A Welcome Address presented by Mazi Okafouzu Ugochukwu, the Executive Secretary, Inter-Agency Committee on Culture and Tourism Development of the South-East Zone, on the occasion of Iri Ji Ndi Igbo National New Yam Festival 23rd-27th August, 2016, at National Yam House, Etiti Village, Igboukwu, Aguata LGA of Anambra State, Nigeria
It is with joy and gladness that all of us gathered here today to celebrate the best cultural, tourism, economic, political, agricultural, ethnic and religious festival given to us by God through our great ancestor Igbo from the foundation of Igbo race and nation. The unity of any group of people is guaranteed by their culture which is a product of their religious belief.
Culture and religion are inseparable because one compliments the other. Any attempt to separate the duo means disaster for the other. Therefore, the way one is upheld makes the other to be relevant and vice versa. Our culture has come to stay and will be religiously celebrated in accordance with the spirit of our great ancestor Igbo. No one can validly deny Igbos of Nigeria their Iri Ji cultural celebrations within Christianity as our religion. Since Christianity has become an Igbo man religion it can no longer be separated from Igbo man culture without doing eternal damage to Igbo mans cultural belief.
We are grateful to the federal government who has elevated the festival to an international status and has contributed much to it in terms of packaging to reach international bench mark expected of a race festival because it is an identical and unique culture of a race in the world under the auspices of UNESCO. Therefore, Iri Ji Ndi Igbo National New Yam Festival has started playing its role as a cultural and tourism hub in the wheel of culture and tourism development of the entire south east zone of the country.
We call on all state governments in the South-East zone to leverage on this platform for their states culture and tourism potentials development and as a catalyst in the much needed improvement in the states Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). Anambra State government has taken the lead and others are expected to follow soon. This body is ever ready to partner with any state in the development of their culture and tourism master plan.
Besides, we are grateful to His Excellency, Chief Dr. Willie Obiano – Akpokuedike Global the Executive Governor of Anambra State who gave this body audience at Governors Lodge, Awka and gave us an unprecedented support towards packaging and showcasing of this year's events. His aid has helped us tremendously and we use this medium to declare our total support to his second term bid in office which he truly deserved for he has worked well for the state and indeed lgboland.
Among his numerous achievements was the creation of the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, Culture and Tourism which was the first of its kind in the whole of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This ministry is strategic because it gave the Igbos living outside their homeland voice and sense of belonging thereby achieving the spirit of APGA which uses "Onye aghana nwanne ya" as a slogan. This singular act has made him to be the leader of Igbos. In view of this we the Igbo people and race have decided to honour with a title of Onye Ndu Ndi Igbo (Igbo leader) from today onwards and our traditional rulers are expected to put their seal on this declaration today through conferment ceremony. Moreover, as a landmark of this historic conferment in the sands of time and history we will unveil your statue at the permanent festival arena of this national cultural festival of the Igbo race and nation. His Excellency, you are one of the great men which our race has produced and we are proud of you.
We are ever grateful to the great role played by the Hon. Barr. Stella Onuorah – the Honourable Commissioner of Diaspora Affairs, Culture and Tourism and Hon. Cyril Agupugo – the Senior Special Assistant Diaspora Affairs for their wonderful role in the planning of this year's festival.
To all the dignitaries who attended this festival, we are eternally grateful to you and your support. It is our own and everybody is a major stakeholder and we have the best in the country. We thank the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese whose Eze Muo dynasty has brought in many goodies for us and we are growing from strength to strength.
Furthermore, we are equally grateful to the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and all the Directors-General of this Federal Ministry for their support which knows no bound. Your support these years can never be in vain for it has helped us to improve a lot in the packaging of the festival.
Ndi Eze Ndi Igbo in Diaspora Council, HRH Eze Chukwuebuka Onunkwo - Eze Ndi Igbo Benin Republic and Traditional Prime Ministers Council Anambra State, Onowu Sir Anthony Enukeme JP – Onowu Neni has shown enough support to us and all of you have become our greatest ally. We will like you to maintain an office inside the National Yam House because you are also a stakeholder in the showcasing of this festival.
We humbly ask the Anambra State government to give this festival a befitting outlook by provision of the following:
- A functional and branded vehicle preferably Toyota Hummer Bus which other similar national festivals like Argungun and Osun Oshogbo has.
- Actualization of the Governors promise of tarring of the road that leads to the Yam House up to Ekwulumili High Way during this year's dry season.
- Energizing the Yam House with a Transformer.
- Support to rehabilitate our Secretariat and Office at Nkwo Igboukwu market which was set ablaze by the enemies of the State Government and where over four million naira worth of properties was destroyed.
We are ever grateful to Chief Dr. (Mrs.) Sally Mbanefo-Uwechue – Ona Mma Ndi Igbo - the Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) for bringing in the ambassadors of different countries of the world to this event. Majority of our people claim to have migrated from Schechem – a city in Israel; and we call on Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria to set up a commission to dig into this history of Igbo Israeli Origin and make known their findings. We are ready to collaborate with them in this historical research.
Finally, we will do our best to promote and showcase the traditions and cultures of our great ancestors and to use same to develop our base as a distinct race in the world. Until then may Ezechitaoke na Chukwuabiamaghi bless us in Jesus name. Amen!
Happy Iri Ji Ndi Igbo festival to all and sundry. Thanks
Mazi Okafouzu Ugochukwu
South East Zone