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NNANYI ABRAHAM: A VOICE FROM THE MOTHERLAND

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(A goodwill message to Msgr. Clement Umeabanogu Chigbu on the Golden Jubilee Anniversary of his Priestly Ordination. 1963-2013)

By: Ugo Jim-Nwoko

 

Msgr. Clement  Chigbu

Msgr. Clement Chigbu

“…why it is that one of the commonest names we give our children is Nneka or “Mother is supreme?” We all know that a man is head of the family and his wife does his bidding. A child belongs to its father and his family and not its mother and her family. A man belongs to his fatherland and not to his motherland. And yet we say Nneka- “Mother is supreme. Why is that?” – Chinua Achebe in his epic novel, Things Fall Apart

 

Could the iconic Achebe have had the life and active times of Clement Umeabanogu Chigbu in perspective when he penned the above in his literary masterpiece? Monsignor Chigbu from childhood till active adult life is a personification of the supremacy of motherhood. He is the son of the late Patrick Ezeonye Okereafor Chigbu of Umubachi Eziama and a pride of the Umumgbere, Umu Nwoko Oleah of Umuchie Eziama. He himself in his active days had publicly lent credence to this strong matrilineal love and passion for motherland in a comparison between his person and that of his late younger brother Christopher Anuonye Chigbu. He spoke of the liberal disposition and character of Christopher as in contrast to his own stern qualities. He said while Christopher took after their father, he, Msgr Chigbu has a lot in common with their mother – Veronica Chigbu (Ada Ukwuoma-Nwoko).

 

The Catholic Church had come to Ngor-Okpala and its environs in 1916 through missionary efforts of Sir Jim Ugorji Nwoko-Oleah. He went to Emekuku and brought an Irish Reverend Father who came to celebrate the first Mass in what is known today as Ngor-Okpala and its environs in the palace of his father Eze Nwoko Oleah (1830-1930) in Umuchie Eziama. And following this first Mass, a Catholic mission station was established in Umuchie under Emekuku Catholic Parish.  From Umuchie Catholicism spread to new stations in the community -Umugakwo, Umuokoro and Umubachi, which church was later moved to Eke-Umugo. These four stations later merged to become one big central Catholic station in Achara in 1933.

 

Sir Jim Ugorji Nwoko-Oleah was the maternal grand uncle to Clement Chigbu and that he became one of the first generation of Catholic priests in Ngor-Okpala and the Old Owerri province was to us – Ndi Umuchie and Umu-Nwoko–Oleah, a manifestation of our own share and benefit from the fruits of the labours of our heroes past in the vineyard, royal priesthood and kingship of Christ. We blessed God and took pride in his progression and steady rise in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

 

The dignified carriage and confidence, aura, charismatic leadership and a lifestyle devoid of ostentation were natural to Monsignor Chigbu. These qualities helped him symbolize both the dignity and simplicity of the Catholic priesthood. In reference to his personal qualities and background at his Silver Jubilee on December 27th 1988 and the 1st of January 1989, Msgr. Chigbu was to say that his father and paternal grandmother taught him “to be generous and not just by words but by action”. And in reference to his mother, he said “her noble birth and strictness taught me nobility and self-reliance.”

 

Monsignor cared for a lot of people both far and near. He was a global player in line with his trainings as a priest and the universality of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. He is not by any standard clannish and his self-effacing attitude shrouded most of his heroic efforts and struggles in defense of NDI-IGBO. But for his priestly ministry, Msgr. Chigbu would be celebrated as an OZO-IGBO NDU. His exploits outside the country particularly in Germany during the Biafra/Nigeria Civil War helped the survival of millions in Biafra and the sustenance of the struggle. As a Priest and the President of the Biafra Students in Ireland, Msgr was among the leading Igbos in Diaspora who helped facilitate the interventions of the Catholic Relief Agencies who brought food and relief materials to war-torn Biafra.

 

Dr. Ogbonna, the famous Mbaise Medical Doctor had related to Msgr Chigbu the fiscal and exchange difficulties in Biafra and the need for a good currency to help manage the civil populace and avoid the use of the enemies’ currency in transactions in the territory. The verbal exchanges and strategic discussion between the then Father Chigbu and Dr. Ogbonna led to the famous statement- “Father Chigbu, there is nothing you cannot do”. Msgr Chigbu deployed his contacts in Germany particularly with Dr. Gerbard Gruber, who later became the Vicar-General of Arch-Diocese of Munich and Freisings and these efforts culminated in the visit to Germany by Dr. Sylvester Ugo, the Governor of Central Bank of Biafra to Germany  and the printing of the famous Biafra Currency. That is why Msgr. Chigbu never ceased to talk about Dr. Gruber that “He is a friend indeed and a friend of our people (NDIGBO).”

 

Msgr Clement Umeabanogu Chigbu BU ODOGWU! MA N’ULO MA N’AMA! DIKE EJI AHA YA EJE MBA! After the war and having lost father, sister and close relatives to the conflict, he came back to Nigeria in great pains, to commence the work of rebuilding and restoration of both the church and the family where he has a burden of primogeniture. He had the onerous task of retrieving the famous St.Peter Claver Seminary Okpala compound from the Nigerian Armed Forces under the command of General T.Y. Danjuma. Father Chigbu brought back the then seminary and seminarians who had taken  temporary shelter at the Holy-Ghost Novitiate Awo-ommamma to Okpala in 1970.

 

He is a thorough-bred priest in the finest of old Irish tradition. An astute administrator and displinarian whose principles and strong character left his dignified and non-permissive imprints  wherever he treaded – in the church, in the schools where he served as teacher/Rector and principals and in families that had the privilege of encountering him in the course of his pastoral work or service in the education apostolate.

 

It is difficult, if not impossible to capture the essence of the man very popularly known and called FATHER ABRAHAM in this short piece. For he is a mystery to a lot of people who encountered him both at home and abroad. Although, ill-health and bereavements have sought to demystify Monsignor Chigbu in recent years in an outright display of his mere mortality.

 

He is a priest-teacher who is misunderstood by some folks but awed by many .He preached more by example than by words. A philosopher, who had his ways with Igbo proverbs and wisdom. He accomplished a lot in his typical EJI EGBU NKWU EGBU, UKWA JI ADA N’AKA YA for his people and for the church. Much of these achievements may not have shown as they ought to, because OCHO NI AHUGHI, OHU NI EJI KOBAGHI!

 

As all of us who love him mark the Golden Jubilee anniversary of his Catholic priesthood, we from the noble family of his motherland – Ndi Umuchie, Umu-Nwoko Oleah and Umumgbere (Ukwuoma na Jim) – will continue to celebrate him and his heroic deeds in the church, society and in our lives. For he has great respect and love for us. We thank God for the opportunity He gave him to serve in His vineyard even in his unworthiness. We are grateful for the souls he saved and the number of people he inspired into the priesthood and work of charity.

 

YA GA DI BA! UKWU EJIELA AGU, MGBADA ABIALA YA UGWO.  ANU DINI, AGBAALA N’ OKPO YA!

Be that as it may, we shall not forget his efforts in public service and community development even when it was very clear that he came ahead of his time both in the family and in the Eziama community; very few people could cope with his pace and the sophistication of his personal management and expectations. His life and career is a book which we shall read to learn to survive and live; and we shall not hesitate to retain it in the shelf for the generation yet unborn. Monsignor, we congratulate you on this occasion of your Golden Jubilee as a priest of Christ! We will continue to be inspired by your proverb of encouragement to us in 2004 in Abuja, never to relent in our efforts for a better future and not to forget that “MGBAKO MMIRI EJILA AGHALA NGA OJI AGBAKO”

 

Msgr. Chigbu has known sufferings and deep pains that hurt the human heart. But like Achebe would say “… You think you are the greatest sufferer in the world. Do you know that men are sometimes banished for life? Do you know that men sometimes lose all their yams and even their children? I had six wives once. I have none now except that young girl who knows not her right from her left. Do you know how many children I have buried- children I begot in my youth and strength? Twenty-two. I did not hang myself, and I am still alive. If you think you are the greatest sufferer in the world, ask my daughter, Akeuni, how many twins she has born and thrown away. Have you not heard the song they sing when a woman dies?

 

“For whom is it well, for whom is it well?

There is no one for whom it’s well”

“I have no more to say to you”

 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Uzoma Kevin Nwoko

    February 26, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Not Unto Us, Oh Lord Not Unto Us; but to Your Holy name ALONE be all the glory,Amen!

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ARTICLES

The Data of Forgiveness

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The Universal Character of Salvation

The most important ingredient in today’s media economy is data. The amount of data available determines how much and how long we can work or play on the internet. Currently, many of the service providers offer unlimited data plans but we know that those “unlimited” plans are not always unlimited. Sometimes, your download speed can get slowed down when you cross a certain point. Today, however, Jesus gives us the divine model of an unlimited plan. It is the unlimited bundle of compassion and forgiveness which never gets slowed downed shut down for maintenance. The theme for this week is that we must learn to forgive without limits no matter the injury committed against us.

In Matthew’s Gospel, today’s teaching on unlimited forgiveness comes after Jesus had told his disciples the parable of the wandering sheep, so it is plausible that some would have wondered among themselves how many times a good shepherd should go after the same sheep if it keeps wandering away. In those days, people believed that forgiveness was limited to three times only – a fourth transgression was not to be forgiven. So, by asking Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, Peter was probably aiming to increase the limit to seven times. And Jesus makes it clear that we are to forgive others, “not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:22).That means we must dispense an unlimited data bundle of mercy.

In Jesus Christ, we have the forgiveness of a debt we could never pay. Sin is an offence against God and a direct rebellion against his authority and creation. The debt of 10,000 talents mentioned in today’s parable symbolizes the magnitude of the offence that sin causes in God’s eyes, but he is always willing to forgive without limits. However, we can easily cut ourselves off from God’s river of mercy when we refuse to forgive others. We end up restraining God’s mercy and putting ourselves under strict justice. To unfold his mercy without compromising his justice, God leaves each person free to choose between the two. If we insist on strict justice when we are offended, we bring God’s strict justice upon ourselves. But if we offer an unlimited bundle of mercy to others, we draw God’s unlimited data of forgiveness upon ourselves.

The secret to forming a forgiving heart lies in recognizing the evil of our sin and the immensity of God’s goodness in forgiving us. Until we see the ugliness of our ingratitude and selfishness, we will never appreciate the generosity of God’s forgiveness. Let us examine ourselves now to see how much forgiveness we are giving. Is there someone we still cannot forgive even after they have expressed sorrow for their actions? Have we judged someone too harshly because of something they said or did that we did not particularly like? How many times have we failed to help somebody because we are still dwelling on an injury that we suffered many years ago? How many times have we treated someone differently based on preconceived notions or stereotypes? These are some of the factors that shackle us like chains and that disrupt the unlimited data of divine grace in our lives. When we close ourselves off to people or dismiss them based on our preconceptions, mistaken judgments, and prejudices, not only do we make them suffer, we suffer as well.

But it does not have to be that way. Jesus came to free us from and the burden of sin and unhappiness. Forgiveness is like mercury, which runs away when it is held tightly in the hand but is preserved by keeping the palm open. When we lose forgiveness, we lose the ability to give and to receive love because love is the foundation of forgiveness. And since God is the foundation of love, whoever refuses to forgive automatically rejects the love of God. This is the essence of today’s parable and it is highlighted by the contrast between what was owed by each man. The wicked slave owed his master some 10000 talents. In gold terms, that is 350 tons and at today’s price, he owed his master USD21.8 billion. This was way more than King Solomon made in a year which was 666 talents of gold or USD1.45 billion in today’s value (cf. I Kings 10:14). So, this unforgiving servant owed his master what no individual could never payback. In contrast, his fellow servant owed him the equivalent of one talent of gold or USD2.1 million; so a man who was forgiven $21.8b could not let go of $2.1m, and his wickedness landed him in the hands of torturers.

Dear friends, forgiveness is an act of compassion which is expressed in the free choice to pardon one another’s shortcomings every day, and to also pardon ourselves for own mistakes Forgiveness transcends the fear of being wounded again; it is a deliberate act in imitation of the redemptive work of Jesus, the advocacy of the Holy Spirit, and the loving kindness of the Father. The whole point of today’s parable is that our Father in heaven will do the same to anyone who refuses to forgive others. Whoever refuses to forgive is doomed to a life of bitterness, and as the ugly trend continues, the person ends up building invisible walls of resentment around themselves, thereby blocking off not just one’s relationships with other people but with God as well. Forgiveness is not just an emotional expression or a sense of righteousness; it means being merciful not only when there is an explanation or apology, or a promise of amendment from the offender, but even when the offence is deliberate, and the offender is adamant. Forgiveness is a precious gift of grace, which does not depend on the worthiness of the receiver. Forgiveness is what we called to do, and the Lord’s grace is sufficient for us in that regard. Amen.

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Imo Deputy Governor’s giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture

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Imo Deputy Governor's giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture
By Joy Opara

The increasing cost of Agricultural products in Imo State in recent times has continued to be a major source of concern to the citizens of the state.

A critical appraisal of the development of Agriculture in this state reveals that successive governments had neglected this major sector of the economy, over three decades now, and this has adversely affected the revenue of government.

In line with the vision of the “shared prosperity” government of the Hope Uzodinma administration, the revolution of agriculture is among its cardinal programmes for which a high powered committee (on agricultural master plan for Imo State) has been set up.
For the purpose of resuscitating all moribund agricultural industries and facilities in the state, it is not surprising that this committee is headed by a world class Professor of Agriculture and Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prof. Placid Njoku.

The need to diversify the economy cannot be over-emphasized. It is a well known fact that there is no better and more sustainable means of diversifying the economy than through agriculture. It would be recalled that after the inauguration of his committee, the deputy governor went into action, first by visiting all moribund agricultural facilities in the state, which included Adapalm in Ohaji/ Egbema LGA, Avutu Poultry farm in Avutu, Obowo LGA, Songhai farms, Okigwe road, Owerri, ADP farms in Nekede, Owerri West. Others are Acharaubo farms in Emekuku, Owerri North, Imo Rubber Plantation in Obiti, Ohaji/ Egbema, amongst others.
Prof. Njoku in one of his speeches during the tour described agriculture as the economic base of most countries of the world. Considering the dwindling oil revenue, he said it should be a source of worry to people of good conscience that the vision of our founding fathers to generate revenue, food security, economic advancement, industrialization, employment and eradication of poverty was destroyed by successive governments.
The Deputy Governor, who not only is acknowledged as one of the greatest professors of Animal Science, a renowned Agriculturist and former Vice Chancellor of a leading University of Agriculture, the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, made it clear that the present government led by Governor Hope Uzodinma is desirous to return agriculture to its former glory.

The Ikeduru-born technocrat and farmer per-excellence said that the 3R Mantra of this administration namely: Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery is a base for making the dream of Imo State as the food basket of the nation come true.

Noting that government is a continuum, the deputy governor promised that his committee will build upon what is already on ground by rehabilitating the ones that could be rehabilitated and bringing in new facilities where necessary to ensure that the passion of the governor towards agricultural revival is achieved.

Meanwhile, in most of the establishments visited by the committee, it was discovered that indigenes of the communities had badly encroached into the lands and converted them to personal use. Investigations by the committee revealed that agents of some past governments in the state connived with the communities to make it possible, for their personal aggrandizement.

The deputy governor, whose humility has become legendary pledged his total support to the Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma whom he described as God sent to right all that were done wrong by the previous administrations in the state. He called on all to give this administration the needed support to rewrite the history of Imo State in gold, especially the agricultural sector.

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust
By Christian Uzoukwu

Some years ago, while as a kid, I fell out with my father due to an occasion of sheer disobedience and on that very day, I was given no food and was ultimately battered by hunger. Child abuse includes both acts of commission and omission on the part of parents, guardians as well as care-givers.

These acts have led to a lot of actual and threatened harm meted out on countless number of children. In 2014, the WHO made an estimate of 41,000 children (under the age of 15) that are victims of homicide and other related offences. This estimate, as expounded by this world body is grossly below the real figures due to the views of the society in relation to corporal punishment experienced by children. Girls are always most vulnerable to different forms of child abuse during unrests and in war-thorn territories.

Cases of child abuse can be established in some deadly human vices such as child trafficking, child labour, forced adoption as seen in the one-child policy prevalent in China. In the Asian country, women, by law are only allowed to have one child. Local governments would sometimes allow the woman to give birth and then they would take the baby away stating the mother violated the one child policy. Child traffickers, often paid by the government, would sell the children to orphanages that would arrange international adoptions worth tens of thousands of dollars, turning a profit for the government.

Other striking examples of child abuse are the various forms of violence against the girl-child which involves infanticide, sex-selective abortions, female genital mutilations (FGM), sexual initiation of virgins in some African cultures, breast ironing in some parts of Cameroon – involving the vicious use of hot stones and other tools to flatten the breast tissue of girls who have attained the age of puberty. As if those were not enough, female students are also subject to maltreatments in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is not to talk of recurring kidnapp of female students in some parts of Nigeria, as we saw in the case of Dapchi and Chibok schoolgirls.

Based on simple analysis, child abuse can be defined as “all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power”.

This definition by WHO also falls in line with the definition propounded by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that child abuse are acts of commission. This commission includes “words or overt actions that cause harm, potential harm, or threat of harm to a child”, and acts of omission (neglect), meaning “the failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm.

In Nigeria, most cases of child abuse have become cumbersome due to the fact that these acts of abuses are regarded as mere punishments to unruly young ones and by so doing, should be justified and doesn’t call for any further discussion and/or scrutiny. According to various statistical studies and researches, child abuse is a vast societal cankerworm and has four profound tentacles viz:

Physical Abuse: this involves undue hitting, beating, kicking, shaking, biting, burning, strangling, insertion of pepper into the eyes and pubic regions of children, maltreatments from house-help(s) and seniors at boarding/day schools, suffocating and forcing children to live in unwholesome conditions.

Sexual Abuse also includes persuading a minor into acts of sexual intercourse, exposure of the child’s private parts, production of child-related pornographic contents and actual sexual contacts with children.

Psychological Abuse of children can be seen in cases of excessive scolding, lack of proper attention that children should be receiving from their parents and guardians, destructive criticisms and destruction of a child’s personality.

Neglect of children can also lead to children dropping out of schools, begging/stealing for food and money, lack of proper medical care for minors and realities of children looking like ragamuffins.

Consequently, the causes of child abuse can be judiciously related to sex, age, personal history, societal norms, economic challenges, lack of Rights’ Protection Agencies, parents battling with traits of alcoholism and family size. These causative agents of child abuse can bring untold effects upon the society at large and these effects can be emotional, physical and psychological as the case may be, giving rise to individuals with dissociative lifestyles.

Furthermore, the treatment of individuals who have been malformed with respect to the abuses they experienced abinitio, can be a long process because it involves behavioral therapy and other forms of neoteric therapies. Treatments of psyche-related problems are not just a one-day process due to the long-lasting effects of abuses on various conscious mental activities. It is also noteworthy to point out that, prevention is always better than cure and holding fast to this true reality, entails that agencies who have the responsibility of protecting the rights of children must continue to do the needful which requires proper oversights of parent-child relationships.

To conclude this piece therefore, we must agree that untold hardships have been a great challenge for children especially in Africa and some parts of Asia. Children with long histories of abuses turn out to become societal misfits. To this end we encourage that: Children should be given a free platform to express themselves on many topical issues and issues relating to their existence.

Children should also be allowed to freely ask questions on any issue, no matter, how weird it seems to be.

Governments should make regulations outlawing societal norms and values that might amount to child abuses.

Corporal punishments by parents, guardians and care-givers should be discouraged at all levels, thereby making parents/guardians/care-givers who seem to be incorrigible, to face the full weight of justice enshrined in the law of the land.

Education system (both conventional and unconventional) in Nigeria should be able to train up young ones into becoming critical, analytical and evaluative individuals with a view of defending the vulnerable.

And again, since children are said to be leaders of tomorrow, it is pertinent to note that to secure their future, their present existence must be cherished and protected.

Christian Chimemerem Uzoukwu
08100029867 / 09025760804
Admin Critical Thinkers’ Forum.

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