Achebe, Sally, Adams at the festival

Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

The Anambra Homecoming Festival shook up the Christmas season from December 13 to 17 in the state capital, Awka.

Friends of Anambra State attended the events from all across Nigeria and the Diaspora.

The Aare Ona Kakanfo of the Yoruba, Iba Gani Abiodun Ige Adams was the cynosure of all eyes. Only a last minute rescheduling prevented the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, from regaling the festival with his august presence.

The President’s lady of Diaspora matters, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa was in full gear.

The Governors of Ondo, Edo and Oyo states were highly represented. The distinguished friends of the Anambra State Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, Indigenous Artworks, Culture and Tourism, Dr (Mrs) Sally Mbanefo, initiator of the homecoming festival, festooned Anambra with a kaleidoscope of colours.

The maiden homecoming festival got off to soul-lifting music with the Anambra Christmas Carol of Nine Lessons at the Hollywood Garden and Event Centre on the road to Government House in Awka. Youth was the fair on display, underpinning the vast reserve of talent of the young ones in Anambra State. The youthful choir got a standing ovation.

The arts-loving Governor Willie Obiano undertook the grand commissioning of the Mmilioma Anambra art exhibition that marked Mbanefo’s ministry as a Permanent Art Exhibition Centre.

The sculptures and paintings of the master artist Chidi Okoye were aesthetically on display in the rotunda and walls of the ministry. The central sight is the “Mmilioma Anambra” sculpture displaying a maiden pouring the water of life into a larger communal bowl. There is also “Irunne”, a high relief composition of grandmother’s face with the strong presence of daughters leaning on the strength and integrity of motherhood.

Friends of Anambra shared joy with the returnees and homers on the Diaspora Day.

According to Sally Mbanefo, “The treasure in living together joyfully entails that homecoming and keeping in touch with one’s roots is immense. Homelands are the bastions of a Diaspora’s strength. This makes experts in development economics advocate a healthy and harmonious regular interaction between homeland and Diaspora. Though the economic benefits of such regular interaction between home and abroad are often noticeable in the GDP and other indexes of the economy, the real treasure in such a harmonious relationship is the human capital. Anambra State’s wealth in human resource is not quantifiable. At home and in Diaspora, the state’s economic impact is hugely impressive. What feeds that huge economic growth is the rich homeland and Diaspora harmony.”
Incidentally, Anambra happens to be the only state in Nigeria with a ministry that attends to Diaspora matters. The launching of the epochal Anambra State Diapora Portal by Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa reflects Governor Obiano’s “Think Home Policy”.

The Anambra State government collaborated with the United Nations to launch the Palm Wine Festival in the homecoming fiesta. Participants had the rare opportunity of tasting the best of Anambra palm wine and tasty cuisine. The palm wine tasting festival is designed to educate, inspire and connect entrepreneurs, governments, captains of industries, nation builders and sundry enthusiasts to effectively understand Anambra’s pride of place in a connected world. The 2018 palm wine tasting fest was organized in partnership with the United Nations within the context of Sustainable Development Goal 17 (SDG 17). Iba Gani Adams oversaw the sumptuous ceremony.

The carnival was a steamroller as the youths and adults alike celebrated in style. The Mmanwu Festival kicked off at the Ekwueme Square with ancestral spirits springing forth and dancing onto the highway. Titled elders such as Chief Pete Edochie superintended over matters to ensure that the uninitiated did not break the taboo of the masked spirits.

Well over 40 works of art were on display on the curatorial direction of Sir Chuka Nnabuife. The Ije group of young artists showed ample evidence, at the exhibition, that there are young artists in Anambra State poised to break the records of the likes of Prof Ben Enwonwu. The works of the young ones shared space with established artists such as Chuka Nnabuife, Chidi Okoye and Nkiru Ekemordi. The esteemed Obi of Onitsha Nnaemeka Achebe, Agbogidi, a renowned art connoisseur added regal presence to it all.

Pete Edochie who made his name with the performance of the role of Okonkwo in the NTA production of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart was on hand to cherish the young Thespians who reprised the drama at the homecoming festival. The youthful actors of an abridged one-hour staging of Things Fall Apart equally got a standing ovation from the very grateful audience.

The vision of Sally Mbanefo in initiating the Anambra Homecoming Festival was more than met in this maiden edition. The motto of “Ka anyi luo uno” (let’s return home) reverberated all over Awka and indeed the entire state while the festival lasted.

The Ikolo musical jam that climaxed it all showcased Anambra State as the homestead of the new age musical icons such as Flavour, Phino, Peter and Paul Okoye who are building on the legends like Osita Osadebe etc. Anambra State shall never be the same again.