General Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate for the 2015 election, Gov. Rochas Okorocha, Gov. Amaechi of Rivers State, Former Governor of Lagos State, Chief Asiwaju Tinubu, former Governor Anambra State, Chief Chris Ngige, former Governor Anambra State Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu with top party executives last Monday 12th January paid a courtesy call on His Grace Most Rev. Anthony J. V. Obinna, Archbishop of Owerri. This was after the party’s rally in Owerri.
General Buhari spoke first, and said “I want to use the opportunity of this campaign to ask everybody to bring out his Permanent voter’s card and vote according to their conscience. This time around we will not tolerate anything short of a transparent election. There have been a continued dilapidation of the Country’s infrastructure, education, health care and the most serious among this is power. Millions of dollars not Naira have be spent with nothing to show for it. We are going round to tell Nigerians to get their Permanent voter’s card ready, to go out and vote and to make sure their votes count. This time around we are going to make sure it counts, we have made it absolutely clear to INEC. If the people will be allowed to vote for whomever they want to vote, then there will be peace, this I firmly believe. I hope that God will answer your prayers for the stability of this Country”
This was an opportunity to reach out to these politicians in a more personal way.
Responding Archbishop Obinna said: “when I heard you are coming I went back to my Phd thesis which I defended on 11th Jan 1984 and I want to read you a part of what I wrote just a few days after the coup d’etat of 31 Dec. 1983.” “ In 1960 the British colonial government relinquished the administration of Nigeria. On Jan 15 1966 a military coup de tar ended the rule of the Nigeria leadership which took over from the British. Corruption was the declared reason for the coup. This coup then lead to a 3 year civil war 1967 – 1970. A military coup d’tat in 1975 ended the leadership of General Gowon, a military head of State. In 1979 the military handed back power to the civilian regime. As I was putting finishing touches to this study the news of another military coup came. In effect, President Shehu Shagari and the civilian leadership were overthrown on charges of the same ineptness and corruption which he had earlier decried and in the face of which he had called for an ethical revolution. A new military head of state Muhammadu Buhari now presides over Nigeria. Where we go from here is as yet uncertain.
On December 31st 1983, a moral crisis in Nigeria gave way to a military coup d’etat. In his broadcast to the nation on the reasons for the coup, which toppled the civilian government presided over by Shagari, the New military leader of the nation Muhammadu Buhari said that the army seized power in order to put and end to the serious economic predicament and the crises of confidence now afflicting our nation. Corruption had attended unprecedented heights under Shagari said Buhari dismissing as rigged the august election that gave Shagari a second 4 year term. There is ample evidence that rigging and thugery were relative to the resources available to each of the country’s now banned six political parties. Buhari added that his government will not tolerate kick backs, manipulated contracts or over invoicing nor will it condone forgery, fraud and embezzlement.
The Archbishop asked “Have we moved forward or backwards from this point? The Archbishop said he spent a lot of time thinking of Nigeria. “My study was with a view to finding a modus vivendi for all Nigerians and I ended up with an ideology for Nigeria, which I called life enhancement. Enhancing the life of every Nigerian on the basis of equal value of every Nigerian, On the other side I talked about one concept – ‘Live and let live’. I found one concept to hold live and let live together which is ‘Covival’- the covival of the variety instead of the fittest. So this is African Democratic ideology – Covivalism.
I ask you your Excellency, can we live together as one people, one nation in Nigeria? Can we, with the multiplicity of our religions, of our ethnic groups, of our class structure, with the multiplicity of our conflicts stick together as one country? I keep asking myself can we forge one nation, one national consciousness, through which every Nigerian whether from Yoruba land, from Itsekiri from Oyo, from Sokoto, can we live together? Right now we are sitting on a keg of gun powder. We have known war, I was a prisoner of war at the end of the civil war. I was imprisoned in the military camp. So I come from a background of having survived through the war and have been detained and escaped from prison. God allowed me to be alive till today”
Archbishop Obinna said to Buhari: “Well before I knew you, your name has been on my doctorial dissertation, published in 1984. And we are yet trying to forge a nation, one people, one mind” He asked “Do we have one God or many gods?” Now this is part of the problem, If we have one God, we should have one humanity, one national family, but if we have many gods then we have multiple humanity.
This is a very important issue at the apex level. So the real issue for now is not PDP and APC but our belonging together as one family, one nation so that I can move freely from here to any part of the county as I did in 1985 when I came back from the United States. At that time I was able to travel through Nigeria without any harassment. But today it is difficult to drive through Nigeria, and Nigeria is such a lovely wonderful place.
Whether it is PDP or APC ruling the nation, our concern is how do we become fellow sons and daughters of God and respect and treat one another as such without the feeling that you are inferior or that I am superior. This is part of my mission to equalise and to equilibrate the perfection of us Nigerians. We see each other not just as brothers and sisters but as sons and daughters, giving each person his due recognition as son or daughter, so let everybody humble himself. Archbishop Obinna said “some people are unfortunately suffering from a disease of Pomposity – a form of psychosis”.
He wished General Buhari well as he moves on “ it is a pity that you are bring brought back to 1984, when you should have moved on and retired comfortably after having served the nation. This is part of the predicament of Nigeria. If things had been better shaped, it would have been a different story. Some of the countries that have had things better shaped are doing much better, even the small nations of Asia that were coming to beg us, even Malesia that came to borrow palm fruits here, they are now super power in that area. Counties like Korea and Japan have become the Asian tigers.
The Archbishop again addressed Buhari and said, “Your Excellency you will do well to address the issue of religion. See how you can actually transcend the polarisation that we see at various levels since this nation is a multi religious, multi ethnic, It requires something that will hold everybody together, that has been my concern. If we start talking of Christianising everybody you create problem, if anybody talks about Islamisation, it will create problem. That is why there is a need for a certain transcendent that will have to guide whoever is at the Apex of Nigeria. I think that during the time of Shagari there was a certain equilibration at that time. There wasn’t too much emphasis on Christianity or Islam as part of any official policy. Effort should be made to prevent sectarian apostles from manipulating either Islam or Christianity. As you have said lets emphasis those things that are for the welfare of the people: education, health, electricity, because everybody needs these whether Muslim or Christian. If there is an earthquake here all of us whether Christian or Muslim will fall in; If there is an accident, all of us will go in, so there is a certain humanistic strain.
We don’t buy into western secularisation. Definitely Muslims, Christians and Africanists, we agree on certain humanistic values, that was why it was easy to fight the issue of homosexualism and Lesbianism, we don’t tolerate those whether as Africans, as Muslims or Christians.
The Vatican and the Islamic heads of state have been able to fight secular forces, materialistic forces that are trying to trivialize many things. But again we have the danger of religious violence. It can come from Christians, it can come from Muslims, and we need to eliminate those in our body politic. The Archbishop said we should helm in or rein in our political leaders so that they can focus on issues of good governance.
Governor Asiwaju Tinubu asked the Archbishop to beg politicians to stop playing politics with religion. He said no nation has gone on this line and survived. Poverty he said “has no religious or tribal mark”. He said some people who fail in many areas try to hide under religion. He said the clergy should continue to discourage Politicians from playing politics with religion.
Former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Dr. Chris Ngige said “Our country is at the verge of vanishing” and that the Church has a role to play in promoting good leadership
Former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu said APC has an agreement duly signed that stipulates that APC is committed to good governance. He said the party will ensure every one elected abides by this. He appealed that APC should be given a chance.
The Archbishop reminded them that here in Imo State, but for the work of Justice Development and Peace Commission, and our voter education engagement, this man – Rochas, would not have become governor in Imo State. “We sustained our prayer for upright voting, accurate counting and impartial announcement of elected result and we are praying it up till this moment. There was a revolution in 2011 here in Imo State under APGA. We insisted that people should cast their votes, remain there until the results were announced. That was why every body was clued to the result of Imo. That was how the votes were secured; the votes were not secured by the politicians. So we are not new to the democratic process. The Archbishop continued “I am a Christian to the chore but humanistic in my drives.” As a lecturer for 17 years the values I teased out are life enhancement principle and they are neither Christian or Muslims. This is from the African Anthropology – Ndubuisi – Life is Supreme, Chinwendu– God is the owner of life. This was the basis on which I developed my thesis not so much on Islam or Christianity, even though I studied the various currents in Nigeria with a view to finding a common ideological framework that will guide us, that will shape our attitude, evaluate us on the basis of which we can operate. So what is being said here is the ideology of faith and harmony which can be incarnated within the Nigerian political framework and we will be all the better for it.
Governor Rochas Okorocha thanked the Archbishop for a warm welcome and said the situation of things in the country calls for drastic action and said that Buhari is a providential hand waiting there to help Nigeria. He said the allegation that Buhari will Islamise Nigeria is no true. “If Buhari has not converted to Islam his cook and driver who are Christians, how can he Islamise the whole country?
The Archbishop thanked God for the visit of Buhari and APC members and prayed that whatever is God’s will for Buhari let it be for his glory and for the good of the people.
“Whether it is PDP or APC ruling the nation, our concern is how do we become fellow sons and daughters of God and respect and treat one another as such without the feeling that you are inferior or that I am superior”
Covid-19 robs 2020 Owerri Archdiocesan Day/Odenigbo lecture of usual festivities
…Half a loaf better than no bread at all – Archbishop Obinna
By Emeka Ani
The usual pomp and pageantry that characterize the Owerri Archdiocesan Day/Odenigbo lecture did not feature this year due to Covid-19 pandemic, thus leading to a low-key celebration.
Not only that the usual lecture did not hold, the “Odenigbo Eve,” which usually involves a variety of cultural entertainment, including dances, drama, singing and wrestling contests did not feature at all; Covid-19 emebiela ihe!
But according to Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Catholic Archbishop of Owerri and founder, Odenigbo lecture series, who filled the gap created by the absence of this year’s lecture, “kama ehi mmadu ga-agbafucha, o ka mma igbubiri ya odu”. (It is better to accept less than one wants or expects than to have nothing at all.)
The Owerri Archdiocesan Day is an annual celebration to commemorate the 1994 elevation of the Catholic Diocese of Owerri to an Archdiocese. The celebration began in 1996.
According to Archbishop Obinna, the “arch-ness bestowed on the diocese was an invitation challenge to root the gospel of salvation deep into our lives and culture, to purify, rectify and sanctify every part of our culture, to reject what is evil, harmful and inhuman therein.”
This year, the Archdiocesan Day, which was held on Saturday September 5, began with a thanksgiving Mass as usual at Maria Assumpta Cathedral Owerri. It was presided over by Most Rev. Anthony Obinna assisted by the Catholic Bishop of Aba, Most Rev. Augustine Echema and the Auxiliary Bishop of Owerri, Most Rev. Moses Chikwe, Episcopal Vicars and several priests.
The Cathedral, unlike in the past was half-filled following directives by the Archdiocese that only those invited would be admitted to ensure compliance with the Covid-19 protocols, especially physical distancing.
In his homily at the Mass, Bishop Echema described Owerri as a special Archdiocese that produced two bishops in one year; a reference to the appointment of Bishop Chikwe and himself in 2019.
Commending Archbishop Obinna for establishing Odenigbo lecture series, Bishop Echema highlighted the importance of native language, saying there is correlation between language and culture.
Bishop Echema emphasized the importance of native language in evangelization and advised ndigbo to take Igbo Language seriously, speak Igbo, write Igbo and dream in Igbo, because “when one dreams in a language, it shows that one understands not only the language but also the culture of the people.”
The thanksgiving Mass was followed by fund-raising for archdiocesan projects especially the building of a new Archdiocesan Secretariat, a minor seminary and a monastery, after which the faithful relocated to the Obiri-Odenigbo for refreshment and a talk in place of the 2020 Odenigbo lecture which was to be delivered by Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, Papal Nuncio to Trinidad and Tobago. Because of the coronavirus and the total lockdown, the lecturer could not arrive Nigeria for the lecture, titled: Otu Chukwu: Otu Obara, Mbikozi Umu Mmadu. The lecture has now been differed to 2021.
However, in its place and to ensure this year’s Odenigbo is not totally a failure, Archbishop Obinna delivered what he called a “Talk” but eventually became a lecture. He titled it: ODENIGBO: ENYEMAKA PURUICHE N’IJI ASUSU IGBO EZISAZI – ANABATACHA OZIOMA KRISTI.
In the 57-page lecture, which he delivered with the same vigor and vitality as he did in 2000 when he delivered that year’s Odenigbo lecture – “UJUNWA: Anuri Uwa Niile,” Archbishop Obinna, explained that the need to intensify and expand the saving work of Christ among ndigbo and within the Igbo religio-cultural context through Igbo Language gave rise to Odenigbo.
He commended the white missionaries for bringing the Goodnews of salvation to Igboland and elsewhere even though they did not give much attention to the use of Igbo Language in evangelization, apart from the Catechism and other publications like Ndu Dinwenu Anyi.
Archbishop Obinna recalled with nostalgia, a historical event which took place on September 20, 1970 during the Episcopal ordination of Bishop Mark Unegbu at Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, Emekuku.
“That day was unforgettable in the use of Igbo Language and Igbo music and instrument to celebrate Mass. For the first time, since 1885 Gloria in Excelsis Deo (Otito Diri Chineke n’elu kacha elu) was sung in Igbo (instead of Latin) with Igbo instrument amid jubilation.
Describing Christ as Odenigbo, Odenuwa, Amarachi Obinna said, he (Christ) has freed ndigbo from ancient and modern fears, occasioned by traditions and customs that terrorize and hold ndigbo captive.
Concluding the lecture, he observed that the modern darkness we see today is based on stupidity and pride, when some people want to recreate themselves, do whatever they like, without fear of God or man because of greed, modernity, science and technology.
“We had thought that the end of Nigeria-Biafra war will bring peace to the country but unfortunately there is still fear and anxiety in Igboland and Nigeria, people are living in fear, the world is living in fear.”
For man to have peace of mind and live in peace, in a world full of fear, the lecturer said there was need for us to receive the light of Christ and gift of the spirit; take the word of God seriously and live a life of humility, devoid of pride based on academic qualifications, scientific and technological discoveries and material acquisitions.
“These will give way to a life of humility, love and mercy and the beauty of the world created by God will manifest in you and in the society.”
“It is only in the gospel message of Christ – who is Odenuwa and Odenigbo that one can proudly say; “The world is beautiful (Uwa Amaka), he said.
In a vote of thanks, the Auxiliary Bishop of Owerri, Most Rev. Moses Chikwe said the standing ovation that greeted the Archbishop’s special lecture was a proof that the talk was well delivered and well received, adding that the Archbishop is always at home with Igbo Language.
The takeaway of the lecture, according to Bishop Chikwe, was that Igbo Language is beautiful and its beauty was rooted in Christ, the Odenigbo, who is neither white nor black.
Though Mbem Odenigbo (Odenigbo Anthem) and Ekwe Odenigbo did not feature at the lecture, the cultural dance by the CWO of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Egbeada entertained the audience, thus giving the occasion a semblance of Odenigbo celebration.
HRH Eze Peter Opara inaugurates cabinet
…As traditional leadership gets boost at Umunumo Ancient Kingdom
By Magnus Ibe
The Traditional leadership of Umunumo Autonomous Community, Ehime Mbano LGA of Imo State received a resounding boost on Sunday August 23, as the cabinet members were formally inaugurated by HRH, Eze Peter Chima Opara (Eze Udo II).
The assemblage of top brass personalities into the cabinet is indicative of robust prospects for the growth and development of the Ancient Autonomous Community.
Inaugurating the members of the Eze-in-Council, the Royal Father charged the inductees to shun personal interest and put the community in the front burner for a rapid transformation and development. He enjoined the cabinet members to be proactive, articulative and dogged about the welfare of the community, employment and empowerment of the youths so that a new chapter is enacted.
According to him, many are called, but few are chosen. He charged them to move the community to the next level by articulating right attitude and formulate policies that will accelerate the development of the community. He cautioned against indolence and insubordination that can retard the unity and development of the community.
In his remarks, the President-General of the Town, Chief Godwin Uwah working in synergy with the royal father advised that the various Town Unions leadership should synergize and work in one page with the cabinet members. Chief Godwin Uwah observed that membership of cabinet is subject to review every four years.
Among the cabinet members comprise Chief Godwin Uwah PG, Sir MCN Asawalam (KSM), Chief Chidi Ogueri, Chief Sir Emmanuel Ibe, Chief Aloka Alexander, Nze H.D. Eze, Mr. Emeto K. Michael, Nze Godwin Amaku, Mr. Columba Ohazurike, Chief Mel Daimeon Osuji (Omereoha), Hon Ononamadu Emeka Joseph, Chief Peter Crown Duru, Chief Romanus Ogueri, Comrade Godwin Ihekwoaba, Nze Romanus Chukwu, Nze Vincent Ukah, Chief E. Evaristus Okafor, Chief S. Okele, Nze Clement Iwueze, Hon Felix Iwuji, Chief S. Obikaonu, Hon Kelechi Iwueze, Mr. Joseph Obi Onyema (Deputy PG), ACP H. Agbiogwu, Chief M.C. Okoro, Nze Nneji Boniface, Nze Charles Nwokoro, Nze Edmund Nwokeke, Chief Joseph Anosike, Chief M. Dingwo, Chief Columbia Isikuma, Chief Oliver Agbaso, Ichie Bernard Nwohiri, Nze Titus Iwunze, Chief Romanus Ijejiobi and all village chairmen constitute members of the enlarged cabinet. HRH Eze P. Alozie, Abunumo I graced the event.
In a vote of thanks, Chief Mel-Daimeon Osuji, promised on behalf of the members of the Eze’s cabinet to live above board like Caesar’s wife. He observed that he was humbled to speak on behalf of the top brass personalities who constitute the Eze-in-Council and also made a personal donation of one million naira.
In his contribution, Hon. Emeka Joseph Ononammadu, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Enugu State, who is also a member of the cabinet made a mouthwatering financial support and others including Sir. M.C.N. Asawalam donated handsomely.
Inducting the new cabinet members, Msgr. Jerry Ofoegbu prayed for God’s guidance and wisdom for the Royal Father and the cabinet members.
He eulogized the royal father for putting God first in his nascent leadership. He admonished the PG and the members of the Eze-in-Council to ensure peace and unity in their various domain. He spoke against injustice, insubordination and manipulative divisive tendencies that will sow seed of discord in the community. He prayed God to bless the royal father with the Wisdom of Solomon.
Msgr. Ofoegbu prayed for longitivity, peace and development of Umunumo Ama-Iri community. He cautioned against sectionalism and maltreatment of widows, orphans and the less privileged in the society.
Traditional cuisine of palm wine, Ugba with stockfish and other local delicacies were served to all and sundry. Eze & Ugoeze Ekwunno, Eze Umuezeala Oguara graced the event amid pomp and pageantry.
St. Michael’s Choir Umuaro wins singing competition
By Magnus Ibe
Monsignor Jerry Ofoegbu presided over the activities heralding the Silver Jubilee anniversary celebration of Rev. Sr. Mary Ifechukwudere Emeribe which kicked-off at St. Charles Parish Umunumo, Ehime Mbano LGA Saturday August 29, with worship and praises to the glory of God with a singing competition among four parishes.
Msgr. Ofoegbu, the Dean of Ehime Deanery expressed profound gratitude to God for His mercies and goodness culminating in the silver jubilee anniversary celebration of Rev. Sr. Emeribe of Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy congregation (DMMM) who is billed to mark the 25th year anniversary celebration of her profession in December.
The event was graced by Rev. Frs. Paschal Nwaobasi, Boniface Edomobi, Nnamdi Anyanwu, Andrew Agbiogwu who extolled the Silver Jubilarian for keeping faith and for being involved in the spread of evangelism. He appreciated her niece for commencing her celebration with the singing competition among the parishes in her home Umunumo community.
The competing parish choirs included: St. Charles Parish Choir Umunumo led by David Ohaeri, St. Ignatius Parish Choir Ibeafor Umunumo led by Okorie Damian, St. Michael’s Parish Choir Umuaro-Umunumo headed by Jim Nnorom and St. Theresa’s Parish Choir Umuoma Nzerem led by Fidelis Osuji.
In her remarks prior to the commencement of the competition, Rev. Sr. Emeribe observed that the event marks the beginning of the celebration heralding her profession and consecration in the Lord’s vineyard. According to her, she was motivated by St. Augustine who said that “whoever sings well, prays twice.”
According to her, she started the induction of the four competing parish choirs on March 23, 2020. She posited that she was motivated to help upgrade the choir because most times, “external” choirs were hired to animate Eucharist worship at burials and weddings due to the poor and inferior choir at the locality.
She disclosed that she included St. Theresa’s choir Umuoma Nkerem because she served there for over ten years. She observed that even participating choirs will have a token of appreciation and a certificate of participation. She said the star prize of one hundred thousand naira (N100,000) goes to the eventual winner of the competition in addition to the customized trophy.
According to her, her intentions to help groom a central choir from the whole Umunumo Ama-Iri community and she hopes that the competition will become an annual event.
The team of judges from Abia State led by Nath Nwoko (Rochobath) included, Amarachi Udochika and Obinna Osisiogu.
At the end of the competition, the choir from St. Michael’s Parish Umuaro won the first prize and were given the their prize money after each choir rendered five Christian renditions each.
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