular Atilogwu dance, Igba umu ogaranya the Ugo eze dance, (a royal dance typically performed by maidens in Igbo land) amongst several other dances. Igbo songs, poems and proverbs were generously rendered and recited even as there were also drama skits in Igbo language.
One of the high points of the event was the Igbo rendition of the national anthem in a style that brought out not just the rhythm, but also the import and essence of the anthem. The exciting choir from Owerri Girls brought back refreshing memories of the likes of Nelly Uchendu and other Igbo songstresses, and gave assurance that our Igbo folk songs shall not go into extinction as some old folk songs were sonorously rendered by the choir.
This year, for the first time, the association introduced a technical session that held in the morning before the actual award ceremony. The session conducted by Dr. Mrs. Francisca Nwaokorie; a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Medical Laboratory Science of the College of Medicine University of Lagos was headlined “Career, Mentorship and Development Plan, the Missing Link in empowering the Igbo Youth”.
The traditional award lecture titled: “Changing the Igbo narrative through our language and youth was delivered by “Dr. Angela Uloaku Nwankwere of the Department of Linguistics in the Faculty of Arts of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka. Dr. Nwankwere advocated for the teaching of subjects in Igbo language including even the sciences. She also made other recommendations to improve the teaching and speaking of the language. Her lecture was very well received.
The president of the Association, Prince Ben Onuora in his welcome address opined that since the humble beginning of AIA, Igboekulie has witnessed an upsurge of interest in the learning of Igbo language across the world. He said “we are particularly excited about this because we have received commendations from scholars in Igbo language and top government officials in the South East states.”
Prof Ben Jiburum, Chairman of the oragnising committee of the program in his remarks said the program was part of the association’s contribution to the advancement of Igbo cultural heritage and ethics. He said “We believe that the best place to start from in our drive toward cultural revival should be at the youth level, where the innocence of youth still allows the fire of cultural patriotism to burn most zealously.
The highpoint of the event was the award of cash prizes, certificates and plaques. This year’s star prize went to Miss Ugochinyere Amanda Enemoh who sat the 2019 WASSCE examinations as a student of Marist Comprehensive College Nteje, Anambra State. Three other students were tied in second place in the national prize category, and they are: Kingsley C. Adimonyemma of St. Paul’s Weminary, Ukpor, Amanda’s twin sister, Adaugo S. Enenmoh also of Marist Comprehensive College Nteje, Anambra State and finally Miss Ifunnanya Iwu who sat her examinations at St. Paul’s High School, Osu, Isiala Mbano, in Imo State.
With Imo State hosting this year’s event, Miss Ifunnaya Iwu also got the state prize for this year. Ifunnaya’s ten minutes response in appreciation was more of a validation of the prizes as she spoke in flawless Igbo without as much as a single English word. No third prize was awarded this year as the association decided not to break the tie in the second position, but elected to reward all three tied students.
Partners to this year’s event remained the West African Examination Council and Gregory University Uturu, who came on board this year to support the technical session. There were also other sponsors and supporters of this year’s program.