Starting from 24th of December till the first week of January of every year, it is expected that any Nigerian of Igbo parentage, who is also financially healthy, family-minded or properly birthed would be heading to his home town. No real Igbo man would be seen comfortable or proud staying outside his home town at this period except employees who couldn’t secure a short vacation to travel.
Like the feast of Passover of the Israelites, Igbos return home twice in a year- during New Yam festival and Christmas/New Year celebrations. Igbos return home not necessarily for the aforementioned ceremonies but for various developmental initiatives meetings and resolutions of existential family and community issues. We also go home to see our relations.
In Nnewi, especially in the Ezeoguine Royal family, it is a ritual to go home from wherever one lives once in a year. Any grown man with his phallus well centred and dangling in-between his legs, who fails to return home at least during Christmas period has invited a barage of phone calls of “Nnaa wetin happen?”
It is during during these periods that we, Igbos return home to account for our efforts outside our hometowns. Everybody comes home with his madness, swagger, accomplishments and manifest symbols of achievement. That’s when we see the latest cars on the roads, new architectural designs in new houses and gadgets in phones and musical equipment. The womenfolk return with the latest fashion and hairstyles. And the villagers are willing to learn and upgrade.
It was during one of those periods, when I was young, that I heard “fuck you!” for the first time from my cousin that came down from Lagos. I thought he was calling me a fork and I replied “spoon you!” in annoyance.
In Nnewi for instance, nobody enjoys alone. What is the sweetness in an expensive wine if it is not drunk with kinsmen? Even a bitter kola losses its essence if it’s eaten without someone else hearing a cracking sound from the mouth of the eater? When an Igbo man has it, he must show it on himself, his wife, children, cars, houses or through those peacock noises some tribes mistake for arrogance. However, anyone who has not, enjoys with those that have.
Even the most stingy or wicked rich man in my town must share part of his wealth with the kinsmen at this time. In fact, some poor kinsmen even choose who to receive rice, beans, onions, vegetable oil and cow meat from. Every household in Nnewi, during this season, gets enough essential food items that sometimes last for a quarter or three months after Christmas.
About this time in Igbo towns, meetings are held at family, clan, village and town levels to discuss development projects. Scholarships are awarded to the brilliant but indigent students; boys who had attended informal apprenticeship training are settled by their masters in the presence of their relations who also donate to support these new trading graduates who would henceforth be called “oga”. Chieftaincy titles are awarded to distinguished citizens of the communities by their respective traditional rulers.
There is also the matchmaking part of the homecoming season.
At this time, parents attend functions with their daughters beautifully clad and adorned while their boys of marriage ages go afishing. Unfortunately, some careless girls get pregnant for some Malaysian, European and American based cash- carrying young boys.
Many girls get engaged in December in Nnewi like no other time. It is during December that most traditional marriages are held. Smart girls of marriageable age that escort the bride dance their ways into the hearts of their would be husbands and parents-in-law who would keep asking “whose daughter is that one in the middle?”.
Our people marry be recommendations.
Coming around with ones’ daughters is a subtle showcasing and unspoken announcement that the girls are ready to become brides. Many parents who scorn this age long tradition painfully watch their daughters marry their non Igbo church members, office colleagues or school mates.
During this year’s homecoming, my clan decided to incorporate our wives’ or women association into cooperatives societies. We detailed a lawyer to see this happen.
The cooperatives shall open accounts with Keystone Bank, Nnewi and we have elected to galvanise the generous young men from our clan to fund the coorporatives’ bank accounts. The coooperatives are meant to lend a maximum of ₦50,000 each to any of our needy wives and the loans are payable within 6 months at no interest rate.
The micro- cooperative society at extended family level of ụmụnna was derived from an existing Esusu system and a pilot scheme Ikenga Ezenwegbu developed and personally funded and have ran for selected ụmụnnas in Ọkpụnyo Otolo for couple years now. This is the real trader moni which has a zero default for four years running. Every woman borrower provides two sureties with capacity to repay if the borrower fails to repay.
I was moved to tears when some women groups came on a condolence visit to my house, during the funeral of Mama Obiora, my mum and were testifying how life transformative the revolving loan scheme has been. Of course, the seed capital was doubled for them. I have got some of my kinsmen to contribute to the project. The beauty of it all is that the natives know that the sponsors of the scheme are not politicians but professionals.
I have come to realize that no ụmụnna is as blessed as mine in the whole of Nnewi. We are not so great because we are from the royal family or for the concentration of wealthy people but for the mere determination of our enlightened and exposured young men to progressively move all strata of our people into achieving greater things. We do this by domesticating most of what we have learnt in school, in business, abroad and in workplaces to benefit our people. We are also part of the executive committees of family meetings to ensure that we can do all we have planned to do.
Mine is a town where professional begging is a taboo. We are continously building and reinforcing our social safety nets. Whereas those who depend on government oxygen are becoming poorer by the day with few oasis of wealth in a large desert of poverty.
To the the glory of God, my ụmụnna, Ụmụ Ezenwegbu Ezeọguine Royal of Otolo Nnewi didn’t call any pastor to come and bind and cast for us this year as we appeared to have gotten our kinsmen to understand that most of what they pray against are man-made or pure medical and treatable issues. We also have health insurance schemes funded by our rich for the benefit of those at home. It is not unusual for anyone to see my kinsmen shout “my rod is good, all the time!”
Now tell me why any of my kinsmen would contemplate jazzing up the progressive young men in my community who think for them? They would rather be cursing the enemies of their youths. That is how to get the evil minded pray for you.
While some tribes are busy scheming on how to covet on near permanent basis, the federal or state government’s apparatuses of power to sustain the feeding bottle mentality and dispicable sense of entitlements in their tribesmen, we, the Igbos, are developing our people and making them self-reliant.
Even before now, and particularly at this time, most Igbo towns especially the Ojukwu’s Nnewi have since moved ahead of Nigeria. We have become a country of our own.