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Monday, May 20, 2024

Soludo: The Akwaete Revolution and Promoting the Igbo Values


By Izunna Okafor, Awka

“My Akwete dress is not just a dress; it is a statement. I want to make a statement with it. You know, in the entire Southeast, this is the only textile product alive, and it’s handmade by the women of Akwaete in Abia State. Igboland is one and we must protect it. We want to bring back the zeal of patronizing our own. The dresses I will wear are those made in our place here. We must protect the things that are made in our place. Something is about to happen in Igboland, and together we will get there.”

This was a statement by Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, who, on 17th March, assumed office as the Governor of Anambra State, on his love for Akwaete dress and his vision for it.

Akwete is a special kind of fabric/dress made by Igbo people, though mostly by women of Akwete — a town in Abia State.

Over fifty decades ago at the Ojike Street in Umuahia of old Imo State (now Abia State), the long stretch of women from the Akwete town in Ukwa East Local Government Area, sat on their kitchen stools facing four long palm bamboo weaving a combination of colourful cloths into a master piece of cloths. With time, the well-galvanised local fabric eponymously became called by the name of the community –Akwete, and it came to stay and be known as its name till date.

However, with time, the material, just like every other notable and prevalent textile material in the south-east in those days, started going extinct. This extinction was probably as a result of market influence or competition with other foreign materials, drop on people’s love for the material, or certainly as a result of other variables.

Suffice it to say that other beautiful textile materials in the south-east have consummately gone extinct, while Akwaete was already near extinction before it met a revolution.

After many decades the colourful material trended, Prof. Charles Soludo announced that he has adopted the almost-forgotten Akwete cloth as an official cloth for him and also pledged to use other locally-made brands, thereby (directly or indirectly) convincing and encouraged all and sundry to do same and patronize makers of the product.

Prior to this revolution era ushered-in by Prof. Soludo, the Akwete village women, who were known before the Nigerian Civil War for the local weaving and selling of Akwete cloth were hardly seen smiling home after their daily sales, due to low patronage.

However, a tour to Akwete market in Abia State now reveals that the women now smile to bank, due to high patronage. This upholds the validity of the popular Igbo adage says that “Ọ na-abụ onye kpọba ahịa, rechaa, ọ nụ̀rị̀a.”

Again, in line with the popular economic Law of Demand and Supply, this recent high and daily-increasing demand for Akwete fabric has also shot up the price of the materials in the market now.

This indeed is a commendable result arising from keeping of the promise made by Prof. Soludo, to promote and encourage local brands, which was also keyed into by many of his appointees, fans and Igbo elites. Even the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Governors were all seen adorned in their Akwaete dress during one of their meetings in a south-eastern state, defying their identikits (regular dress code)

There is no doubt that almost each Governor or President in Nigeria has or once had an identikit or a dress style with which he is popularly identified. There is also no doubt that the usage or adoption of those materials or by the Governors or Presidents drives and propels people’s love for and their usage/adoption of the materials or dress style. Soludo’s Akwete is not an exemption here. His is even more unique, in the sense that it is a local brand, while those of most of his counterparts are, regrettably, foreign brands. In other words, one can also safely argue that Soludo has come to change the narrative, by making Akwete his official material and sustaining that in the past two years. Although speculations abound that he wears the same or similar designs of the Akwaete dress overtime. However, the point is that he has kept his promise, and the impact is ringing bell, as his Akwaete dangles on him on daily basis.

Recall that he equally promised to make the Nnewi-manufactured Innoson Motors his official cars, and promote palm-wine and other locally-made products — promises he has also justifiably kept.

Aside the economic gains of Soludo’s decision to promote local brands, the results of which are already visible; this move is also a crystal reawakening and renaissance on the fast-fading Igbo values in our society.

From time immemorial, Igbos are known to be a very hardworking people with highly-sought-after values and uniqueness.

Among other values, the age-long Igbo philosophy of “Nke A Bụ Nke Anyị” obviously has a leading role in this revolution and renaissance that is already ignited by Governor Soludo. As he has exhibited, one must first have the understanding and acknowledgement that of a truth, Nke A Bụ Nke Anyị (This Is Our Own), before considering encouraging or promoting it and its usage. So, by promoting Akwete, palm-wine and other local brands, Prof. Soludo is not only promoting the economic benefits, but is also championing a great cause —taking the minds of Ndị Igbo back to their roots and cultural values, promoting their acceptance of their own, and strengthening the local brands to the global stage where they can safely and comfortably compete with other global brands. Little wonder why he says that his Akwete is a statement.

Unlike some other Nigerian leaders who profess to be supportive of local brands but actually patronize foreign brands, Soludo has not just begun officiating the game here (for others to play); he is also the key player in the game, and the game master as well.

Soludo has kicked off the ball of this revolution and sustained it for the past two years. It is now expected of Ndị Igbo and, infact, every Nigerian, to keep the ball rolling, until these targeted goals are scored.

Ndị APGA would say “The Solution Is Here”. But, as for me, “The Revolution Is Here”.

Join this revolution now, and do not be left out.

Izunna Okafor writes from Awka, Anambra State capital.

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