Former Nigerian envoy to the Kingdom of Spain, Ambassador Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu has called on the Igbo to come under a common front to pursue their political interests and emancipate themselves from years of marginalisation and discrimination.
She said that only a united front would enable the Igbo to make an emphatic political statement in Nigeria.
Ambassador Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who was a special guest at the 2022 Igbofest, hosted by the Umunne Cultural Association in Minnesota, United States, said: “We must unite to achieve our common goal”, adding “we, as an ethnic group, have been denied the presidency of Nigeria for so long. However, we cannot make progress by becoming internally divided, with some of our major stakeholders working against our collective interests”.
The event in Minnesota followed the declaration of 13 August as Igbo Day by the Governor of the State, Mr Tim Walz.
Odumegwu-Ojukwu warned that Igbo “must not box ourselves into a corner. We must continue to build pragmatic partnerships and anchor our aspirations on strategic engagements, alliances, and negotiations which, while tapping into our collective goodwill and progressive agenda, will advance our political interests”.
Commending her hosts for constantly updating themselves with happenings in Igboland, Odumegwu-Ojukwu further said: “I know you are concerned about what is happening at home”.
She then called for the sustenance of the culture and traditions of the Igbo, adding that the Igbo cannot abandon their culture and urged that Igbo cultural norms be religiously transmitted to the growing generation of the Igbo.
Paying tribute to the giant strides of the Igbo in Minnesota, the former envoy enjoined them to continue to promote the noble traditions and culture that have helped shape their worldview whilst always striving to transmit the same to their offspring.
“Our cultural heritage is what shapes our sense of identity as a people, in addition to promoting social cohesion and most importantly, creates a sense of belonging and collective pride in the norms and traditions which our ancestors bequeathed us”, she said.
The chairman of the event, Chief Elvis Abanonu said the survival of any society, or culture is solely dependent on the passage of its norms and principles to the next generation.
According to him, the 2022 Igbofest “speaks to our intent of getting the next generation ready to take over the mantle of leadership”.
He lauded Odumegwu-Ojukwu for honouring the Igbo in Minnesota with her presence at the well-attended festival, which had the state’s Senator, Mayor, city officials, and other dignitaries in attendance.
The President of Umunne Cultural Association, Dr Jane Nwaudo noted that the association had made significant changes in its philosophical principles by encouraging collaborative efforts with other entities in the community.
She said that, as a body of individuals focused on cultural heritage legacy, the group would continue to strengthen the link with a new generation of Igbo youths born and raised in the United States.
“To this end, the association has continued to empower our youth financially through offering scholarships to high school graduates, promoting cultural activities and pageants to instill greater self-esteem and pride in their identity”, she stated.
The 2022 Igbofest was a showcase of the best of Igbo culture, featuring masquerades, cultural dances, and performances, Igbo sporting activities, language debates, culinary contests, pageants and replication of Igbo customary rites for a new generation of Igbo youth.
The weeklong festival was aimed at fostering a deeper connection to their primordial homeland and presenting them with opportunities to learn more about the Igbo culture.
Minnesota has become a melting pot of cultures for foreigners and immigrants from all over the world with diverse cultural backgrounds, hosting thousands of Igbo residents, many of whom have lived in the state for over 45 years.