Few days before the end of December 2016, the popular Okija town…yes Okija in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, stressed its importance as the hub of Igbo tradition, with its host of Face of Okija, bringing home youths of the town, male and female, within and outside.
The pageant, a music and cultural festival aimed at rejuvenating the Igbo culture that has been badly eroded by all manner of external influences, gave youths of a sense of belonging as Chinasa Ezeamaka and Chukwudi Enukoha emerged as new Queen and King of Face of Okija respectively.
Held at the Obijackson Sports Arena of the town, the event attracted illustrious dignitaries from the state, including the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano, his deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke, Secretary to the State Government, Oseloka Henry Obaze; Professor Rich Umeh, Chief Pete Edochie (Okonkwo of Things Fall Apart fame), actors Anayo Modestus Onyekwere (Kanayo O. Kanayo) and Okechukwu Anthony Onyegbule (Okey Bakassi).
Hosted by the Obijackon Foundation, a non-profit organisation, the corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm of Obijackson Group, one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest growing conglomerates with investments in major sectors of the Nigerian economy, including oil and gas exploration, pipeline construction, pressure vessel fabrication, power generation, dredging and marine logistics, aviation, dry-docking, horizontal directional drilling, civil and infrastructural construction, telecommunications and real estate.
Founder of the foundation and Chairman of Obijackson Group, Dr. Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi, while presenting keys to brand new Corolla cars and cheques of one million naira each to the winners, said: “Face of Okija Pageant is a Special Purpose Programme (SPP) activated to insulate the Igbo culture, beliefs and tradition from continuous attrition. The initiative is a preservative agenda for sustaining our ‘Igboness’ and promoting our essence as a people.”
He explained that with their emergence of Chinasa Ezeamaka and Chukwudi Enukoha as winners in the 2016 ‘Face of Okija’ Pageant, in addition to the cash and car prizes, they have also become Ambassadors of the Obijackson Foundation and are placed on fixed salary of one million and four hundred thousand naira for the duration of their reign.
“In their new role, they are expected to leverage their status to impact lives in Okija, Igbo land and the Nigerian nation through active involvement in a mix of social welfare programmes and initiatives that will be undertaken in the days ahead,” he added.
According to Obiejesi, the motivation for establishing Obijackson Foundation, as a non-profit organisation is to serve as a vehicle for executing social intervention, community investment, economic empowerment, infrastructural development, educational support and scholarship scheme, medical support, and values-building initiatives of the Obijackson Group.
Aside the excellent performances by Ebuka Obi-Uchendu (Ebuka) and Bovi Ugboma (Bovi), who were the event comperes, there were also scintillating performances by Ifechukwu Eze (Ifex G), winner of a five hundred thousand naira star prize of the Okija Rising segment of the event, created to discover and help budding musical talent nurture their passion.
The audience was held spellbound Azubike Chibuzo Nelson (Phyno), who glided to the stage and took the audience to another level of excitement, with his energetic and thrilling performance, dishing out hit tracks from his collection including Fada fada, Eze Nunu, Olingo, among others.
Though, the event may have ended, guests will savour the memories till the next edition as it was a festival of some sort with the real success of initiative being the growing appeal and impact on Igbo youths. From the number of entries and quality of performances at this year’s event, it would not be out of place to conclude that Igbo youths are gradually embracing the cultural heritage of the Igbo nation and becoming the custodians of the culture and tradition.