CHALLENGES OF OKIJA AND COLLECTIVE EFFORT IN HER PUBLIC IMAGE ENHANCEMENT WRITTEN BY REMIGIUS EKENE OJUKWU
Much has been said and written about the need for collective effort in enhancing the image of Okija. Following the various reports on Ogwugwu shrine which brought the attention of the world to Okija and equally enable the media to write negatively against Okija. It is unarguably important that Okija people should wake up from slumber and tell the world the true story about their high esteemed land.
It is obvious that Okija, as a kingdom, has vast challenges that have affected its image severely in various ways. Infact, Okija cannot be mentioned without referring to the land that harbors one of the world’s most dreaded oracles that kills regardless of who you are. Today our critics, through the media, have misinformed the general public on what Okija and Ogwugwu Akpu shrine really represent. While i choose to give them the benefit of doubt, on some of the items in their reports. But, i strongly disagree that Okijians are generally unscrupulous as portrayed by the media. Whenever a fetishistic or diabolic incident occurs, the media report it with reference to okija shrine. This suggests that many are bent in depreciating the image of our great and admirable Okija.
Apart from the challenge that emanates from the media reports on Ogwugwu Akpu shrine’s saga, another occurrence that is more disdainful than the shrine saga, is the absence of Igwe of Okija. It remains unbelievable that Okija, as great and highly dignified as it is, does not have a monarch. Apparently, some of our brethren are ignorant of the devastation which the vacuum created by Igwe’s absence, which has lingered for decades, has caused us. Okijaians are mocked, ridiculed and still remain politically short changed as result. It will be a gross over simplification if we refuse to acknowledge thee all important royal blessing which God bestows on his people that is lacking in Okija because we do not have a king. Our elders, who have crossed the bridge by witnessing a king their era, should not break the bridge after they have crossed it. Our people should be purposeful in demand for an immediate resolution of the grievances that have given rise to this lingered Igwe dispute so as to regain our prestige among the communities in Igbo land as posterity will not forgive them if they fail to bury their axes.
It should be noted that Okija, despite her enormous challenge of public image, still remains one of the most blessed land in Africa. But the people of Okija have to blow their trumpets. The true story about Okija must be told by the Okijians. When the incident of Okija shrine surfaced, the media both local and international put it on a front burner making all sorts of negative analysis about us without knowing that they have succeeded in making us not only a popular kingdom but also a marketable brand. It is our collective responsibilities to tell the world who we are, otherwise, they will continue their bad report about us.
Firstly, Okija’s voices must be heard loud and clear by promulgating her rich cultural heritage and strength which earns her the name “Enyi” which symbolizes great elephant. Dr. Ernest Azudialu Obiejesi, the founder of Obijackson foundation, has taken that elephantic stand by carrying out an unprecedented social and cultural revamp in youth empowerment, in helping the poor in Okija. Dr. Obiejesi, through his Obijackson foundation in association with Okija in-home club, equally introduced the face of Okija beauty pageant which is almost as lucrative as winning the most beautiful girl in Nigeria (MBGN). The traditional wrestling competition is another way through which the foundation has given our young men the reason to invest their energies in legitimate activities with two million naira as a star price. These are many more as some of the commendable terms that are happening in Okija but the media have not considered them newsworthy because they are good reports from Okija. We should be proud of our dear Okija wherever we are. Nothing is as excruciating as seeing some indigenes of Okija renouncing their identity as Okijians because of derogatory comments people make about us. Let it be known that there is no other Okija on earth than ours. For this reason, the need for a combined effort in rebranding Okija must be well emphasized.
Secondly, our conduct should be guarded by ethical principles in order to eliminate skepticism from our desire for a remarkable image. Furthermore, we can consolidate the efforts of Obijackson foundation and Okija in-Home club that have made Okija a well rebranded entity, by selling it like a good product with pride. Our culture should be distillated with its values being imbued with our youths with view of creating a habitable Okija.
Thirdly, we should realize that Okija has huge potential in tourism. The widely condemned Ogwugwu Akpu Okija shrine can be made a tourist centre along with other places of interest where people can visit. The world must know that Okija is certified as a holy land by Pope Francis, after the discovery of pilgrimage land in Ubahueze Okija where people from different works of life and ethnic groups come to receive blessings from God. This is a true justification that Okija is the land of God and home of justice. If we can publicize these, we are telling our stories positively and converting our alleged weaknesses to strength. It is never exaggeration that Okija has one of the world’s tallest masquerades – the great Onori of Ihite Okija which deserves a place in guinness book of record if properly engineered. In otherwords, building museum and art galleries to showcase and preserve our cultural heritage will be helpful in making a better Okija. These are also a significant factor in attracting tourists to our land. We can achieve this with or without government assistant. Museum in Okija will definitely bring about recognition of our heroes both the living and the dead as well as keeping our posterity experienced and inspired.
Finally, we should be pragmatic in beautifying the image through a joint effort in consolidating the enviable achievement of Okija in-Home club alongside Obijackson foundation, that has made Okija a rebranded land which is arousing the interest of the public, by telling the world the true story about Okija in order to falsify the negative report of the media. God bless Okija.