Recently, the people of Anaocha in Anambra State rolled out the drums to celebrate the culture and the philanthropic accomplishments of one of its sons. RAYMOND OZOJI writes
Anaocha Local Government Secretariat Neni was filled to the brim as masquerades performed esoteric displays amidst a zenith of ecstatic atmosphere where all indigenes and visitors in Anaocha thronged to show profound gratitude and appreciation to the gods of the land for bountiful harvest which marked the 2021 Anaocha Day.
It was historical as people came from far and near to savour the rich cultural heritage as well as agricultural potentials of the Anaocha people of Anambra State.
Top government functionaries, business moguls, traditional rulers, and other very prominent Nigerians and foreigners graced the 2021 Anaocha unanimous new yam festival where Chief Dr. Chukwuemeka Franklin Okeke, an American trained pharmacist and third son of the famous transporter Chief Godwin Ubaka Okeke popularly known as G.U.O transport company in Nigeria and beyond was bestowed the Ikemba Di Ugwu Anaocha chieftaincy title before the gods and ancestral spirits of Anaocha.
It was indeed an epoch-making event as the 39-year-old Chukwuemeka Franklin Okeke joined the retinue of traditional title holders of Anaocha giving credence to his dream of taking after the late Ikemba Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu whose return from Ivory Coast in 1982 coincided with his birth at Iyienu general hospital Ogidi Idemili-North local government area of Anambra State. Chukwuemeka, therefore, believes that he shares similar attributes with the late Biafran warlord judging from his passionate love for Igbo land and Nigeria at large. He said he was nicknamed Ikemba from the cradle because of his enthusiasm and burning desire for community service, especially in Adazi-Ani his country home where his philanthropy has wiped away tears and put smiles on melancholic faces as well as rekindled hope for the hopeless.
It is often said that when a child washes his hands neatly, he wines and dines with the kings. That was the story of Chief Dr. Chukwuemeka Franklin Okeke whose great exploits in the delivery of selfless community cum humanitarian life-changing intervention projects and programmes endeared him to Anaocha traditional institution who found him worthy of the prestigious Ikemba Di Ugwu Anaocha chieftaincy honour. Dr. Okeke is a vivid portrayal of the popular maxim that the young shall grow. Though a youngster, he availed himself of the teachings and communion of elders from whence he was blessed with historical facts about his progenitors and Igbo traditional values in general irrespective of his long sojourn in the United States of America.
Prior to the conferment of the aforestated chieftaincy honour on him, Chief Okeke had obtained a Bachelor of Science and a Master’s Degree in Neurobiology from the Georgia State University, Atlanta, USA together with a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree from the University of California, San Diego also in the USA. He is a member of the American College of Health Executives and a member of many local and international professional associations and organisations. He is currently the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Spine Communications Limited. Founder Rise Global Health Initiative California USA. Founder Aspire Football Club Adazi-Ani and was the Chairman Caretaker Committee Anambra State Football Association in 2020, to mention just a few of his meritorious accomplishments as a youth.
In service to humanity, Ikemba Di Ugwu Anaocha has lifted many from squalor to splendor. In Adazi-Ani his country home, Chief Okeke has built houses for the homeless, provided and still providing free medical care for the people of Anaocha local government area through his Rise Hospital at Adazi-Ani. He has also supported and still supporting educational programmes through scholarships for sons and daughters of his home community Adazi-Ani. In promoting his native culture and mother tongue, the young lad has contributed and still contributing his quota in the celebration of Oji-Ofor and new yam festivals of the Adazi-Ani community while ensuring that social life received a great boost through other community activities he single-handedly sponsored and spearheaded in Adazi-Ani communities.
Indeed, Dr. Okeke at the age of 39 has demonstrated his Ikemba abilities to dare and confront dire situations as evident in the life of the late Ikemba Gburugburu Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu as he clearly noted that to whom much is given, much is expected. He believes that Ikemba Di Ugwu Anaocha means his community, Anambra State, Nigeria, and the entire world expect more from him. He said, ” two years ago I was given one of the meritorious awards during Anaocha new yam festival for my contributions to my community. All the ten towns in Anaocha came out with our masquerades, our cultural dance troops and it was a huge festival.
“Anaocha has been celebrating new yam festivals for a very long time and it has always been an occasion one could not afford to miss. Again, there is a couple of things with the chieftaincy title bestowed on me. One is that it has to do with God and his divine design because it goes back to 39 years ago precisely June 18, 1982, Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu came back from Ivory Coast at 11 am; 10 pm the same day Friday, June 18, 1982, I was born at Iyienu general hospital Ogidi. On our way home from Iyienu Ogidi, at Nkpor junction we were stopped by his convoy when he was going back to Nnewi. So Ikemba became official in my life because my community and the entire Anaocha made the dream become a reality.
” I am a small boy but I lived with old people which is why I have history and I continued to have their blessings. For about four years now, I have been sponsoring Oji-Ofor cultural festival in Adazi. I am also instrumental to the success of the Adazi-Ani new yam festival this year. So I believe in culture and I believe we should continue to encourage other people and I believe so many other things will come if we appreciate who we are and cherish our identity. I have also told some of our people it is not just to come and collect chieftaincy titles because the reward for good work is more work. I will start by being an example. By the special grace of God in the next six months, it will be my special wish to at least renovate one football pitch in each of the secondary schools in all the ten towns of Anaocha local government area and after we have a good pitch, we might consider Ikemba cup. ” These and many more he believes should be undertaken by well-meaning individuals to foster grassroots development as well as the discovery of raw talents in the countrysides and nurture them to the zenith of their chosen careers because he believes very strongly that investments in human infrastructure are the best legacy for the nation and posterity.