Anioma Association Marks Bi-Annual Anniversary with $20,000 Scholarship Grant

Chinazor Onianwah | 6/10/2009, 10:15 p.m.

Hundreds gathered at the Best Western Capital Hotel in Lanham, Md. to lend their support and their dollars to a cause that helps children who live in Nigeria attend school.

The Anioma Association Bi-Annual Anniversary Gala was held on Sat., May 30 and attracted about 300 guests. The Anioma Association, a Washington D.C.-based Nigerian non-profit, was founded in 1989 and serves as an umbrella organization for Nigerians of Igbo origin west of the River Niger in the mid-western region of Nigeria. Today, the organization boasts 11 chapters throughout the United States with a membership of more than 6,000.

Chief Clement Azagba welcomed guests at the gala and briefly explained how a $20,000.00 scholarship grant had been distributed to approximately 100 students who live throughout the four local governments of Anioma.

€The Anioma people are comprised of Igbos west of the River Niger who have been [advocating] for their own statehood in the same way that residents of the District of Columbia have been [advocating] for statehood. We are spread across four local governments in Nigeria €" Aniocha, Ndokwa, Ika and Oshimili. In fact, the word Anioma is the abbreviation of the first letters of the local governments,€ Azagba said.

Azagba told the multi-cultural crowd that the Anioma Association was established due to the growing number of Anioma indigenes who had achieved their educational goals in the United States and decided to stay and raise their families. However, he said, they never forgot their loved ones back home in Nigeria.

€The association was formed to bring together this group of immigrants from Nigeria who share similar language, music, dance, cuisine and lifestyle to pull their resources together for the benefit of needy family members back in Nigeria. But, the source of great pride for us is not what we do back in Anioma, Nigeria; it is the fact that about 99 percent of our children here in the United States graduate from high school and over 80 percent graduate from college,€ he said with a smile.

Naturally, the highlight of the evening evolved around children. Guests enjoyed a traditional Anioma dance presentation by youth who ranged in ages from 10-to-16-years-old.

€Teaching them to dance was one of the ways to keep them grounded in their Anioma culture,€ said dance coach, Angela Adigwe.

€Though they were born here in America and totally immersed in American culture, like their African American counterparts, the dance is an avenue through which they can be home away from home,€ she said.

Prince George€s County Councilmember Tony Knotts (Dist. 8) commended the association for their humanitarian efforts.
€€ This is a testimony to the fact that these people have not forgotten where they came from. I would like to see these kinds of events replicated in the African American community so that we can take care of one another rather than wait for the government,€ Knotts said.

Although it was a festive occasion, some in attendance, lamented Anioma€s current political condition. Uche Nkemefuna, who lives in Nigeria, but happened to be in the District, on business showed up for the gala and fundraiser. He said that he was disenchanted by what has not happened in Anioma.

€It is a shame that after 46 years since its inception, the Anioma people are yet to have a state of their own and that is because some of us have become too complacent. We have attained American citizenship and middle class status -- so why bother about the folks back home?€ Nkemefuna said.