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Paucity of funds stalls Ohanaeze's plan to produce film on civil war

By Lawrence Njoku (Enugu) and Clifford Ndujihe (Lagos)

THE proposed production of film on the 1967-1970 Nigeria-Biafra war by the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has suffered serious set back as a result of lack of funds.

The proposed film on the episode, which was planned as part of activities for the 2007 Igbo Day celebration held in Awka was aimed at capturing the story of Igbo still living, who participated in the 36-month old gruesome incident in the country.

Ohanaeze, which had inaugurated a committee last year to oversee the production of the film, said the idea had become necessary so that "those who are young will capture what happened so that it does not happen again.

It added that so many people, including those who participated in the event had told the story their own way, stressing that it was time that the public be informed of the truth about the whole incident, especially by Ndigbo who fought in the war.

But in a telephone interview with The Guardian in Enugu yesterday, President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dozie Ikedife, said that paucity of funds and the last leadership crisis in the organisation have negatively impacted on the realisation of the project a year after.

He stated that the venture being capital intensive in view of the involvement of technical experts in the film industry was not one which the body could solely sponsor at the moment, stressing that, it was one of the things which his administration would have loved to achieve before its exit from office at the end of the year.

Ikedife stated that the idea when it was sold to members of the Ohanaeze in Enugu last year before the Igbo Day celebration was well accepted, leading to a committee to realise the vision, but added that when the budget was presented and nobody or institution was coming with the funds, the idea had to be dropped.

He said: "I blame the entire thing on the last leadership crisis which the organisation witnessed that made it difficult for people to have confidence in the Ohanaeze. Anybody you talk to for funds had one story or the other to tell you. Personally, I am not a businessman. I am a medical doctor and those we charged with the responsibility went all out to get what it could take us to achieve. I looked at the budget and we cannot carry it out."

The Ohanaeze chief, who added that the idea was a long-term investment, disclosed that other logistics such as distribution to avoid piracy, film promotion and the necessary costume also contributed to the non-realisation of the project.

He however, gave the hope that having succeeded in restoring the confidence of the people back to Ohanaeze, he would encourage his successor to work towards the realisation of the project "as it would mark a turning point in the history of Ndigbo."

On the cenotaph (war memorial) for all Igbo who died during the Nigeria-Biafra war, Ikedife said that the organisation had not realised it as a result of opposition from members, especially the Christians, who he said had kicked against it on the ground that it was fetish.

Meanwhile, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and a coalition of Igbo organisations yesterday organised "World Igbo Day Prayer in some churches across the world to mark Prof. Chinua Albert Achebe's award winning novel Things Fall Apart.

The event coincided with Achebe's 78th birthday anniversary. The renowned novelist, academic and administrator, was born on November 16, 1930. He hails from Ogidi, near Onitsha, in Anambra State.

According to a 77-day programme of activities planned to celebrate Achebe and the book, the events will continue tomorrow in Asaba, the Delta State capital with a conference of religious leaders. The parley of religious leaders will end on Thursday, November 20.

And between November 25 and 27, traditional rulers will hold a similar conference in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State while lawmakers will take their turn in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on December 4.

Unveiling the programme, titled: "First Festival On Igbo Civilisation" in Lagos, Igbo leaders said that the events would end with a rally in Awka, Anambra State on January 31, 2009.