Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu and other prominent Nigerians gathered in Abuja to honour about 12 prominent African-Americans exploring their ancestry in Africa.
The African-Americans were given Igbo names, with the re-naming rite conducted by a traditional chief from the South-East.
Agencies reports that 2019 marked exactly 400 years when Africans were forcefully taken away from their own land to America as slaves.
The event which was organised by the Global Institute of Diversity and Change and the Igbo Community in Abuja, in commemoration of 400 years of slavery was hosted by Sir Sam Obaji and Professor Chinwe Obaji, Nigeria’s former Education Minister.
The programme was aimed at encouraging blacks in the diaspora to visit or perhaps consider resettling in the motherland. It involves prominent African-Americans, dance troops as well as traditional rulers in Nigeria.
Speaking in an interview with newsmen at the event, Onu who was the chairman of the occasion said the event was significant in the history of the United States and Nigeria, and would foster bilateral relations between the two countries and promote harmony between their citizens.
“These are our brothers and sisters, they have come to actually identify with us but the most important thing is that they are seeking for their identify and this is important because they are Americans but their roots is here in Nigeria and this will deepen Nigeria-America relationship.”
The president of Global Institute of Diversity and Change and an African -American, Dr Yewande Austin said the renaming was an indication that African-Americans were proud of Africa as their historical ancestral home.
“This year marks the 400 years that the first Africans from the transatlantic slave trade arrived Virginia, and this event is to ignite our sense of connection with Africa. It is very important to know that Africans worked tirelessly in building the United States, and we are very proud of that.”
Austin who has been known for her efforts in supporting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria using her personal funds said hundreds of African-Americans see Virginia as their home, and there is an Igbo Village in Virginia today.
On her part, Prof Chinwe Obaji, said the historic slavery migration was an indication that Africans paid huge price in the development of America. She said that the christening would make recipients of the names see Nigeria as their home and contribute towards its advancement.
“United States and Nigeria have come a long way in working together, and this naming occasion is very significant because these Americans will see themselves as Nigerians.”