The Guangzhou Chapter of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in China recently celebrated its first New Yam festival.
The event, as expected, showcased the rich tradition of the Igbo, with many Nigerians and Africans from all walks of life in attendance.
Mr. Jude Igboekwe represented the Consul General, Guangzhou Province, China, Mr. Wale Oloko at the event. Sir Anthony Okafor, President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, China Chapter and other eminent personalities were also in attendance.
Mr. Festus Mbisiogu, Coordinator, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), Guangdong Province flew in from New York, where he had received GEM Award 2019, for the event.
President of Ohanaeze in Guangzhou, Sir Okafor, said the New Yam Festival is an annual event where Igbo people in Guangzhou showcase the rich values of Igbo and help re-instil a sense of identity and pride within Igbos in Diaspora through promotion of language, culture, history, traditions and philosophy of Igbo
He said the event was also an avenue to celebrate Mr. Mbisiogu who was honoured with the ‘Blessings of Africa Award’ by the Global Empowerment Movement (GEM), United States, in collaboration with the African Union Sixth Region Foundation on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Okafor said the festival also exposed Igbo youths and young people in the Diaspora to Igbo culture with a view to inculcate in them a strong desire to build a glorious society established on the foundation of truth, justice, fairness and equity for all.
He noted that to strengthen cultural ties between Nigeria and their host nation, Igbos in Guangzhou felt that there was the need to sustain the cultural heritage and affirm their pride in the ethnic and cultural identity of Igbo.
Okafor, who explained the importance of yam in the tradition and economic life of Ndigbo, noted that yam is the principal crop and a symbol of a successful farmer in Igbo land. He said yam farming in Igboland has been a thing of pride from time immemorial.
He said the Igbo people in the province intended to link their homeland to the Diaspora through establishing a relationship with Ohanaeze Ndigbo in South-Eastern states and traditional rulers in Igboland who he described as the custodians of the culture and tradition of the people. The purpose, he said, was for promoting culture, unity and healthy social order among the Igbo at home and in the Diaspora
“This maiden edition of New Yam festival is special because Igbo prominent sons and daughters across the global are here to grace this epoch making event and it will enable us to showcase Igbo rich culture to the world,” Okafor noted
In his keynote address, the Consul General, Mr. Wale Oloko praised Ohanaeze Ndigbo for organising the festival which he described as a unifying forum with all tribes and race in attendance. He said the event showcases the resolve of Nigerians to live as one indivisible nation.
He admonished Nigerians to be law abiding and to continue living in harmony with their host. He reminded guests of the importance of yam in Igbo land, adding that the nation’s cultural diversity remained the pillar that holds Nigerians together. He called on all Diasporan Nigerians to shun vices that would drag the name of the nation in the mud.
Oloko condemned the xenophobic attacks against foreigners in any nation, notably the ones in South Africa where citizens attacked Nigerians and other foreigners as well as their businesses.
He said “The message from President Muhammadu Buhari to you all is to be good ambassadors by being law-abiding citizens in China and to continue to pursue your means of livelihood legitimately. He encourages you not to relent in your efforts towards promotion of our culture and tradition.”
Mbisiogu, who is CEO, Blue Diamond Logistics, China, urged Ndigbo in Diaspora to belong to Pan Igbo socio-cultural organisations, especially Ohanaeze Ndigbo to step up awareness on the tradition and culture of Igbo and the pursuit to encourage Igbo children in Diaspora to speak Igbo language. He regretted that Igbo language was gradually going into oblivion, noting that most young people do not understand the language.
He further outlined the benefits that Igbo in Diaspora would derive from upholding the virtues of Igbo culture through cultural displays, dance, drama and the New Yam festival.
He urged the government to be more proactive with releasing information about issues, especially those that are of urgent importance to Nigerians in the Diaspora.