It was a handshake across the Niger in the real sense of it between the Igbo and their Yoruba counterpart during the World Eri Festival held at Enugwu Aguleri in Anambra State as frontline traditional rulers namely the Eze Eri Kingdom in Enugwu Aguleri, His Royal Majesty Eze Chukwuemeka Eri, Ooni of Ife His Royal Majesty Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwus and the President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo Chief Nnia Nwodo among others came together to task Nigerians on national unity capable to enthrench more peaceful coexistence among the inhabitants of the country regardless of tribes, ethnicity and religious backgrounds.
The host, visiting Ooni and Nwodo in their separate speeches fingered national unity as the key which will ever accelerate the pace for peace, development and progress of the country in all facet of human endeavors. The host and the celebrant of the Festival Eze Chukwuemeka Eri known as Ezeora 34th and Aka Ji Ovo Igbo who opened the floodgate of speeches with a well crafted address of welcome tagged the Voice from the Throne described the World Eri Festival as a time when the Igbo race world-wide come together to remember their progenitor Eri who is said to have migrated from Israel and settled at Aguleri
“Today we commemorate and celebrate an African and global historical figure Nna Anyi (our father) Eri” the Eze begins rhetorically adding “Today I welcome my brother and friend from our brotherly land of Yoruba, the Ooni of Ife His Royal Majesty Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja 11, the 51st Ooni of Ife. I thank him for coming here to celebrate with us. I also wish him journey mercy back home. I use this opportunity to call for peace and unity among the Yoruba and the Igbo and the rest of Nigerians”
The Mornach noted that the Yoruba and the Igbo in particular are one people as according to him “Our history and different aspect of our language and culture, reminds us of our oneness. We must increase efforts to unite our people. Let us realise that we are one people sailing in one ship. Nigeria is our ship. We have no other ship. Let us strengthen our bonds and work together on what makes the lives of all our children all over Nigeria and the rest of the world better.”
Clearly overwhelmed with joy, the Aka Ji Ovo meaning the one with authority of the truth expressed more appreciation to all the visitors and used the opportunity to welcome African Americans who came all the way from United States to identify with Igboland as their place of origin following DNA test.
Welcoming them he said: “I welcome our African Americans bothers and sisters, children of our children taken from us to strange lands many years ago. They are looking for their way back home and we welcome them. Aguleri and indeed the entire Igboland is your home. Let’s begin today to build bridges that links us and all our children in Nigeria and Africa and over there in the United States of America, Europe and the world over.”
He said that the Igbo Africans Americans who are 28 in number were earlier taken to the place where Eri anchored himself on arrival to Africa which is called Aganabo Ezu n’ Omambala Confluence at Aguleri as part of the program of the festival noting that the palace have in the last few years received over 200 Igbo Africa Americans who came in batches yearly in previous festivals. He also revealed that he travels to United States every year to identify with the Igbo African Americans during which he issues them with Igbo names at a place known as Igbo village in Virginia.
In his speech the Ooni of Ife who was ably represented by His Royal Majesty Oba Murainu Adebanjo the Asoya of Ile Isoya Ife Kingdom said that the Ooni is happy to be part of the historic World Eri Festival describing the festival as an event of a great people as according to him Ndigbo are great people. Oba Adebanjo said that the Ooni is interested in nationa unityl because it will guarantee peace and also bring the best of the people into a more prosperous country where people are safe, secured and happy.
“A peaceful and prosperous country is all that we sre praying for and we can only get it when we are strongly united as a people” he said, adding “The Ooni of Ife wish to congratulate the Eze Eri and his subject on this wonderful occasion of World Eri Festival.
“He also wish to congratulate the African Americans who came to identify with their progenitor. My prayer is that the festival will continue to serve as a rallying point for integration of people across-board. I pray thst subsequent festivals will be more greater than what we witnessed here today. It shall continue to be well with Eze Chukwuemeka and Eri Kingdom. It shall continue to be well with Ndigbo, the Yoruba and the entire Nigeria.’
Also speaking the Preaident General of Ohaneze Ndigbo Chief Nnia Nwodo who was issued with a Chieftaincy title as Okwulora (,the voice or speaker) of Igboland by Eze Eri said that the Eri Kingdom has made Ndigbo proud by organizing such a great festival that not only showcases the culture of Ndigbo to the rest of the at the fullest best but also using it to connect Ndigbo with others in a manner that enhances friendship between Ndigbo and their counterparts from other parts of Nigeria noting the visit of Ooni is another version of handshake across the Niger from the cultural point of view.
The Ohaneze boss who was represented by the President of Ohaneze in Anambra State Chief Damian Afam Ogene said he was highly impressed with the Chieftaincy title bestowed on him by the Mornach of Eri Kingdom as such inspires him to continue to serve Ndigbo more assurring that Ohaneze is committed to promoting national unity and will always identify with activities aimed at entrancing national unity from all angles as cultural, religious or political.
Also speaking, the member resenting Anambra East/West Federal Constituency in the Federal House of Reps Hon Chinedu Benjamin Obidigwe commended the efforts of Eze Eri which he observed is geared towards a stronger regional integration in bringing the Igbo and Yoruba together to enthrench national unity noting that there have to be unity among Nigerians as key foundation to effectively address the teething challenges like insecurity, marginalization, hate speech, anger, racour and bitterness bedeviling the country in recent time.
Hon Obidigwe added “First of all, I want to thank the Eze Eri His Majesty Eze Chukwuemeka Eri for championing this wonderful relationship between the Igbo and the Yoruba nation. The presence of Ooni of Ife at World Eri Festival holding in Igboland represent national unity. I know when the Eze Eri visited Ife to pay courtesy call to the Ooni and today the Ooni is here in our midst. This is a welcome development and we have to build on this. We have to our culture, our religion and even our personal occupations to build bridges and champion unity and peaceful coexistence that will pave the way for a life free from social Ills like Boko Haram, kidnapping and other forms of killings in our country”
In their Goodwill message popular Igbo group, the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) led by Dr Chuwkwu Okolo said ADF is happy to Identify with the occasion of World Eri Festival because of the fact that the festival is not just showcasing the culture of Ndigbo but also being used to bring Ndigbo world-wide together. “This is the only festival that brings Ndigbo together globally and ADF is impressed with the host. We must appreciate his efforts in putting things together for this festival. To our brothers and sisters from United States who had come to Identify with us ADF say welcome and congratulations” Dr Okolo added.
In a separate interviews, the Igbo Africans Americans by name Denver Heins and Chinyere Naza said they are proud to be identified as members of Igbo family and nobody can take it away from them. The coordinator of Africans Americans who bears Igbo name as Chinyere Naza Njoku Eri explained that she had her DNA test in 2001. She said it was Dr Rick Kitlles the Founder of Africans Ancestry that inspired the NDA test following his quest to discover his root adding that she had to undergo test after falling in love with Igbo people she met over there
She explained “I felt in love with igbo people when I met them at a place called Igbo village in Virginia. I took interest in their language, their dressing and their food. This made me to draw closer to them. I did the test in 2001 and discovered that Igbo blood is flowing all over me. I am happy about that. And i am glad to inform you that the father of my 9year old son is an Igbo man from Owerri”. Chinyere was also conferred with a Chieftaincy title as Anyanwu Ututu meaning the rising sun of Igboland.
In his remark, a member of the festival planning committee Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka who also played host to the African Americans at Rojenny Tourist and Games Village Oba said the festival is a great occasion with tourist attraction calling on multinational companies to take advantage of the tourst attraction of the festival to market their goods and services to the world. He attributed the huge success of the festival to the tight security in Anambra State courtesy of Governor Willie Obiano.
Other dignitaries at the occassion were Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Majesty Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe and other rulers like Igwe of Mbaukwu His Royal Majesty Igwe Peter Anugwu, His Royal Majesty, Igwe Patrick Okolo of Nsukka Urban, a captain of Industry, Dr Chile Obidigbo, Chairman of Anambra East Local Government Area Hon Obi Nweke, His Ogbaru Counterpart Hon Arinze Awogu, Member Representing Anambra East in the Anambra State House of Assembly Hon Obinna Emenaka among others.
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