Posted by Pamela Eboh, Awka | 13 January 2015 | 5,329 times
The ceaseless clamour to celebrate the departed Igbo heroes of the Biafra-Nigeria Civil War and sporadic violence in parts of the country informed the decision of the Anambra State Government to organise their formal burial, Governor Willie Obiano has disclosed.
The solemn ceremony took place on Saturday (January 10) at the Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka.
Delivering a heart-melting address captioned “Ozoemezina: Memory and the Quest for Igbo Renaissance”, Governor Obiano explained that the event tagged Ozoemezina (May it not happen again) was held in response to endless calls from Ndigbo at home and abroad for a formal burial of their kith and kin who lost their lives in the Civil War and the endless cycles of violence that has bedeviled the country.
In an emotion-laden voice he recalled: “Thousands of these people died because they believed in the ideal of a united and strong Nigeria. Their death was borne out of courage because our people are bold and do not fear.
“Ndigbo are a great people whose entrepreneurial strength has taken all over the world in pursuit of wealth, creating opportunities, and empowering themselves.
“We are the owners of a proud history paved with pain and anguish and watered by the blood of the innocent. Hardly is there a family in this gathering without a story; a story of profound loss. But beside every story of loss sits a story of success; of glory and of abundance.
“Ndi Anambra, to the glory of God, we are not a people with a single story…we are a proud, intensely driven, hardworking, innovative, adventurous and forward-looking people with more gifts than the world can take.”
Chief Obiano stressed that the ceremony was not only the beginning of a long symbolic look backwards “but, beyond the immediate horizon of our national experience, to honour the memories of our loved ones who lost their lives to the various dark chapters of our national history.”
He added that in doing this, Ndigbo are guided by the belief that life itself is an unbroken stream of experiences stitched together by memory.
“Without memory, life assumes the attributes of a futile gaze into the void of time,” he said.
The governor further pointed out that it is an integral part of the Igbo culture to recall the events of the past as an important guide to the future, saying that the belief was encapsulated in the Igbo saying that Ncheta ka (Recall is supreme).
He likened the Igbo experience to that of the Jewish Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide, regretting that while those two extra-ordinary events in human history had been etched on global memory through a carefully directed effort, the response of Ndigbo to their own tragic history lacked boldness and organisation.
On the purpose of the formal burial accorded the fallen heroes and heroines, Obiano explained that Igbo culture upholds the centrality of burial as a crucial epilogue in the narrative of life.
He hailed Ndigbo as the inheritors of an uncommon valour which has paved way for them to climb over an awful experience and rebuild the broken walls of friendship that will open fresh doors of hope.
“We do this with ease because we are a people of the faith. We believe in the centrality of God in the affairs of men, we are bold enough to accept the cruel verdict of fate and bury our dead with fanfare,” he said.
The governor also said that with the ceremony, honour is accorded the dead in words and deeds adding that a final resting place where their memory will forever ruffle the leaves of time has been set aside.
In his words, “Today, as we lay down their memorial stones, we bring closure to the wanderings of our brothers and sisters whose great souls have yearned for the dignity of a formal burial over the last half century.”
Obiano used the occasion to call on Ndigbo to vote en-masse for President Goodluck Jonathan in the February 14 presidential elections saying that he represented the best hope for national integration and unity for the country.
He also urged them to vote for all the candidates standing election in various states of the federation on the platform of APGA.
Delivering a Homily at the Ecumenical Service held as part of the ceremony, the Catholic Bishop of Awka, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, hailed governor Obiano for the initiative which he said had enlarged the scope of the activities marking this year’s edition of the Armed forces Remembrance Day.
According to him, the event was special because patriotism was not only celebrated but also the sacrifice of life and limbs made by some members of the armed Forces in the various conflicts of the Nigerian Civil war, World Wars, the peace Missions to Congo, Darfur, etc, but also commemorating the civilians, especially Ndigbo, who lost their lives and property during the Nigerian-Biafran War and the various riots and insurgencies in Nigeria.
Bishop Ezeokafor pointed out that the identity of individuals and communities are tied up with the memories they keep alive through stories and celebrations.
He observed that the history of the modern Igbo nation cannot be complete without the narrative of the Nigerian-Biafran war.
“Recent events in Nigerian history would remain incomprehensible without knowledge of that war. It is therefore my view that efforts should be made to promote greater awareness of that pivotal event in our lives as Ndigbo and as Nigerians,” the bishop said.
Highlights of the event were the unveiling of the cenotaph for the fallen heroes and heroines, a parade by various local government areas that make up the state and socio-cultural groups who paid condolence visit to the Governor as the Chief Mourner. There was also an array of colourful display of masquerades as is typical of the burial ceremony of a wealthy Igbo personage.
Prominent personalities who graced the occasion included are Former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, and his wife, Beatrice; APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh; and Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Nkem Okeke.
Others included Speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly, Princess Chinwe Nwaebili; Secretary to the State Government, Oseloka Obaze; Chief of Staff to Governor Obiano, Prof. Joe Asike; Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Jnr., son of the late Biafran warlord, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu; as well as Civil War veterans, Col. Joe Achuzia, Col. Ben Gbulie, Col. E.M. Udeaja, and Col. Emma Nwobosi.
•Photo shows Governor Obiano laying a wreath during the reburial of Biafran heroes and heroines in Awka.
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