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At 74, Pete Edochie savours role as Igbo culture renaissance ‘ambassador’

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Prominent among the dignitaries that surrounded Pete Edochie, include Chairman of Hardis Group, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, Dr. Emma Nwankpa KSJ, former Ohanaeze Secretary-General, Dr. Joe Nwaorgu

It was Easter Monday. The entire neighbourhood looked like the scene for a drama rehearsal: Cars, both quaint and commonplace littered the narrow earthen street meandering away from the ever-busy Enugu to Onitsha Expressway. There were no banners, but the festive look around the area left passers-by asking, what is going on here?

As you found your way into a storey building overseeing the street, you behold the image of Rev Fr. Charles Iwene Tansi, standing with great priestly presence as he ‘dispenses’ benediction to visitors. You are in the humble residence of Nollywood Legend, Chief Pete Edochie, the Ogadagidi of Oyi and Omambala.

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Well-decorated chairs and tables accentuate the aura of celebration. There was food and drinks aplenty, but the aroma of smiling fresh palm wine kept on wafting across the entire space, sanctifying the ambience of the atmosphere.
 
It was the 74th birthday of the Okonkwo of Nigeria’s theatre. Edochie has come of age and, as an institution of sort, friends, family and well-wishers gathered to share the wondrous moment with him.
 
Prominent among the dignitaries that surrounded the Nollywood father, include Chairman of Hardis Group, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, Dr. Emma Nwankpa KSJ, former Ohanaeze Secretary-General, Dr. Joe Nwaorgu, General Joe Nkoloagu, Managing Director of Sochi Farms, Chief Sunday Ezeobiora, Chief Uche Udedibia, veteran actor, Larry Koldsweat, Chief L. N. Uka and frontline governorship aspirant on All Progressives Congress (APC), Sir Azuka Okwuosa among many others.

The surprise highpoint of the occasion that Easter Monday was a masquerade display put together by representatives of the seven states of the former Eastern Region. The Ikenga masquerade, tall and resplendent, danced with graceful steps to the pulsating sounds from metal gongs and drums by its followers.
 

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At the end of the display, The Guardian had a brief chat with Chief Edozie. The discussion went this way:

Ogidigada, attaining 74, how does it feel?
Fantastic! You know the bible says; you are allowed threescore and ten. If you get to threescore and ten and you improve on it, it is by the grace of God.  So, for me to be celebrating 74 years and am surrounded by people, who are very dear to me, is very touching. All glory must go to God.

In a country, where the life expectancy hovers around 40, what will you say is the secret of your longevity?
I wonder what I can say about longevity. My father died at 96, his elder brother died at 94 and his elder sister died at 98, so in our family, we have longevity. Whether I can get there, I do not know, but I thank God that I am able to get to this age. All the same, the secret to life is, don’t envy people; don’t struggle for anything. Let God determine your life for you. If you can assist anybody, assist that person.

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Young people seem to be under enormous pressures, both peer influence, economic deprivation and otherwise, how do you think they should cope?

They allow themselves to be under pressure. Otherwise, it is not necessary. Give, dedicate your life to God and let God determine what happens to you, forget about the pressure.

You have been so steadfast in your love for Igbo culture, masquerades, displays and so on.  How do you think this can be sustained?
That is what we are struggling to do. First of all, we want all Igbo to observe the new Yam Festival on the same day. If we start from there, it will get us together then every other thing can follow.

Politics have a way of dividing Igbo, how can we limit the deleterious effects of partisanship on Igbo unity?
If we start by getting together through the New Yam festival, we can minimise the deleterious effect of politics. I can tell you that. I know.

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It is often said that Igbo can never play as a team, “Igbo enwe eze”, is that reversible?
I want to make sure they play as a team; that is what I am working for and that is why there are a lot of people here. All people from Igbo land are represented here. Ebonyi, Anambra, Enugu, Abia, Imo and so on, they are all here today. Dr Nwaorgu, who was here represents Imo State; Ichemba who was here is from Ebonyi, everybody here represents Igbo. The masquerade that came was from camp and it featured people from Enugu, Anambra, etc. They all see me as a unifying factor and I thank God for that.

The portrayal of the film industry, especially from the Igbo section seems to be all about fetishism. Is there a way to elevate the narrative to this cultural unity?
It is not all about fetish things. You think about what will sell that is what it is. It is not because it is in our life, no. If you do something out of the ordinary, it sells.

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