Pictured: A mum standing with her graduating son
or the staff and students/pupils of two sister schools in one organization in Nigeria, the long vacation is for seven weeks. We vacated on Friday 26/7/2013 to resume on Monday 16/9/2013. As we look forward one week to resumption, I feel it is time to look back and review meaningful experiences and purposeful activities engaged in during the vacation.
We ended our holiday (summer) classes today, Friday 6/9/013 at True Light Academy, Nnewi, to allow participants one week for preparation before resumption. The story is different in Evangel Academy, Mubi, where there was no summer holiday schooling due to some unpleasant experience in the past connected with fees.
Prior to the vacation, both academies had their end of the academic year events. True Light Academy, Nnewi, began a week ahead with Director's Day event. This is preparatory to the Graduation Day when parents and the public are invited to a very special occasion to witness varieties of activities which showcase learning during the academic year in various forms and styles.
In the just concluded 2012/013 academic year, Evangel Academy, Mubi, had only the Director's Day event which ended with in-door presentation of prizes to students and pupils of outstanding performances during their promotional examinations. The security situation in some northern Nigeria states calls for caution in public gathering.
However, True Light Academy, Nnewi, featured both their Director's Day preparatory and their Graduation Day event. Preparatory to end the academic year is a long process that begins with Career Day Event, Parents/ Teachers Association (PTA) meeting and ends with the D-Day event before the Graduation Day.
Graduation day event this year at True Light took place on Sunday, 28/7/013. The occasion brought closure to the academic year of 2012/2013, and the long vacation holiday followed it.
Summer classes began a week after the graduation event and ended on Friday, 6/8/013, ten days to resumption date, 16 September. The vacation period has been very busy and challenging for me though it is usually viewed as a time of rest.
The front fence walling my village house in Isuofia was marked for demolition by a road construction company working for the Ministry of Works in Awka, the Anambra State capital. Isuofia is a rural town in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. I wrote the director of the construction company who later came to my compound in Isuofia and explained that he has no power to stop the demolition since it is the State Ministry of Works in Awka that gave the specification for space in the road construction. Although I showed him how my mother's grave would be desecrated if the wall is removed being close to the wall, he still said it was beyond his power to act.
My next action was to write a letter to the Commissioner of Works in Awka, and I went personally to deliver the letter. I hardly got his attention when it was my turn to see him. He shouted he could only give me a minute to talk as he was leaving in a haste to see the Governor. He promised to act on the letter but did not.
The wall was demolished that same week by the Mac Mourtz Construction Company. The director said he got no instruction from the Commissioner of Works not to demolish the wall. The Igwe of Isuofia, Colonel Aloysius Muoghalu (Retd) was also briefed in all my communications with those concerned on the matter especially as it touches the desecration of my mother's grave. The Igwe is the Chief custodian of my people's traditional values and customs.
My lawyer (attorney) also wrote the parties concerned in the following words: "that behind the said wall is the grave of his mother whom he buried three years ago and that the grave is very close to the marked fence (wall) that any demolition will affect the grave which if demolished will be a sacrilege or taboo to the custom of Isuofia and Igbo land as a whole."
I wrote the Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi after the wall was demolished. In that letter I explained how I earlier wrote him on the matter pleading that the wall be not demolished with the reason I gave concerning the grave. I felt that the governor would empathize with me being that he faced a similar situation in the past concerning his own marked wall for demolition and his father's grave close to it and for this reason his case was considered and his wall was not demolished.
However, I doubt if that letter was allowed to reach the governor though it was registered in the office of the Permanent Secretary at the Government House, Awka. I got no reply from the governor till now nor a phone call by him or on his behalf. It is for this reason that I had no option than to write him for compensation when the wall became demolished.
My letter asking for compensation stated the damages I sustained as follows: the demolished wall, the iron structure holding my over-head tank which was up-rooted by the caterpillar including the pillars holding my iron gate, my mother's grave desecrated, my compound reduced to the extent that I am left with no space for parking. Subsequently, additional demolitions after I submitted the letter, include breaking of one room in the building with removal of ceiling and zinc used for roofing. My compound has been exposed to the risk of robbery and other dangers since the demolition. The Governor's letter was submitted by me personally through the office of the Chief of Staff at the Anambra State Secretariat on 26/8/013. I have not received any reply or a call till now which makes me doubt whether those letters reached His Excellency.
Pictured: Side view of the building
The experience has been terrible, traumatic and unforgettable in the name State development which negates any form of interaction with people. It pains the heart especially when there is no feedback from where it is expected most because of the pain you are inflicted with. Development must include the human angle and not trample on it especially when pain is inflicted. There is a serious violation of interaction if the afflicted is denied any form of interaction with the one causing his affliction.
Even in normal circumstances, we are officially obligated to reply our letters. Some years back while living in the United States of America, I wrote President Bill Clinton while he was in office and got his reply a few days later. It is not a good experience for me at all the way I have been treated in my own Country and State here in Nigeria on the matter I am reporting.
A reply to my letter or an invitation for a talk would have helped in cushioning the effect of my pain in the damage I was caused, but I am abandoned like sheep without a shepherd, yet a new campaign is going on in my State, Anambra State, for the election of a new shepherd who will occupy office next year. I know what it is from this sad experience.
It was not all bad during this vacation period. Two weeks before the road construction that devastated my compound at Isuofia, there was a big annual festival in my place. It is the new yam festival that holds annually. This year's festival is so special because for years we did not keep the festival due to crises in the town. The Igwe-Elect could not be installed due to conflict that was yet to be resolved and until then, the new yam festival could not be celebrated in those years for the absence of an Igwe (Traditional Ruler) that is dully installed. So, here is the good news! We now have the Igwe-Elect fully installed who now can carry on as the Igwe of Isuofia, the Chief custodian of our traditional values and customs.
Pictured: The Igwe of Isuofia (Centre)
The month for the New Yam Festival was August and many dignitaries including people who returned home from far places for the occasion were present. On the eve of this great occasion was the Iwaji (Breaking of the new yam) ceremony by the Igwe of Isuofia. The following day became the day for Isuofia New Yam Festival at the Cultural Centre of our town. I attended the two occasions. The first occasion was mainly attended by specially invited dignitaries like the Igwes of neighboring towns who were about 20 in number. The Ezes (Traditional Chiefs) and Ichies (Traditional Elders) of Isuofia were present with their families and other invited guests. Representatives from each of the six villages from Isuofia were all present and seated under the canopies mounted for them, respectively. Festivities began when the Igwe came out from his palace court and was hailed by his council chiefs who now accompanied him with the Ichies as he moved around to greet people assembled in his palace.
The traditional drums sounded and every traditional musical instrument accompanied in creating sounds that moved everyone into dancing. Special traditional gunshots known as nkponana sounded outside to greet the Igwe Isuofia and to announce the formal beginning of the Iwaji annual Yam Festival for the Year 2013. Next in the programme was the opening prayer said in thanksgiving to the Almighty God who has blessed us with bountiful yam harvest and for him to grace the occasion and to receive all glory and honour due to Him. This was followed by the traditional presentation and breaking of kola nut as celebrated in Igbo land.
The heart of the occasion was when the Igwe Isuofia broke a roasted yam, ate it first and declared that the people of Isuofia should commence the harvesting and eating of the new yam after that event. Roasted yam was passed round and people ate to satisfaction. Other dishes include foo-foo and bitter-leaf soup with surplus meat. Many cows were slaughtered to provide meat in surplus for the occasion. Traditional dances featured in various forms including masquerades.
The next day event was at the Isuofia Civic Centre. It recorded a massive turn out of people from the six villages of the town including invited guests. Upon the Igwe's arrival with his cabinet, the ceremony began. People were already seated for a long time waiting patiently for this time. The ground was shaken by sounds of Nkponana gun shots to signal the arrival of the Igwe followed by people hailing him all over the place: Igwe! Igwe! Igwe! And he waved to them in response to their greetings.
As he settled down, soon the event began to unfold as planned beginning with an opening prayer to the Almighty God, followed by the traditional presentation and breaking of kola nut as it is done in Igbo land. Cameras were clicking uninterrupted, the press were working and special among them was a woman delegated from Awka to cover the event dressed like a traditional title holder with a red cap to match.
With these preliminaries, the event widened to varieties like eating of the new yam in roasted fashion with bitter herbs and ukpaka first by the Igwe after a formal speech where he announced to the Isuofia people to start harvesting and eating the new yam; traditional dances of various kinds; assorted food and drinks, jokes and laughs. The master of ceremony in the occasion is the great image- maker of the occasion. He made his mark as praise-singer and promoter of the virtues of the Igwe Isuofia. In addition he accords recognition to the Ezes, the Ichies and different title holders and other dignitaries. He is gifted as a master of ceremony, image maker and comedian.
The occasion continued even after the exit of the Igwe Isuofia and his entourage. For some people that time seemed to be the beginning of the event for they continued in the festivities till very late in the evening.