The Promotion Of Igbo Heritage In Diaspora: The ICAN Example

By Ikenga Chronicles November 17, 2017

The Promotion Of Igbo Heritage In Diaspora: The ICAN Example

The Igbo Community Association of Nigeria (ICAN), which resides in the Dallas Fort Worth metropolis of Texas, in the United States of America, will on Saturday, November 18, 2017, hold its general elections. As an organisation, ICAN has exhibited strong commitments towards the promotion of the Igbo heritage and culture, through its various programmes. 

In this interview, Ikenga Chronicles sat down with the two-time Director of Media and Information of the World Igbo Congress, two-time Public Relations Officer of ICAN, and a record five-time Igbo Day Chairman, Mr. Philip Odoemena, to discuss the core values of ICAN, look into the development of the organisation and its challenges, and get his views on how to help the organisation continue to meet its objectives. Enjoy it.

Excerpts:

Can you tell us a little bit about ICAN? What exactly are the guiding principles of the organization?

First of all, the acronym ICAN stands for Igbo Community Association of Nigeria. ICAN is an organization which belongs to individuals who are Igbo by birth, by marriage, or by naturalization. ICAN resides in the Dallas Fort Worth (D/FW) Metropolis. The purpose of ICAN is to promote and uphold Igbo heritage and culture within the D/FW area. Membership is open to all Igbo organizations in D/FW area. In the past, membership was open to individuals, but that was changed few years ago and enshrined into ICAN Constitution. At present, ICAN has about 46 parochial member organizations with over 220 delegates.

People generally see ICAN as one of the most important diasporan Igbo organisations . What contributed to the molding of this image of the organization?

ICAN is not a perfect organization, just like any other thing, individual or entity. ICAN is not the most reputable organization in the world. If you narrow it to Diaspora Igbo organizations, then I will agree with you that ICAN has a good reputation among Diaspora Igbo organizations. In the past, it used to be World Igbo Congress (WIC) but not anymore. Over the years, ICAN has had very fine leaders. Irrespective of loopholes here and there, in general, the executives of various administrations have done well but not excellent. There are various reasons that contributed to the positive image of ICAN. ICAN’S structure may have been one of them, Rather than individuals, ICAN’S membership is by parochial. ICAN has 46 parochial associations who are members of ICAN. These parochial organizations send over 220 delegates to ICAN. Executives may come up with policies and projects, but the final decision lies on the hands of these delegates. Over the years, each administration acknowledges this set up and uses the structure to create a climate that strengthens relationships and reputation on which ICAN’S success depends on.
Another reason, is that ICAN does not have mechanistic structure, in contrast, it has organic structure which makes her objectives and priorities flexible and decentralized

Does the organization carry out philanthropic works? If yes, can you discuss some of them with us, and highlight how they have impacted on people?

To the best of my knowledge, ICAN is not involved in philanthropic activities. I may be wrong. I stand corrected.

Recently, an Events Centre was purchased by the organization. What is the motive behind this?

The major reason for the purchase of Igbo Center is to generate revenue for ICAN. Another reason is that an Igbo Center could be used to strengthen our community. In addition to developing a connection with members of our community, the Igbo Center could be used to build relationships with other communities in the Dallas Metropolis.

The Young Igbo Community Association (YICAN) is an offshoot of ICAN. What is the motive behind setting up YICAN?

Our Igbo culture and tradition is slowly losing its charm both at home and in Diaspora. In today’s generation, especially our children that are born in Diaspora, all they know is western culture. They are more confused than insightful about Igbo culture even if they are aware of our beliefs and practices, they cannot actually explain, think and comprehend the reasons for it, let alone make efforts to preserve it.
So in other to preserve and transfer our culture to the new generation, YICAN was formed. During Nze Chinasa Madumere’s administration, that was when the program really kicked off. I was the Public Relations Officer of ICAN at that period and my daughter Phyllis was the first General Secretary of YICAN.

People have alleged that there are cliques within the organization, and these cliques influence major decisions. How true is this, and how positively or negatively has the existence of cliques impacted on ICAN?

Cliques are common malady in every organization, ICAN is not an exception. In most organizations, there are individuals who blend together and believe that they are impenetrable. Such people are also present in ICAN. As adults, we recognize all that. We also recognize that cliques have their costs and their benefits. Here in ICAN, no matter how passionate your clique is about anything, the delegates and parochial owns ICAN, their votes determines the modus operandi of ICAN.

Once, there was an allegation of missing funds. How true is this?

Since I joined ICAN about 15 years ago. there had been two occasions when it was alleged that some funds were missing. I don’t know which one you are referring to. In any case, the first one was during one of ICAN’s event, the money collected at the event went missing that same night and was never found up till now. The second one was when it was rumored that there was a comingling of funds to the tune of about $25,000, not too sure of the exact figure. My understanding is that the fund made its way back to ICAN”s bank account. I do not have details of what happened, this is all I know.

It is our understanding that elections into ICAN leadership positions hold once every two years. In fact, one is to hold this month. In ICAN, is politics played the same way as is obtainable in the outside world?

Fortunately, ICAN exists in the outside world otherwise its politics would have been out of this world. Yes, ICAN’s politics is like any other. As I speak, candidates are still campaigning. The Presidential election will be held in two days between Attorney Edwin Nwokocha who belong to Uturu Parochial and Sir Ogbogu Achonwa who belongs to Old Orlu Progressive Association (OOPA). It has been a heated campaign so far. By late Saturday night, November 18, 2017, ICAN will have a new President. No matter who wins, member organizations will support the winner, no matter what.

You were actively involved in ICAN, both in the executive and other roles. Tell me about your roles

ICAN is an Igbo organization. As an Igbo person, I have an obligation to serve my community. I have served in ICAN in various capacities. I served as Public Relations Officer for two terms. In that capacity I used my skills in public relations along with my knowledge in photographic journalism and social media to help bring ICAN to the limelight. During Attorney Bernard Nwaiwu’s Presidency, I served his administration in various capacities, including being the Chairman of Igbo Day two consecutive years. During Nze Chinasa Madumere’s Presidency, I was the Chairman of Igbo Day three straight years. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only person in ICAN that has chaired Igbo Day five different times. During Chief Sam Nwankwo’s presidency, I served as the Chairman of ICAN business banquet until it was aborted. I served in two Business banquets when the current presidential candidate Attorney Edwin Nwokocha was the Chairman of the two Business Banquets.

In the past how has different ICAN administrations helped the organisation grow or decline?

Every administration is different, reason being that each President has his own leadership style. All in all, over the years, I have seen ICAN’s funds grown significantly. I remember there was a time when ICAN had less than two hundred thousand dollars in her account. I know that President Chinasa Madumere and President Sam Nwankwo, raised the most funds for ICAN during their respective presidency. As you know ICAN has purchased an Igbo Center during Engr. Festus Okonkwo’s administration. I am disappointed in the areas of Igbo language project. That program has not been as effective as most people thought it would be. I am also seeing Igbo Day activities on the decline. I wish the incoming administration will help elevate the standard of Igbo Day, Igbo Language program, and come up with a plan that will actually teach our youths our culture and heritage.

You were once active in the affairs of the World Igbo Congress (WIC), what part or parts did you play and how would you compare WIC to ICAN

I was the Director of Media and Information of the World Igbo Congress (WIC) for two terms. I served under Dr. K.K. Diogu who was the Chairman of WIC at that time. That was another opportunity I used my photojournalistic skills and brought WIC into the public eye. I was fortunate then to know the then Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kanu who also owned the Sun Newspapers. That gave me the opportunity to publish my articles on WIC in the Sun Newspapers. Comparing WIC and ICAN is like comparing apple with orange, the entities are totally different in their missions. WIC is the apex organization for all Diaspora organization while ICAN caters for the Igbo community only here in D/FW. The only thing I can say in terms of comparison is that WIC is now court-ridden while ICAN is flourishing.

How prepared is ICAN to conduct election this month

ICAN as an organization is very prepared to conduct the 2017 elections. I am confident that the 2017 electoral committee led by Mr. Paul Iwuchukwu will be equal to the task. I have moderated two ICAN elections in the past, I know that it is a huge task. Let us hope that some individuals will not disrupt the election, other than that, I believe we will have a fair and very successful election.

Who are the few dominant parochial within the organization

I still remember when there were 17 parochial to twenty seven. During our administration, I believe it was up to 34. To date, we have about 46 parochial. There are few dominant parochial, dominant in terms of number of delegates. Old Orlu Progressive Association is one of them. Ikwuano/Umuahia, Mbaise, Mbano, Owerri are some other ones.

Well, it has been nice getting to talk to you, and get some insights into ICAN. We wish the organisation a successful election!

Thank you

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