On behalf of the government and good people of Imo State, it is with great delight that I welcome you all to Owerri and indeed, Imo State, on the occasion of the 2019 Ahiajoku Festival and 40th Anniversary of the lecture series. I share with us all, the boundless joy at witnessing the restoration of this most cherished Igbo cultural and intellectual summit, after nearly a decade of abeyance. This year’s event acquires even a broader significance especially because of the presence of distinguished personalities from across the length and breadth of our country.
Ahiajoku, in Igbo cosmology, as you may wish to recall, was part of the pantheon of Igbo gods and goddesses. She was the goddess of cultivation, fertility and harvest. Like the Pantheon in Rome was transformed into a Christian monument. Today, the Ahiajoku, while losing its pagan core, has been recreated to retain its social essence as a unifying factor among the Igbo. Certainly, the Festival is no longer about cultivation and harvest. It has indeed, metamorphosed into a pan-Igbo intellectual harvest of sorts. It seeks to spotlight the contributions the Igbo have made and are still making to culture, civilization and humanity. The Festival is the celebration that accords formal recognition to a culture which as Igbo people, we were almost in danger of losing. It further creates a context for serious reflection on the profound cultural values of the Igbo people.
The Ahiajoku Festival is intended to provide a veritable platform for defining the core tenets of Igbo culture in relation to the larger corpus of Nigerian culture, Africa and world civilization. It also seeks to provoke and encourage scholars to undertake relevant researches on Igbo Culture in relation to the Igbo world view and overall human development. According to Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” At Ahiajoku, the Igbo people seek to examine their life, their fortunes and their culture. The Lecture Series, you would all agree with me, was and still is, the apex Igbo intellectual convention of our time. The light kindled during the discourses radiated far beyond the shores of Nigeria. Since the event was founded four decades ago, it has provided a veritable platform for intellectual and cultural “Ita Nti” or caucus, among the Igbos.