With a name like “Asusu Igbo Amaka”– “The Igbo language is beautiful” – there is no vagueness about the purpose of the annual award-cum-carnival conceptualized by Igboekulie, a Pan-Igbo socio-cultural group. The event’s major objective is the propagation of the Igbo language.
This cultural heritage initiative found a novel way of celebrating the beauty of the Igbo tongue: rewarding secondary school students that excelled in the Igbo language at the West African Examination Council (WAEC) Senior Secondary School Examination.
The third edition of the cultural fête was recently held in Owerri, Imo State capital, when a large crowd of the old and young converged at the Owerri Girls Secondary School, the event’s venue which was jam-packed by over 1000 students from at least 20 secondary schools from South-East states and traditional rulers from various communities.
The colourful occasion witnessed cultural displays by dance troupes that showcased popular Igbo dances including Atilogwu, Igba umu ogaranya and Ugo Eze, a royal dance typically performed by Igbo maidens. Highlights of the day included a rendition of the Igbo version of the national anthem, soulful Igbo songs, exciting poems, incisive proverbs and folklore, and captivating drama skits.
It was also a prize-winning occasion. Students who achieved academic excellence in Igbo Language in the 2019 WAEC Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination went home smiling. The star prize winner, Miss Ugochinyere Enenmoh of Marist Comprehensive College, Nteje, Anambra State, went home with N100, 000. Three other students ––Kingsley Adimonyemma from St. Paul Seminary Ukpor, Adaugo Enenmoh, also of Marist Comprehensive College and Miss Ifunanya Iwu from St. Paul’s High School, Osu, Isiala Mbano, Imo State––tied in second place in the national prize category were also rewarded.
The drive to promote Igbo culture via “Asusu Igbo Amaka”, according to Prince Ben Onuora, Igboekulie’s president, was borne out of the desire to avert UNESCO’s calamitous prediction that the Igbo language would be extinct in the next few years. “The Igbo language is our identity as a people; it defines who we are. Our parents bequeathed the Igbo language to us. It would be an act of monumental failure not to do the same to our children,” he said.
Citing Igbo as a national and international language, Onuora, explained the gravity of Igboekulie’s quest for the survival of the Igbo tongue: “I’m sure some of us have seen the trending video of hundreds of Chinese children being taught Igbo language by an Igbo lady in China. What about the numerous videos of a white lady called Nwanyiocha, or the ones of whites singing sonorous Igbo gospel songs in churches overseas? Is it not an irony