Igbo nation came to limelight in 2017, perhaps much more prominently and in the positive light more than any other time since the end of the Biafra War. Rising protests for the emancipation of Biafra and release of its heroes took the lead across the globe, while two major Igbo organisations, the Igbo Awareness Movement(IAM) and the World Igbo Summit Group in two separate cities had summits to discuss the future of the Igbo people in Nigeria.
There is also the revival of the Nnechukwu Cultural and Spiritual Festival that was spearheaded by traditional enthusiasts like Ozo Okonkwo Ezi, including a rising interest in Igbo cultures and traditions across the globe, enhanced by a growing awareness on the social media.
But one area where the Igbo also shot into was the Igbo Awards and Lolo Igbo Pageant, both of which celebrates Igbo sons and daughters and also, rewarded young women who showed proficiency in knowledge of the ways of the Igbo.
Organized by Vine Shield Limited, the events, which passed through a period of auditions and planning came to a crux on the 25th of November, 2016 at the Dome Events Centre, Enugu.
Speaking to the audience in his welcome speech, which was rendered in Igbo language, Mazi Stanley Okoronkwo elucidated on the importance of the events and the different events that would be held “Igbo Awards is organized to give rewards to Igbo sons and daughters who have, in one way or other, promoted Igbo through their creativity. This is the second edition of the event, which also include the Lolo Igbo Pageant, which in itself is a competition.
“In the pageant, the winner will go home with a brand new car. There shall also be five runners-up, and they shall each represent the five states of the South East. They shall be given consolation cash prizes.
“In addition to these events, there also was the essay competition across universities and secondary schools, and winners in the essay competition were given prizes too.
“The essay competitions are instituted in the name of two great Igbo writers and promoters of culture trough essay writing, Mazi FC Ogbalu and HRH Eze SM Ahamba. The title of the essay is ‘Neglect of Igbo language and culture, and how to promote them”.
The event, which began at about 3 pm, was a total showcasing of Igbo culture, music, and general lifestyle. The contestants at the pageant were not there to show beauty only, but proficiency in Igbo methods. Each represented what women did, and they include traditional medicine, trade, divination, cooking, and others.
In its address to the audience, Enugu State Government said that it is committed to the promotion of Igbo culture, tradition and values in order to preserve its highly prized heritage.
Deputy Governor of the state, Mrs Cecelia Ezeilo said this at the Awards and Pageant where she was represented by Hon Mrs Ola Uzoukwu, SPA to the governor on Diaspora Matters and Special Duties, who crowned the winner of the 2016/17 Loolo Igbo pageant.
Ezeilo stated that the Igbo nation is rich in culture, tradition and history, which has given it a very strong base for the sustenance of its moral values.
The Deputy Governor also used the opportunity to call on the contestants, winners and losers alike not to be discouraged by the results, but to use whatever experience they have gathered to be ambassadors of the Igbo Heritage.
She enjoined the new Loolo and the winners of the five states of the South East not to relent in their efforts to revive the cultural values which have been upheld by Ndi Igbo from the ages.
Some of those who were honored in the awards include Professor Barth Nnaji, Archbishop Olisaemeka Chukwuma, Pete Edochie, Mike Ejeagha and Steven Uwaezuoke.
Others include comedian, Uche Ogbuagu, radio broadcasters Steve ‘Yaw’ Onu and Metche Moses, gospel artiste Amaka Okwuoha(Chioma Jesus), and market leader, Mrs Ezenwa Agunobi Ifeyinwa.
Two politicians honored include Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and Senator Ike Ekweremmadu.
Two people were also given posthumous awards, HRH, Late SM Ahamba and Late FC Ogbalu.
Guests at the event include Dr Dozie Ikedife, Chiefs and traditional rulers, Prof Pita Ejiofor, Ahamba, and other great Igbo personalities. Of course, the awardees and their families, except for a few were present to receive their prizes.
Those who clinched the prizes for the essay competition include Adaeze Juliana Opara of Imo State University, Owerri, who won the Ahamba University Igbo Literary Competition, while Chikamma Queen Iheme was the runner-up.
For the Ogbalu Secondary School Igbo Literary Competition, Umelo Ezinne came tops, with Ulaegbu Mary Cynthia coming directly behind her.
The Lolo Igbo Pageant was closely contested by 30 contestants, who came out to showcase reasons why they should be declared winner.
Okoronkwo, while presenting the award to Pete Edochie said “wherever you go in this world, there is an image of Igbo. It’s the face of Pete Edochie that represents the face of the Igbo man.
That’s why Igbos have said that you will be honored in life, and be given this award. Continue what you are doing, that’s a good prayer. The fire given to a child to hold cannot burn him.
Responding, Edochie however, frowned at some of the performances of the contestants, arguing that Igbo women do not perform such according to the traditions of the people “what some of these ladies did today are not what women do in Igbo society, please improve on it. It’s does not portray what we are”.
He also gave a brief lecture on the dos and donts among Igbo women “A woman does not break the kolanut in Igboland. A woman does not hold the sacred staff(Oji) in Igboland. What some of you did is only staining our traditional heritage. Igwe said it, by the grace of God, I doubt if there’s any face as popular as that of Pete Edochie as the Igbo face.This is because of what we have achieved in movie making. Once you are dressed in a red cap and the Isi Agu dress, they will ask if you know Pete Edochie. It makes me happy. Above all, there is a place an image of me was built in the United States, if you stand by that image and snap a shot, you pay eight dollars. There is no one else made like that”.
“In Igbo culture, it’s an adult that stretches his hand to shake the child, never the other way around. It’s not our tradition to shake a woman’s hand. This is because our women touches us dearly, and so when they come close, we touch them on the body,more we embrace them, so that they will know how dear they are to us. You don’t stretch your hand and shake them. As a woman, you also do not say, Igbo kwenu, it’s forbidden. Only men do that”.
The Loolo Pageant was the last of the events where results were presented. At the end, Choice Onyeka Amajuoyi came tops as the overall winner, going home with a brand new car