Our guest speaker for this occasion was Dr. J. O.S Okeke, a respectable Nnewi citizen who is an accomplished Surgeon and a well known Philanthropist who although is retired is continuing to contribute in so many ways in the promotion of Nnewi both here in the U.S. and at Nnewi. He is the founding chairman of the World Igbo Congress (the largest diaspora organization in the U.S.) and was also instrumental in forming the Nnewi local chapter in Houston. He has donated several books and items to be shipped to Nnewi.
In addition to his philanthropy, he is also known for his hospitality and has hosted several dignitaries from Nnewi including Igwe Nnewi, his Royal Highness, Kenneth Orizu III.
Nnewi Youths and Family Enrichment and our Future
Dr. Okeke’s address this convention was based on the convention theme: Nnewi Youths, Family Enrichment and our Future. Dr. Okeke began his speech by thanking the past and present executive administration for their endeavor in keeping NUSA organization a viable organization. He however, stated that NUSA has been in existence for the past 15 years and there comes a time when the organization would need to reflect on its effectiveness and how far it has gone in trying to achieve its mission. NUSA would need to ask itself: How am I doing? Am I doing well or am I stagnant? What changes need to be made?
Dr. Okeke commended NUSA for focusing on family and our future during this year’s convention pointing out that we need to prepare our children to be able to understand our mission, goals and vision so that they would be willing and able to take over from us in perpetuating NUSA’s mission. He posed the question: Is NUSA fulfilling the needs of the people and are we measuring up to their expectations? He wondered how realistic is it to expect that our children should take over and continue to run NUSA if they are not even in attendance to learn the cultural underpinnings and intricate details governing the NUSA organization. Dr. Okeke acknowledges the inherent difficulties facing not just the Nnewi families, the Igbo families but also all the diaspora families who are striving to find a balance between the American culture and the Nigerian culture.
Dr. Okeke reminded this convention that an integral part of NUSA’s constitution is the “propagation of the customs of Nnewi people, in particular, and Igbo culture in general.” He then postulated the question: What is it in Nnewi culture that we want to propagate? Dr. Okeke taunted some of the great attributes and values characteristic of the Nnewi people noting amongst many, the following: industriousness, relentlessness, diligence, frugality, humility, wisdom, and respect for authority (elders), problem solving and decision-making abilities. Dr. Okeke made it known that these highly priced values is not only what sets Nnewi apart but were also the reason why Nnewi as a town was able to thrive for “thousands of years before the advent of the white man”. In the olden days, when a squabble arose in the family, the matter was brought before the elders and immediately resolved not because the elders were always right but it was a way to ensure the institution of peace and order within the family unit. Men, women and children all had their roles and responsibilities which they were all expected to fulfill to ensure the proper functioning of the family unit.
Dr. J.O.S. Okeke stated that they are these same values that we as Nnewi families should be striving to inculcate in our children here in the U.S. and hope that they understand and appreciate its significance for perpetuity reasons. How well are we doing as diaspora parents in teaching our children our culture?
Dr. Okeke expressed profound disappointment in the way and manner that we as Nnewi people living in the U.S have been conducting ourselves noting that Nnewi culture is being eroded by the disrespect shown in the Nnewi forum-this forum has been turned into “an instrument of destruction”. Should we be surprised if these kids show no interest in what we are doing particularly with so much pressure and attraction from the larger American popular culture? Dr. Okeke seized this opportunity to bring up the Dallas conflict noting that it is unbelievable that after so many years and several attempts by many to settle the Dallas squabble, it is still lingering. He demanded that all parties involved agree to “bury the hatchet for the sake of peace and progress and for the sake of our children. A sili na madu nabo \ ada pu ala no ofu oge”. We must learn to use two words PLEASE and SORRY. He encourages us to emulate the way the Jews have exemplified solidarity and how they have collectively united to tackle their own issues.
Sustaining an organization cannot be achieved through annual conventions alone when during the year, each chapter is focused in “setting their own agenda with very little communication and interaction amongst chapters”. Dr. Okeke notes that it is bothersome that National has no solid program to be implemented by the various local chapters. There is “no cohesion and unity” he laments. To ensure the success of NUSA as a viable organization, Dr. Okeke proposes that a solid uniform agenda be developed by national with the active involvement of all chapters and in conjunction with the youths. We will need to engage the youths in exploring and identifying what their interests are. He cautions against forcing the youths to do things that they are not interested in doing noting that it would be counterproductive. He rather proposes that the youths be made to feel as if they have a say and can make meaningful contributions that would help to promote and facilitate the growth of the organization.
The world is changing and we must change and adapt in order to survive. Some authors are predicting that the Igbo language will become extinct in the next fifty years. How do we intend to preserve our language? It is not sufficient to name our children Igbo names or make them wear our traditional attire. To ensure the preservation of our culture, Dr. Okeke proposes an “individual and collective serious and conscious effort to observe our culture particularly those aspects of it that enriches us as a people” In closing, Dr. Okeke likens the challenges of the preservation of culture to a “battle between David and Goliath. We have to give it all that we can. The leaders will have to listen to and accept criticism. He concludes by saying “hopefully, when I come back in my next life, NUSA and Igbo language will still here.”