The CEO of Africa Business World Mazi Okechukwu Oranika spoke with President Chief Stanley Onyedum about their organization ICOTTH USA and the new Igbo Language Preservation Festival, a joint initiative between ICOTTH and ABW. Here below is the interesting and exciting interview
ABW: Chief Onyedum welcome to Africa Business World VIP interview series. We are glad you can talk to us in this exclusive ABW interview.
Chief Onyedum: Thank you very much. The honor is mine.
ABW: Congratulations for your election as the new President of Igbo Council of Traditional Title Holders (ICOTTH-USA), succeeding our good friend and ICOTTH USA founder Chief. Dr Hyacinth Nwachukwu
Chief Onyedum: Thank you . I served as the National Vice President of ICOTTHUSA for 4 years, under Chief Nwachukwu. We worked very well together, and I gave the best I could give as a Vice President .
ABW: What year was ICOTTH USA founded and how much progress has been made by your organization?
Chief Onyedum: ICOTTHUSA was founded on April 15, 2011, under the leadership of Chief Hyacinth Nwachukwu in Baltimore , Maryland . During the, inauguration ceremony, eight Royal fathers were flown in from Nigeria to grace the occasion. As for the progress that we have made since it’s inception, nothing in life comes easy. So nobody should expect ICOTTHUSA to be different from any other thing in life. We have been through tough times and also through good times as well. But one thing for sure, is that ICOTTH is blessed with the best and the brightest men of Igboland, drawn from all fields of academic and professional endeavors. So , whenever we run into any type of problems, there will always be some experts to solve them.
ABW: Can you cease the opportunity to tell the Igbo World about the general goals and objectives of ICOTTH USA
Chief Onyedum: . ICOTTHUSA has many objectives, but I will only state some here
* To extend and strengthen relationships among Igbo traditional title holders wherever they exist. *To develop and utilize individual and collective efforts of Igbo traditional title holders in advancing the general welfare and best interest of the council.
*To foster all possible all possible means of keeping all Igbo title holders informed about the council, it’s progress and challenges as they affect Igbo custom and tradition.
*To encourage the formation of town/community organizations hence they serve as the foundation of Igbo heritage and values and making sure they speak with one voice in matters of public interest.
*To liaise with the southeast council of traditional Rulers and Ohaneze Ndigbo and World Igbo Council (WIC) in promoting matters of mutual interest in Igbo land.
ABW: My association with ICOTTH goes back to about 4 years ago when I met Chief Dr. Nwachukwu, and discussed the ideas we were working at that time in CISA regarding an initiative for CISA to host the Igbo World Arts Festival. I was in charge of Planning the festival at that time and indeed extended an invitation to ICOTTH USA to attend. I was very impressed with the response I got from ICOTTH which came with many of their Chiefs to grace the event. That single act by ICOTTH left a very positive impression on my mind about the quality of your organizational membership, which indeed supported the event both culturally, morally and in financial terms. Any reflections on this?
Chief Onyedum: Yes, I remember it vividly. Chief Nwachukwu informed us of it. He mentioned how hard you worked to make the CISA Igbo World festival event a big success. The following year, I came and saw things myself, and also met you in person during the grand finale of the event, that was where I noticed your organizational expertise, and could not say no when Chief Nwachukwu suggested partnering with you. I am glad we did.
ABW: Thanks for your kind words. Your election came at a critical juncture with respect to the joint partnership between ICOTTH USA and ABW for promotion and Preservation of Igbo Language and Culture. What are your thoughts about this joint partnership and the goals and objectives which we are seeking to address?
Chief Onyedum: You see, I have served Igbo community all my adult life, here in Baltimore and in Nigeria. You may have heard about “World Igbo Council” (WIC). We founded that organization about 22years ago, with people like- Chief Laurence Onyekwere, Chief Patrick Nwakuba, Mr. Collins Ezewihe, Dr. Mathew Uzoukwu, Dr. Ebube Odunukwe, Honorable Benneth Akpa , to name a few. I was Baltimore chapter treasurer, and Inspector general on board/ national level. We fought like hell to achieve dual citizen status for all Nigerians, sometimes we go covert to make sure we protect Igbo interest.
I think partnering with you is the best thing that happened to Igbo community at this time. With your expert knowledge and media, we are able reach the world.
In the past we used to celebrate new yam festival . But this year we are able combine it with this historic event –“Mbulite Asusu n’omenala Igbo na Iri ji ,2016” This move is beneficial to the Igbo community as a whole and would help to redirect attention of Ndigbo on the declining usage of Igbo Language and what we need to do about this problem.
ABW: Can you tell us who can join ICOTTH we anticipate that this interview may generate lots of interest in joining your organization. What are the specific requirements for joining?
Chief Onyedum: * Membership to ICOTTHUSA is open to all traditional titled men of Igboland.
*Any son of Igboland that accepts a traditional title outside his own local community must of necessity present a letter of acceptance or recognition of such title by his own communities’ traditional ruler.
* Any Igbo man that accepts a traditional title and becomes a member, both financially and regular in attendance of at least ¾ of scheduled meetings ,including emergency meetings. Anything short of the above enumerated conditions attracts fine or expulsion.
ABW: Chief Onyedum Igbo language and Culture is on decline, and you know our people are always in denial about this reality. Most Igbos prefer to hold conversations in English language. I know some people might say what about you that is myself who is conducting this interview in English. I am doing so to drive the point home because many Igbos reading this interview sadly are not capable of reading written Igbo language which I often write in. That is a shame to say the least.We have heard stories that some parents and even teachers in Igboland encourage their kids and students to communicate only in English language What are your thoughts about this serious problem?
Chief Onyedum: Yes . You are right that Igbo language is on the decline. We, the Igbos do need to consult oracles to tell us why. Since we Igbos “ hapuru ara nne anyi n’anu akpu osisi” the language will continue to decline. We Igbos are the only ethnic group that says , “ofe nne anyi siri adighi uto”. This is why we would prefer to communicate in other peoples languages than ours.
Regarding you writing your messages in English, you write for the world – as your name ( ABW), It is only natural that you should write the language that your audience would understand. My advice to all Igbo man / woman is to start speaking Igbo language at home, so that our children can pick them up . I practice what I preach. Let other people do same.
ABW: Thanks for making this point, I would also add that I often translate some of my writings in Igbo and our company ABW has integrated Google Igbo Language Translator with our website (www.africabusinessworld.com) so that any Igbo can convert any and all our contents into Igbo Language. This is another way ABW is supporting efforts to keep Igbo Language alive. Our joint initiative, “Igbo Language Preservation and Iri Ji Cultural festival” (Mbulite na Ikwado Asusu na Omenala Ndigbo” which is scheduled for August 5-7th at Coppin State University in Baltimore Maryland has gained global publicity through ABW posts and other publications by ICOTTH USA members. This is the first Festival ever organized in the Igbo Diaspora dedicated to the issue of Igbo language and cultural preservation. What can you tell Ndigbo about the importance of this cultural festival and hence reasons for them to attend this event?
Chief Onyedum: The importance of this event is this: If we do not create this awareness, who will do it for us. Our ancestors will be turning in their graves by now on hearing that the language they handed over to us is about to go extinct. Obu na Mgbeke amaghi akpu,ka obu na Aguba adighi nko? Where have we gone wrong? These are some of the questions we should be asking ourselves. So please I am asking all Igbo to come out and join this crusade, so that we can prevent our language from going extinct, because there is no Igbos without our language.
ABW: Well said, Do you have any suggestions on ways to increase the usage of Igbo Language by Igbos who are not aware of the negative consequences of them choosing English as a preferred medium for most if not all their discussions.
Chief Onyedum: Yes, my recommendation is for every Igbo household to make it a point of duty to be speaking Igbo language at home. I do same in my home. My children understand and speak Igbo at home. Another way is, if we meet a young Igbo child on the way or in a gathering, we greet or try to communicate with him/her in Igbo language. I think this will go a long way in teaching our young ones the importance of our language.
ABW: In closing we like to give you opportunity to make your closing remarks about contributions of ICOTTH USA towards upholding our beautiful Igbo Language, Culture and Traditions
Chief Onyedum: Nkwa anyi bu Ndi ICOTTH n’ekwe Ndigbo bu na anyi agaghi ezu ike rue mgbe Umu Igbo nile bidoro suwa asusu Igbo otu okwesiri. We shall also make this event a yearly event, until Igbo language becomes a part of every Igbo household.
ABW: Yes ABW is in with ICOTTH and many other Igbo organizations in the Diaspora joining this effort and movement. Chief Onyedum we at ABW thank you sincerely for your leadership at ICOTTH, and we also thank ICOTTH founder Chief Nwachukwu whose vision also contributed significantly to the development and evolution of this event. We thank the rank and file members of ICOTTH and wish you the best during your tenure as President of ICOTTH USA. Thanks for granting us this exclusive interview.
Chief Onyedum: Thank you so much Prof. Oranika. Our joint partnership is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
ABW: Good Bye and Remain Blessed. “Asusu na omenala Igbo amaka anyi nile ga ejiko obi onu were mee ihe anyi kwesiri ime iji bulite asusu na omenala Igbo enu”
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