By Deborah Uzoma
Despite the ravaging End SARS/SWAT times the country came out of, the ambience of the Whelan Research Academy Owerri-Wetheral, was surreal and the audience was elitist on the evening of Sunday 18th October 2020.
The Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, Imo state Chapter monthly reading was remarkably co-joined with Fr Anthony Njoku’s Igbo poetry competition which saw Nnenna Ihebom emerge as the winner with her Igbo poem titled “Gbaghara ji, Gbaghara ede.”
In a state of estacy, Mrs Nnenna Ihebom appreciated Fr Njoku for putting up his kind gesture which she termed as an intellectual contest for Igbo people. She remarked that if Governor Hope Uzodinma would mistakenly release two million naira for Igbo writing competition, the turn up would be massive and impressive just like she met people who have not written in Igbo language during the competition read their poems.
She added that incentive is the drive for action and called on spirited individuals to toe the line of Fr.Njoku in ensuring that Igbo language does not go into extinction.
Nnenna Ihebom has authored many Literary books both in English and Igbo language.Her monolingual Igbo Dictionary titled Ókówata was published in 2016.
In his opening remarks, the Chairman of ANA Imo, Chief Dr. Celestine Ibezute appreciated all that came for the programme. He called for more participation in the writing and speaking of Igbo language while thanking Fr. Njoku for opening such a great feat.
The ANA Chair assured that the association would work with Fr. Njoku to ensure that the Igbo competition continues in the subsequent reading sessions and called for more participants to write and read poetry in Igbo.
Dr Ibezute also called for membership on authors and aspiring writers to join the association which he described as a vibrant industry that supports different talents in the writing world.
Before the contestants read from their poems, the host, Reverend Fr Anthony Njoku who doubles as the Directorate of the Whelan Research Academy Owerri revealed that overtime, many Igbo indigenes find it difficult to speak and write fluently in Igbo language.
Fr. Njoku noted that the competition is aimed at creativity and talent in many ways: arts, poetry, songs, stories etc which he disclosed that Whelan Research Academy has been saddled with. He commended the efforts of the Arch Bishop AVC Obinna of the Catholic Diocese Owerri in ensuring that Igbo language does not go into extinction. Impressed by the entries and the Igbo entertainers, “this is a way to promote Igbo language and to ensure that we have an Igbo Anthology.”
There was an interactive session as audience probed into the readings and theatrical presentations of non competitors.
Dr Ben Igbokwe, an Igbo lecturer of the Directorate of General Studies in Federal University of Technology Owerri, FUTO explained that competitions of such are healthy for academic growth, while highlighting that nature of poetry, rhyme, figures of speech, delivery, thematic relevance, didactism and spellings were looked into among the competitors.
Dr Ben added that Literature allows poetic licence and encourages every Igbo person to write and speak Igbo.
In the same vein, Mrs Chinwe Onyemma- ngharamike of the English Language Department of Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri, emphasised on the importance of our native language; the richness in speaking and writing it especially with events as it unfolds in our contemporary times without forgetting the Literary periods.
Ngharamike pointed out that the judging was not bias but was under the right marking scheme and called on every writer to possess the same talent of writing in Indegenous language.
She confessed ” I had A1 in Igbo, if I knew what I know today, I would have studied Igbo language in the University honestly. For the next reading, me, I am going to write in Igbo”
The intellectual discourse was graced by His Royal Highness Eze Felix I. Njoku, Ogaraku II of Logara autonomous Community Ngor Okpala LGA of Imo state.
While : Nnena Ihebom emerged winner of the competition, Obilor Chidiebere, Achonulo Chidiebere, Deborah Uzoma, Obiageri Tessy Francis Ofoegbu, ABC Chineke and Chimeziri Ogbedite amongst others participated.
Notably, their would be another competition at the same venue which will be used to mark the Association’s end of the year party after their return from National Convention taking place in Kwara State from December, 3 to 6, ,2020.