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NINLAN Boss Decries Get Rich Quick Syndrome at Odenigbo Lecture 2023

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NINLAN Boss Decries Get Rich Quick Syndrome at Odenigbo Lecture 2023

… Urges Ndi Igbo to be proud of Igbo Language

By Jideofor Ugwanyi, Aba

Since its inception in 1996, the Odenigbo Lecture Series founded by His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony J. V. Obinna (Archbishop Emeritus of Owerri) has grown rapidly over the years into an undying bastion of Igbo language and culture within and outside the nation.

The year’s Odenigbo Lecture tagged, ‘Akwa a na Ebere Ego, ‘Uru na Oghom di na Ya’ was epoch-making.

It was delivered by the Executive Director of National Institute for Nigerian Languages ( NINLAN), Aba, Prof. Obiajulu Augustine Emejulu, KSS, a renowned Professor of Communication and Language Arts at Obiri Odenigbo Villa, Assumpta, Owerri on Saturday, September 2, 2023.


Prof. Obiajulu Augustine Emejulu, KSS, (Executive Director of National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN), Aba and ODEE 2023
Prof. Obiajulu Augustine Emejulu, KSS, (Executive Director of National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN), Aba and ODEE 2023

The theme of the ground-breaking lecture was apt and thought-provoking.

It raised grave concern on the dirty things people do nowadays in a bid to get rich quick as well as the relegation of Igbo language to the background in the nation.

In his fascinating 109-page lecture, Prof. Obiajulu Augustine Emejulu expressed profound gratitude to God for his choice as this year’s Odenigbo lecturer (ODEE 2023).

He paid glowing tribute to His Grace, Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji (Archbishop of Owerri) for choosing him as the first Odenigbo lecturer since he became the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri last year.

He described it as uncommon and very surprising since the beginning of Odenigbo Lecture Series considering the fact that the name of the Odenigbo lecturer for 2023 had already been announced prior to his emergence as the new Archbishop of Owerri.

He also appreciated in a very special way the founder of Odenigbo Lecture Series, His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony J. V. Obinna (Archbishop Emeritus of Owerri) for his profound love and encouragement over the years.

He lauded all the Odenigbo lecturers both living and dead for their immense contributions to the super success story of the Odenigbo Lecture Series organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, which today has become the highest lecture in Igbo Language throughout the world.

He commended Prof. Emmanuel Nwanolue Emenanjo, a renowned Igbo language and Linguistics scholar who delivered the maiden Odenigbo Lecture on September 7, 2023 with the theme: ‘Olumefula: Asusu Igbo na Ndu Ndi Igbo (My Voice Should not get lost, the Igbo Language and the Igbo’, Prof. Chinua Achebe, (Echi di Ime: Taa bu Gboo, 1999), the founder of Odenigbo Lecture Series, Archbishop Anthony J. V. Obinna (Ujunwa: Anuri Uwa Nile, 2000), Prof. Dora Akunyili (Ogwudire: Ezinka na Nruru Aka, 2007), Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, then Bishop of Umuahia (Nzuko Kristi: Njikota Chukwu na Mmadu, 2012), Prof. Barth Nnaji: (Omenka: Ncheputa na Mmeputa, 2016) among others.

Prof. Obiajulu Augustine Emejulu did justice to the all important lecture that affects Ndi Igbo and all mankind by dissecting it into different strands as well as explaining more fully the keywords of the lecture such as ‘Akwa’, ‘Ego’, ‘Uru’, ‘Oghom’ among others for a clearer understanding of the topic to the admiration of the unprecedented turnout.

According to the distinguished professor and illustrious son of Awka-Etiti in Idemili South local government area of Anambra State, everything in life today is all about money and everyone – man, woman, boy or girl hustles for money by fire by force or ‘anya obara’ in Igbo parlance as if it is compulsory that everyone must be rich.

He described the desperate struggle for money as a disease afflicting mankind in which no one is left out.

He said that people do so many terrible things today to get money ranging from killing their fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, in-laws, friends, enemies to stealing, kidnapping, drug trafficking, internet fraud popularly known as yahoo-yahoo among others.

He wondered why people could go to such extent in a bid to get money or be rich?

He traced the calamity that has befallen all mankind to undue prominence given to money in the society to the extent that so many people now worship money as God.

He said that money is man-made and should not be elevated to the level that it now rules the world.

He regretted that the present generation has jettisoned the popular Igbo maxim, ‘Adighi achu uwa n’ike’ (slow and steady wins the race) and embraced the current trend of the end justifies the means (ocha ocha kpute, ochaghi acha gbute) in their mad rush for money.

Prof. Obiajulu Emejulu revealed that research has shown that people who are driven by excessive ambition to be rich may eventually get rich but would still not be happy and satisfied and continue to strive for more and more until they get into trouble whereas those who work hard to get money through legitimate means live longer.

Prof. Obiajulu Emejulu said that money in itself is not bad or to be blamed for the bad things people do to get it and urged all and sundry to work hard for money and be contented with whatever amount of money they have.

On the other hand, Prof. Obiajulu Emejulu charged Ndi Igbo not to allow Igbo language and culture to die.

He urged them to always speak Igbo language in their various homes and wherever they are.

He noted with dismay that Igbo people have lost their identity and heritage to westernization and enjoined all hands to be on deck so as to revive and sustain it.

In this chat with Jideofor Ugwanyi, Signal Publisher at Ekeoha Shopping Centre, Aba, Prof. Obiajulu Emejulu, the popular, amiable, humble, forthright, quintessential, God-fearing and indefatigable Executive Director of National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN), Aba and ODEE 2023 bares his mind on the Odenigbo Lecture 2023. Excerpts.

Sir, let us meet you.
I am Prof. Obiajulu Emejulu, the Executive Director of National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN), Aba.

How do you feel about your choice as the Odenigbo lecturer 2023?
I am so happy and grateful to God for the elevation.

Can you tell us briefly what the theme of the lecture is all about?
The theme was chosen by the Archbishop of Owerri, His Grace, Most Rev. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji. It was tagged, ‘Akwa a na Ebere Ego: Uru na Oghom di na ya’.
So many things in this world have advantages and disadvantages. If you do good, you would receive the reward but if you do bad you would suffer the consequence here on earth and hereafter. Money is good. For example, here at the popular Ekeoha Shopping Centre, Aba where you are interviewing me now, the traders are here to make money. So all of them are struggling for money. The struggle for money (Akwa a na Ebere Ego) is not bad. ‘Akwa a na Ebere Ego’ does not mean that you have to cry to get money.j No. It is figurative. It is hustling for money (Igba mbo). You must struggle to get money. And when you eventually get money that means that you have really struggled well and you use that money to do something good, to serve God, help others, take good care of yourself and your family and so on. That is to say that money is useful to you. But some people are desperate to be rich overnight and do so many terrible things to actualize their ambition. So many of them kill, steal, kidnap, traffic drugs or indulge in 419 or yahoo-yahoo (internet fraud) and so on. In the past so many people were sold as slaves because of money. We thought that time had gone. But surprisingly, today, in this 21st century people are being kidnapped and sold for money. All these things are bad and what has giving rise to it is desperation to be rich by all means. And when they get the money at last in the bottom of their heart, they do not have peace because they know the sordid things they did to be rich. Some people have sold their heart to the Devil and can do anything today just to get money or for their name to ring bell in the society. So ‘Akwa a na Ebere Ego’ has advantages and disadvantages. But our prayer to God is for all of us to join those who are rich in a good or legitimate way. And when we get money, we should not forget that it is a blessing from God and use it to serve both God and humanity because if you make money in a clean way and do not use it to serve God and humanity it is incomplete. And in that my lecture, I went down the memory lane to reveal how our forefathers pursued money during their time down to the coming of the Europeans to Nigeria, the nation’s Independence, the fall of the First Republic, the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War and so on. So I x-rayed ‘Akwa a na Ebere Ego’ at various times in the history of the nation to really bring to the fore the various ways people struggled to get money then and now.

Why is it that the present generation do so many bad things to get money?
The truth is that there is no time there was no crime or evil in the world and there is no time there was no good thing too. When God created the universe, He said, “Let us make man in our own image”. And He made man (Adam) from dust. And shortly after God said that it is not good for man to be alone and He created Eve and told them to have dominion over every living thing in the universe. But God warned them not to eat the forbidden fruit stressing that the day they eat it they would die. They continued enjoying themselves and after sometime, the Devil came and tempted Eve. Eve fell and when Adam came back, she gave him the fruit and he took it and ate and both of them sinned against God. And since then there had been sin, suffering and death and people do all sorts of bad things. For example, Cain killed his brother, Abel. There was a time people were selling others, invaded cities and took some people captives who they later sold as slaves. Some people also poisoned others and took their property. But there were also good people then who worked hard to make money. There was also a great change following the advent of Christianity in Nigeria and it put an end to the killing of twins and human sacrifice. Some of the bad practices then stopped and we had a proper understanding of God and people did everything with the fear of God. After the civil war, it appeared as if some people were in a hurry to recoup all they lost during the civil war. Again, scientific innovations and technological breakthroughs have opened the eyes of the people. Like the handset. It was not there before but today the story has changed. The world is so deep and our knowledge both of good and bad has increased. Like the handset it is good and bad also. People use it to commit heinous crimes. Nowadays, if some people try the good way of life and it did not work out well for them, they would switch over to the bad side of life or fast lane without wasting time. That is why it appears as if sin, wickedness, crime and other terrible things are increasing everyday.

Prof, what is the way out?
Knowledge and understanding of God is the answer. If you acknowledge the existence of evil or bad thing and know that you do not want to practice it, you would start on time to avoid it. But today, so many people have failed to realize that hard-work brings success (Aka aja aja na ebute onu mmanu mmanu). If you are well brought up by your parents, when you go for apprenticeship or elsewhere your good character would be visible to all and sundry. And when you are eventually settled, assuming you are an apprentice, you would know how to endure hardship, resist temptation and manage your own business successfully. Again, we should strive to know the truth including the ones we are taught in the church, school and our various homes and apply it in our lives and those we relate with. We should imitate good people and also muster the courage to tell wrong doers to desist from their bad conduct. We should bear good fruit wherever we are, be it the church, school or market. And it must start in every home. Charity begins at home (Amara nma n’ulo puta na ama, nma echie ebe nile, ma ajoro njo si n’ulo puta ama, njo echie ebe nile’.

How would you rate the impact of Odenigbo Lecture Series in Igbo Land and beyond over the years?
The Odenigbo Lecture Series started in 1996. First and foremost, I am discussing with you now in Igbo language. You are asking me questions in Igbo and I am responding in Igbo language also. That is one of the achievements of Odenigbo Lecture. Again, the good news of salvation is being preached in Igbo Language. So the main goals of Odenigbo Lecture, which holds on the first Saturday of September every year is to promote the growth of Igbo language and culture in the nation and the world at large as well as to propagate the good news of salvation in our own native language. It is for the edification and unity of Igbo people in Nigeria and in the Diaspora. Odenigbo aims at reawakening the consciousness of the Igbo man to his rich cultural heritage, which is fast diminishing or becoming extinct. The white missionaries who brought Christianity to us out of ignorance branded everything in Igbo culture as fetish and pagan. As a result, our people became ashamed to identify with Igbo language and culture and our collective identity as Ndi Igbo suffered serious setback. English language is not our mother tongue. The day God created English language, He also created Igbo and other languages in the world. So why is it that we would abandon our own language and use other people’s language in everything we do? If you come to the public and speak English language people would hail you but if you venture to speak Igbo language people would pretend as if nothing happened. Why? So the most important lesson of Odenigbo Lecture Series is for Ndigbo to understand that Igbo language is very important and as good as other languages in the world. There is no language in the world that is better than Igbo language because God created Igbo language the way He created other languages. We are supposed to be proud of our language. The Chinese use Mandarin, not English or French to learn in their universities. Do you know that the Chinese learn Igbo language today? Have you not seen the video that shows where they are learning Igbo language at their place? It is not as if they would place Igbo language above their language, Mandarin. No. But they learn it to help them in their business with Igbo people. If care is not taken they would come and drive us away from here one day. There is a satellite that shows where Indians are teaching Igbo people, Igbo language and the Yoruba, Yoruba language in Canada. If you see it you would not believe that they are Indians because of their fluency in Igbo and Yoruba languages respectively. Indians teaching Igbo language to Igbo people abroad. That is the level the world is now. Hold tight to whatever you have and be proud of it. If you acquire another man’s language, pocket it and be moving with it and do not see your own language as inferior or throw it away completely. If you do that you are insulting God and saying that the language God gave you is not good or that God gave you fake language. It is not true. You should appreciate what God has given you and use it to worship Him. It is good to speak our mother tongue-Igbo Language. It is rich in proverbs. But when it comes to English, speak it and go your way. If it comes to French language if you know how to speak it, speak it. But we should not allow our own language to become extinct. What is important in Odenigbo is Igbo language. Past Odenigbo lecturers include the late Prof. Chinua Achebe, the author of Things Fall Apart. If you were present when he delivered the Odenigbo Lecture iwith the theme (Echi di Ime: Taa bu Gboo) at the Obiri Odenigbo in 1999, the whites also came to witness where the man who wrote Things Fall Apart was speaking in his native Igbo language and it was covered by CNN and other reputable international cable networks and electronic media live. Other Odenigbo lecturers were the late Prof. Dora Akunyili, Prof. Barth Nnaji, the founder of Odenigbo Lecture Series, Archbishop Anthony J. V. Obinna himself, Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji the then Bishop of Umuahia and so on and by the grace of God it reached my turn this year.
This shows that Igbo language has reached the extent to be used to speak, write, teach or do anything just like English or French. I wrote the lecture in Igbo and read it in Igbo. Igbo language is our mother tongue. As Christians today, we should worship God in our language and know all the teachings and doctrines of the church in Igbo language. We are a great race because we fear and adore God. And we should allow the fear of God as we were taught in the Catholic Church to reign in our lives, especially in our struggle for money. Some people open churches today as part of ‘Akwa a na Ebere Ego’ in order to exploit the people claiming that God called them. It is ungodly to use the Bible to exploit the people because of ‘Akwa a na Ebere Ego’.

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