BEING AN ADDRESS BY THE GOVERNOR OF ANAMBRA STATE, HIS EXCELLENCY, GOVERNOR WILLIE OBIANO ON THE OCCASION OF THE SYMBOLIC MEMORIAL CEREMONY FOR NDIGBO THAT PAID THE SUPREME SACRIFICE FOR NATIONAL UNITY, JANUARY 12, 2015
Ndi Anambra ekenem unu!
Nke onye chilli ya zelu o!
My brothers and sisters, today is a great day in our collective memory. Today, we begin the symbolic effort of casting a long look backwards, 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. In doing this, we are guided by our 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! Now before I go any further, let us observe a moment of silence in honour of our brothers and sisters in whose shadows we stand here today.
The Place of memory in Igbo Worldview
Umunnem, as is the case with the worldview of other great nations, Memory occupies a pre-eminent place in the Igbo worldview. Our ancestors believed that a people without memory have absolutely no future. To underscore the significance of memory, they handed us the concept of Ncheta ka – “recall is supreme.” They silently nudged us to realize that life presents us with a diversity of experiences and out of this menu are touchstones that should guide us into the future. These wise ancestors also gave us the philosophy of Onye ayana nwanneya – be your brother’s keeper; which has become the philosophy of our great party – APGA. With this, we are constantly reminded that life’s most enduring experiences are usually shared as a group and that these experiences, though traumatic sometimes; should strengthen our bonds of brotherhood.
My brothers and sisters, we are not alone on this. History presents us with a long list of ethnicities and nations that have risen through horrific experiences to strengthen their ties of brotherhood and re-affirm their humanity through symbolic events like the one we have gathered here today to perform.
Contemporary World Experiences
Ndi Anambra, anyone who is familiar with contemporary world history can liken our efforts here today to Jewish efforts to honour the memory of the Holocaust as well as the recent efforts to commemorate the Rwandan Genocide in Kigali. In the Jewish example, we see the firm resolve of the world Jewry to ensure that the tragic history of the Holocaust is permanently etched on human memory; that the world never forgets! Many major cities in Europe and America have a Holocaust Memorial; built to perpetuate the memory of about six million Jews that died in the waves of anti-Semitism that swept through the world at the time.
Instructively the people of Rwanda have quickly recovered from the genocide that marked the Hutu and Tutsi conflict of the early 90s to build an ambitious economy. They have erected the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre which opened in April 2004 to perpetuate that memory, renew their pact with their past and solemnly declare to themselves and say – Never Again! Sadly, although we share a similar experience with the Rwandese, our attitude to the memory of that sad experience has lacked boldness and organized response.
The Igbo Experience
Umu nnem, it is a thing of pride to be onye Anambra. We are indeed a remarkable people. However, throughout history, there has always been a prize to pay for greatness. Our natural disposition to seek wealth-creating opportunities in known and unknown places across the world and support the local economy with our famed energy has made us imminent targets of conflicts that we had no hand in fomenting.
Ndi Anambra, happily, our brave spirit has helped us navigate the minefields of this experience. We have become one of the most successful black people in the world. We have set high standards in literature, business, the academia, science, information technology, entertainment and nearly every field of human endeavour.
Umu-nnem, 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!
Umu-nnem we are the inheritors of an uncommon valour! This brave spirit inspires us to live above the common level. We are quick to climb over the pains of an awful experience and rebuild 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. Our culture upholds the centrality of “burial” as a crucial epilogue in the narrative of life.
It is this belief that prompted many citizens of this state to approach me, at the inception of this administration, with a request for a formal burial of our brethren who died in the pogroms, the civil war and the World War II. Thousands of these people died because they believed in the ideal of a united and strong Nigeria. They died courageously because our people do not acknowledge fear.
Today, we honour them in words and deeds. We offer them a final resting place; a sanctuary where their memory will forever ruffle the leaves of time. 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.
Today, as we light our candles and whisper our silent prayers to ease their passage to eternity, we cleanse ourselves of the pain of their death and plant the trees of forgiveness in their memory. And in doing this; we open a new page of a brighter history for our people.
Umu nnem, in my inaugural address, I informed Ndigbo that the time had come for us to climb over the recriminations of the past and build new bridges of understanding across Nigeria. I argued that if our ancestors sacrificed so much to create Nigeria, we must not sacrifice any less to rebuild this country. I also re-emphasized my belief that our future as a people is better guaranteed in a united, indivisible Nigeria. Ladies and gentlemen, that is why we must all vote for Dr Goodluck Azikiwe Ebele Jonathan in the Presidential Election that will hold next month. Among the candidates running for the Presidency, Dr. Goodluck Azikiwe Jonathan offers Nigeria the best chance at national integration and unity. So, we must vote for him. We must also vote for all the candidates standing election on the platform of APGA here in Anambra and other states. We must sweep every available position in Anambra State and win the gubernatorial election in Imo, Abia, Ebonyi and Zamfara States. Ladies and gentlemen, this is APGA’s year of self-actualization and we must grab it with both hands.
Ndi Anambra, my administration is committed to lifting up the standards of our shared experience. We shall continue our bold efforts to ensure that we are not only united in times of adversity and grief but in times of victories and peace. With this ceremony, I urge you to mourn no more but rather, celebrate the bravery of these great spirits who lost their lives yesterday that we may find peace today!
Brothers and sisters, this is the essence of our being here today. This is the spirit behind Ozoemezina…never again!
May we all rise and say Ozoemezina! Ozoemezina!! Ozoemezina!!!
Never! Never!! Never again!!!
Chief Willie Obiano
Governor, Anambra State