Happy Independence, Nigeria!

Independence celebration aims to bring Nigerian and other communities communities closer

The Nigerian Association of Manitoba Incorporated (NAMI) will celebrate Nigeria’s independence with the entire Winnipeg community in mind.

Event organizer Florence Okwudili says, “we encourage everyone to come out, learn and participate with Nigerian culture.”

Nigeria officially gained independence from Great Britain on Oct. 1, 1960.  This year’s celebration on Oct. 5 promises to be more than a simple look through history.

Along with an immersive cultural experience in food, music, dance and children’s programs, there will be a segment honouring Nigerians in Manitoba who are making contributions to the community.

“We  do not see ourselves as mere immigrants, but as contributing co-existors in Manitoba,” Okwudili says.

NAMI’s president Dayo Ashiru says that an event like this emphasizes a positive image of both Nigerians and Black people in the community, contrasting a “bad-apple” association with young, Black people.

“We cannot shy away from negative images,” he says, mentioning they have to address these negative portrayals and “host events like this to show that we can be high-achieving people who contribute to Manitoba’s ever-growing economy.”

Okwudili agrees, but she says that these efforts are meant to uplift entire communities, not to simply put specific individuals on a pedestal.

“We want to highlight their journey, not just their success,” she says.

“Culturally, we emulate that which is good, and everyone tries to be good. So we want people to leave this event renewed and inspired by these people and how far they came and to (keep pressing on).”

Among these individuals are Helping Hands Resource Centre’s executive director Rachel Alao, University of Winnipeg chemistry professor Dr. Michael Eze, University of Manitoba Human Nutrition professor Dr. Rotimi Aluko, entrepreneur Elizabeth Lawal and St. Boniface Clinic’s pediatrician Dr. Ignatius Anyadike.

This event also provides a common space for people of Nigerian descent to come together, highlighting the diversity in Nigerian cultures.

“We have several different (ethnic groups), but we are one united Nigeria,” he says.

Okwudili agrees and says that events like this are important for cultural preservation.

“Over the last few years, the Nigerian population (has steadily increased) in Manitoba,” she says. “However, if we do not begin to lay down values and help preserve our history, we may lose who we fundamentally are.

“We are people with open minds and hearts, but it is important to celebrate diversity. That makes each of us special and what makes Manitoba and Canada so special as well.”

The celebration takes place at Canad Inns Destination Centre Polo Park on Oct. 5 from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at Eventbrite.

Published in Volume 74, Number 5 of The Uniter (October 3, 2019)

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