• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

HOPES AND DREAMS: A catalyst for creating values and building on poignant memories in Enugu

WhatsApp Image 2024-05-06 at 7.42.29 PM (1) (1)

One critical question birthed a concept and a centre that is increasingly defining values and cultures in Enugu. How do people find themselves if they do not know where they are coming from? The Centre for Memories (CFM) in Independence Layout, Enugu, is the answer.

Read also: Room and parlour dreams on hold as rising costs squeeze young Nigerians

Patrick Okigbo 111 steers the Centre as Chairman. “The Centre for Memories is a repository of the history and culture of Ndigbo, informing and empowering leaders to serve with excellence and integrity.”

Patrick Okogbo

Okigbo says he and his colleagues cast a critical eye on the Igbo society of South-Eastern Nigeria. They were dissatisfied with many things. Yet, reflection showed, “This is not who we are. We have had greatness at different points in our history”.

Quick references include iron smelting at Lejja, located 15 kilometres south of the university town of Nsukka in Enugu State. Archaeologists and other experts from Oxford University and the University of Nigeria Nsukka now assert through carbon dating to about 2000 BCE that Lejja appears to be the oldest iron smelting site in the world.

Read also: How African countries battle access to funding for local fashion entrepreneurs

The other reference is to Igbo Ukwu and its famous pots. As the Encyclopaedia Britannica recounts, “Bronzes, dated to about the 9th century CE, were discovered in the 1930s and ’40s at Igbo Ukwu, near the southwestern city of Onitsha. They reveal a high artistic tradition and a well-structured society with wide-ranging economic relationships. Of particular interest is the source of the copper and lead used to make the bronzes, which may have been Tadmekka in the Sahara, and of the coloured glass beads, some of which may have come from Venice and India, the latter via trade routes through Egypt, the Nile valley, and the Chad basin. It is believed that the bronzes were part of the furniture in the burial chamber of a high personage, possibly a forerunner of the eze nri. This priest-king held religious but not political power over large parts of the Igbo-inhabited region well into the 20th century”.

Centre for Memories pivots around propelling positive change through social impact and celebrating Nigerian resilience through stories. It has shared many stories.

CFM offers exhibitions, documentaries, memorials, Nkata Umu Ibe and Nzuko Umuaka events, a monthly book club, and readings. Young people are a prime target. Its initiatives aimed at young people include a children’s library, a speaker series, and a book club focused on sharing success stories from Nigerian history and promoting cultural resilience.

CFM has hosted 7000+ visitors, impacted 120 volunteers and benefitted 54 schools and counting.

Oba Akwukwo Umuaka

CFM has run five exhibitions, produced three documentaries, four memorials, 30 lectures and 25 Igbo classes. Notable producer and auteur Nze Ed Emeka Keazor lends his creativity to the documentaries. They include January 15, 1970: Untold Memories of the Nigeria-Biafra War, MI Power: The Legend and Legacy, and Ki’Mon: The Eastern Nigeria Afro-Funk Revolution (1970-1980. There is also a documentary on the iconic Rangers International Football Club of Enugu.

They describe Ki’Mon as “a celebration of the vibrant Nigerian Afro-Funk and Afro-Rock scene of 1970-1980, a cultural renaissance after the civil war”. A showing is scheduled for 24 May at the Africa Centre on
66 Great Suffolk Street London SE1 0BL United Kingdom.

The Nigeria-Biafra War is a central part of conversations at CFM. However, the directors and team do not see it as a source of lamentations or incubus but as a springboard for galvanising positive energy and developments.

Passion and not profit drive Patrick Okigbo 111 and his fellow directors Nkem Opareke, Nkem Nweke, Jude Ilo, Nnanna Ude, and Uzoma Okoye. They seek change despite the sustainability challenges of social projects in the country.

While sponsors and supporters are few, those who plug in behave as believers. Okigbo hails novelist Chimamanda Adichie for supporting the children’s book project by donating all her prize money from one of her awards. The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) supported Nzuko Umuaka, “a monthly interactive and educative programme for children that features Igbo language classes, Igbo poetry, history lessons, book club and deployment of traditional Igbo folktales and songs as tools for teaching morals and civic engagement.”

OSIWA’s support enabled CFM to expand Nzuko Umuaka to schools and bring it on radio and TV.
CFM has produced books on Mazi Mbonu Ojike, radical author and activist, and Dr Alex Ekwueme, a former Vice President, as part of influencing children. Books in the works include bios of the late Prof Dora Akunyili and Chimamanda Adichie. The theme is greatness with the central message: You, too, can achieve greatness.

Fidelity Bank supported the creation of a children’s library by donating a Portakabin. It has been invaluable.

Okigbo 111 affirms, “You need social investment to build a society. Everything is not profit and loss. We do not have enough people who understand the import of these kinds of investments. Will we get to a point where the more endowed understand the value of these investments? I believe so. Societies change through these channels and activities.”

Nkata Umu Ibe is one of CFM’s most critical and popular interventions. It commenced in 2018 but is currently experiencing a funding hiatus. The monthly speaker series “brings distinguished speakers to discuss critical issues that affect Ndigbo and how to move the South-East region forward, as well as to deepen conversations on the issues around Igbo values, heritage, and the legacies of old. It also serves as a point of intersection between generations and a mentoring ground for younger ones.”

Its speakers include Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, Prof. Okey Ndibe, Dike Chukwumerije, Yvonne Mbanefo, Chika Oduah, Chika Unigwe and Philip Effiong Jr.

Patrick O. Okigbo III is the Founder of Nextier, a public policy advisory firm and think tank focused on improving governance and development outcomes in Africa. Patrick started his career in Nigeria in 1998 with Diamond Bank Plc before joining Accenture, where he worked with financial services clients across West Africa.
He was part of the team advising on Nigeria’s first electronic payment processing platform. Patrick joined the Management Associate Programme at Citigroup in New York City in 2003 and worked in different capacities, including providing services to the U.S. government. He left Citigroup as a Vice President in 2007 to join Transcorp Plc. in Nigeria as the Chief Financial Officer. He led efforts to restructure the firm’s finances and to start up two new ventures in agro-processing and hospitality. In 2010, Patrick served as a Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria, focused on reforming the country’s electricity industry. In 2011, he founded Nextier. The firm works with major government institutions and international development programmes. It is the local implementing partner on Nigeria’s two most extensive infrastructure-focused development programmes. It has grants from top foundations (MacArthur Foundation and Open Society Initiative for West Africa) to support its research and advocacy activities.
Patrick has a Bachelor of Agriculture degree from the University of Nigeria, an MBA from Emory University, and an Executive master’s in public administration from the London School of Economics. He sits on the board of Tenece, a technology services firm with operations in four African countries and Dubai. He is a Global Advisor to Energy for Growth Hub, a Washington D.C.-based energy solutions institution. Patrick serves on several government committees and is a trusted advisor to several public officials. He writes a regular blog on public policy and is widely published in newspapers. Patrick is married to Awele, and they are blessed with four children.