In the words of John Baillie, a true Christian is a man who never for a moment forgets what God has done for him in Jesus Christ and whose whole comportment and whose activities have their root in the sentiment of gratitude.
In acknowledgment of the wonders God has done for the Church in Owerri, the entire Catholic faithful of Owerri Archdiocese with their relatives, friends and well-wishers from all over the world gather every year in a festive mood at Maria Assumpta Cathedral to express their unalloyed gratitude to God for His benevolence.
Usually, all Igbo- speaking Christians like the Hebrews of old on their feast of Pentecost, gather for the annual thanksgiving which commemorates primarily the elevation of Owerri Diocese to an Archdiocese, thus crowning her the metropolitan See of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province. Originally, this joyful event took place on the 3rd day of September 1994, but it is the creative genius of His Grace Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna that gave birth to the celebration of Owerri Archdiocesan Day on yearly basis beginning from 1996. As a highlight to this yearly fiesta, he added the Odenigbo lectures which sparked off a new era of evangelization for the Igbo race, Christians and non Christians alike.
It will be recalled that Archbishop Obinna who is the founder of this Odenigbo carnival once tagged it a “New Life Festival” given its good news origin and anchorage. This celebration has continued to give glory to God, spread the Love of God for every human, uplift the Igbo/African values, disseminate joy, as well as enlighten and challenge every Igbo man and woman all over the world to self love.
This year, Odenigbo has gone to the next level. His Grace Most Rev. Anthony JV Obinna has carried the message of our Igbo-ness to the famous Igbo village located in Virginia USA, a replica of our traditional set up with house constructed with our local mud, palm fronds and raffia. Here in the Month of July 2014, the Archbishop reunited all the Igbos in the USA and beyond and gave a lecture to a teaming crowd of these Igbo citizens in Diasporas titled ONYEKWRE, (who would have believed). Who would believe that an Igbo village could be erected in far away USA with all the mud houses and palm fronds as we see them here in Igboland? Who would have believed that Igbo language will be spoken amongst a people who once considered it as Barbaric and the Igboman can now walk with their shoulders high? Who would have believed that an Igbo man whose great grant father was a slave to the White Colonialist can be asked to establish a home in the same land where he had no voice? And finally, who would have believed that a black man whose father was washing plates in a Whiteman’s restaurant can become the president in the same land where his father was a servant? > > > ONYEKWERE?
Following the technological advancement, Odenigbo has gone to the next level. It can now be seen or read in the Face-book, Twitter, and Whatsup etc. To this end, Odenigbo which is also Odenigwe is now Odenamerica, Odenaeurope and indeed Odenuwanile, to the greater glory of God. Kudos to this great son of Igboland, Most Rev. Anthony JV Obinna,
The Archdiocesan Day is meant to be an occasion of thankful reunion and home coming for all the Igbo sons and daughters scattered all over the world. This joyful carnival is intended to provide an opportunity for drawing our people closer to God, preach the gospel anew, give them a corporate cause of encouragement and solicit their support for the spiritual and temporal services which the Church in Owerri has continued to render the needy and the less privileged.
Based on the desire to welcome the message of salvation into the intimacy of Igbo Life and culture, prominence has been accorded to Igbo Language through the Odenigbo Lecture series rendered in pure Igbo language by renowned scholars. “Nkuzi Odenigbo” as it is popularly called, therefore becomes a major step towards the valorization of the good aspects of Igbo cultural practices, dance, folklores, sports and other details of our cultural heritage. This event has won the admiration of many Nigerian people across the world.
Statistics have shown that it has continued to bring together on yearly basis, resourceful men and women, eminent scholars, researchers, clergy and religious, young and old, Catholics and non-Catholics. It has grown from simple lecture series into an undying institution like the AHIAJOKU with a stable landmark called OBIRI ODENIGBO situated at the heart of Villa Assumpta. In addition, the festivity has also been given a permanent status in the Owerri Archdiocesan calendar.
It will be recalled that the concept, “Odenigbo” which is the brain child of Most Reverend Anthony J.V. Obinna, was chosen as the banner of the lecture series because we as Ndi Igbo are very religious and we are constantly praying that through the Igbo Language and genius, Christ will permeate our hearts and our culture. It is the wish of the founding father that through Odenigbo, a harmonious relationship will be fostered between the Igbo culture and the gospel message brought to Ndi Igbo by Jesus Christ through the missionaries.
It is important to note that the mode of this yearly anniversary has remained rather unwavering with slight modifications. The Odenigbo festival begins this way each year: By 4pm on the eve of the main celebration, cultural entertainment including traditional wrestling, dancing and drama take place. On the day of the festival proper, there is usually a thanksgiving Eucharistic celebration by 9.am. In the course of the Mass, the Archbishop thanks all those who support the Odenigbo festival in various forms. These are men and women who have stood firmly behind the Archbishop over these years in his effort to salvage our mother tongue and our cultural heritage from annihilation. These are people who have kept supporting the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri in her journey towards fulfillment. These are distinguished men and women who have morally and financially encouraged the Archdiocesan Day celebration over the years. We expect many more friends of God to step forward without hesitation to assist in the various projects going on in the Archdiocese aimed at restoring our collective Igboness.
It is on record that the first ever celebration of Owerri Archdiocesan Day was on the 6th and 7th of September 1996. The maiden Odenigbo lecture was titled “Olumefule: Asusu Igbo na Ndu ndi Igbo”. Professor Emmanuel Nolue Emenanjo, who was the Director of National Institute for Nigerian Languages, was the distinguished lecturer.
Coincidentally, this year’s celebration which embodies the 19th Odenigbo lecture in the series also comes up to tame the current craze for leadership in this country. The topic is OCHICHI OMA: OLILEANYA OHANAEZE. GOOD LEADERSHIP, THE DESIRE OF EVERY IGBO MAN. In response to the media explosion, Odenigbo has gone to yet a high level. In recent times we have continued to witness a modernized Odenigbo in power-point.
It is our desire that this annual communion, this annual harvest of the riches of the good news and of Igbo custom, this moment of consecration and joy will eventually steer us into rededicating the entire Igbo race and our collective Igboness to God. We pray that this joyful moment of celebrating who we are will challenge us to proclaim wholeheartedly that Jesus Christ is our source of strength in our journey through life. We pray that Jesus who is our Odenigbo will continue to be a true Ode n’uwa niile. We pray that sooner than later our children will wake up one day proud to be born Igbos.