Posted on Fri 25 Dec 2020, 12:06 AM

By Uche Nworah Ph.D

Every year, during the Christmas season, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Ndigbo journey to the motherland from different parts of the world where they reside, work, or trade. 

This homecoming mindset sometimes has some spiritual connotations. For many, it is a time to share, commune, and recharge for the coming year, and to give thanks to God for his blessings.  For others, the annual homecoming is an opportunity to re-connect with friends and family, and contribute to community development projects. 

During the annual homecoming in many parts of Igboland, many activities take place. For example, it is a time for many to join their age - grade. The age - grade system is another culturally relevant social system in Igboland which appears to be waning. The age-grade system helps in cultural propagation, maintenance of law and order, and community development. Some age - grades take on solely certain development projects in their communities.

During the homecoming also, in addition to the feasts in families, Masquerade displays, house warming ceremonies, Ofala and Igu Aro festivals by traditional rulers, Chieftaincy, Nze, Iyom, Ozo title taking and other ceremonies, there is also a very important activity that takes place in most Igbo communities; Development appeal funds for community projects.

It is through such self-funded community development projects that Ndigbo were able to quickly bounce back, and re-develop Ala Igbo after the destructions suffered during the Nigeria/Biafra war. 

The projects range from building community town halls and civic centres, to constructing rural roads, markets, skill acquisition centres etc. In some communities, scholarships are awarded to indigent students, widows, youths and the unemployed are empowered with start-up funds and materials. 

This is the true Igbo spirit, people helping people to succeed. The  Igbo ‘Aku Luo Uno’ philosophy means taking one’s wealth home where it is most needed. Letting one’s kinsmen benefit from the wealth and resources that God has blessed one with. 

There is a proverb in Igboland that says, ‘Aku Luo Uno, Okwuo Onye Kpataluya’, it is when one’s wealth reaches home that the source of the wealth and the individual so blessed with the wealth manifests. 

As it is that time of the year again, when Ndigbo worldwide return home in great numbers, it is important to keep this tradition going. Ndigbo should participate  in the various community development projects going on in their communities. 

‘Nnukwu azu kpata nnukwu nku, obele azu kpata obele nku’. Each one should give according to his or her ability. 

For example in my town, Enugwu-Ukwu, we have embarked on a One hundred million Naira ICT centre development fundraising drive for a secondary school in our community. Already contributions have started pouring in through our town’s Whatsapp platform. With technology and social media, our brothers and sisters living in the diaspora who are not able to come back home are not left out, and can partake in the development projects going on in the community. 

Those coming home, men in particular should endeavour to attend their Umunna or kindred meetings. This is usually the nucleus of development activities in Igboland. It is where information are shared, and decisions taken on projects to embark on. It is important for an Igbo man to register with his Umunna, and also become an active financial member. Any person that does not do this in Igboland is regarded as an ‘efulefu’ or layabout. 

As my late father, Nze Edwin Okonkwo Nwora (Nkaonadi) used to say, ‘Denye afa gi na akwukwo, ka iza afa’. His philosophy was that one must always ensure that he is part of community affairs, and make contributions no matter how little. 

‘Umunna' social construct in Igboland is important in sustaining Igbo culture and tradition. Umunna meetings hold on appointed days, in the kindred’s ancestral Obu, or any other location, this could be the home of the eldest person in that kindred. 

Sometimes during such meetings, a member of the kindred so blessed, could donate a cow to promote conviviality. Both old and young, rich and poor, share the cow in equal measure according to age. The elders take their shares first. The women do not partake as the men bring home the family's share. This is done over drinks, nkwuenu etc. Sometimes food is provided. Kola nuts are broken by the elders, libation poured, prayers said and stories of successes, failures and challenges shared. This is the unity that binds, a sense of community, love and 'Igwebuike'. 

For things and times like these, Ndigbo journey from all over the world to their ancestral homes during the Christmas season; and to also partake in fundraising for community development projects. 

As you journey home this season, ensure to keep this tradition going. 
This is who we are as Ndigbo.

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