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SPECIAL REPORT

Ilara-Mokin: Town Developed Through Self-Help

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BOLU-OLU ESHO writes on the efforts being made by indigenes of a community in Ondo State to transform the rustic town into an iconic modern city.

Ilara-Mokin is one of the ancient towns in Ondo State. It was popularly known for its Fire Festival. Both natives and those residing in the neighbouring towns and villages throng the town during this unique festival. The festival had in the past remained the rallying point for the natives both home and abroad as many of them visit home during the occasion just like what Christmas is to the country boys.

However, this has changed and a day has been separated for the folks to gather and deliberate on how to develop their cherished country home to a modern habitat. The special day was tagged Mokin Day. This has provided a platform for all sons and daughters, both young and old, from the king to the least subject to brainstorm and make contributions to the development of their cherished homeland.

Fortunately, Ilara-Mokin is blessed with offshoots that are generous and have a passion for decorating it with uncommon edifices for no personal gains. One of these species is the major distributor of Toyota automobile products in the country, Chief Michael Ade-Ojo, founder of Elizade Motors.

Everyone born in the community is passionate about the serene and natural habitat doted and surrounded by green vegetation. But despite its proximity to the capital city of the state, Ilara-Mokin has over the years, either by omission or commission, been abandoned by the government as there are just a few state-owned projects of the old bestowed on it.

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In a rescue mission, the sons and daughters of the little town decided to take the faith into their own hands. A strategy was designed and accepted by all that they would come together annually to make contributions to execute specific projects in the community. The projects are designed, funded and executed by them to ensure contractors adhere strictly to the specifications.

Chief Ade-Ojo solely constructed several roads within the community, especially one linking the town to a neighbouring Ikota community, which is in the same local government area.

In his passion for and desire to develop the town, Chief Ade-Ojo established and cited Elizade University in the town. He also established a golf course in the town simply named: Smokin Hills Golf Resort.

In her address on Sunday, November 21, 2021, at the 42nd Mokin Day celebration, the National President, Egbe Omo Ilara-Mokin, Dr. Oluyemisi Olorunshola, stated that “In the last six months, we have embarked on 11 projects at the cost of N62 million. Some of these projects are completed and have been inaugurated while others are at advanced stages of completion.

“The achievement is only possible by the grace of God and the unflinching support of our sons and daughters. While I make bold to say that I have enjoyed the support of Mokin sons and daughters from all over the world, I must mention the contributions of some distinguished sons and daughters who have contributed in no small measure (in the last six months) to the development of Ilara-Mokin by funding the projects.”

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Mr. Japheth Adaramola, an architect, who was the chairman of the occasion, declared that he would continue to support the community development, having been adopted as a son of the Ilara-Mokin. Mr. Adaramola, who hails from Osun State, is a major contractor to Chief Ade-Ojo and was part of the team that brought about Elizade University. He said he had considered himself a native of Ilara-Mokin and a life member of Egbe Omo Ilara-Mokin.

The community had through communal efforts built infrastructure including the building housing the only commercial bank in the community, the new Oba’s Palace, health centre, Doctors’ residence, courts complex (magistrate and customary courts), Divisional Police Headquarters, e-Library, and among others.

According to Mrs. Olorunshola, “Chief Ade-Ojo (OON) has been at the forefront of major developments in our community, a benevolent spirit who has touched the lives of Mokin indigenes and Ilara-Mokin community in general.  “Ilara-Mokin is on the world map today because of his great contributions and huge investments in the community.

I must mention the contributions of some distinguished sons and daughters who have contributed in no small measure—in the last six months—to the development of Ilara-Mokin by funding several projects

“We are proud of Elizade University, the Smokin Hills Golf Course, well-paved roads in Ilara-Mokin, and other projects which have elevated the community far above its peers.

“We thank you for equipping our e-library and saving our community from the hazards of flood with the construction of the collapsed bridge and re-channeling River Isokun waterway,” she said.

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She reeled out 23 other proposed projects to be executed in the community through self-concerted effort. The projects include education, healthcare services, economic development, and infrastructure, sporting activities, town-wide beautification and security.

They also planned to give two public secondary schools 100 computer sets, renovation of two public secondary schools, provision of basic hospital equipment and medical items for the health centre, provision of large acres of land for Industrial Park for value-added industries and upgrading and modernising of existing markets, where sellers will have decent shops with solar energy.

They also planned to build a formidable Solar Farm to generate adequate electricity for the town; establishing a football club starting from secondary school level with a view to creating a strong football academy. Part of their plans is also to erect security lights at the two major entry points of the town.

The National President of Egbe Omo Ilara-Mokin, therefore, appealed to all sons and daughters of the kingdom who are within the country and in the Diaspora to strive to contribute their own quota in developing the town. She said: “Please remember, Ilara-Mokin is our root, our community and our foundation. We cannot do too much for her and we can all do something to make her greater.”

In an address at the occasion, the Alara of Ilara-Mokin, Oba Abiodun Aderemi Adefehinti, Agbekorun II, appreciated the efforts of sons and daughters of the kingdom, noting that their personal efforts had been responsible for the meteoric development noticed in the town. He commended them for providing and taking care of the welfare of the downtrodden in the kingdom.

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Oba Adefehinti stated that the impact of Chief Ade-Ojo, the Aare Atayese of Ilara-Mokin, had made in the town was immeasurable. He, therefore, called on all his subjects across the globe to remember home and leave the legacy they would be remembered for by in the kingdom.

 

 

 

 

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SPECIAL REPORT

Women Face Toughest Hurdles In North East Nigeria

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By Chi Lael and Dr. Kelechi Onyemaobi*

Aisha and her eight children have been hiding in the bush in northeast Nigeria for the past three months. Her husband was killed last year, shot by members of Boko Haram. Aisha managed to escape. “We ran into the forest,” said Aisha, “me and my eight children. We stayed there for three months. Every day, I would look for firewood and take the risk of selling it in town to feed my children.”

Aisha and her children were eventually taken in by a kind family who they still live with. They are amongst the one million people being helped by WFP as food insecurity in northeast Nigeria. “I really appreciate this food. If we didn’t have it, my children would go out to beg around the community,” said Aisha.

Tragically this crisis is not the result of a drought, but conflict that has been spreading through the region during the last decade. More than 30,000 people are believed to have died as a result of the fighting, including Aisha’s husband. The state of Yobe – where Aisha lives – Adamawa and Borno, have borne the brunt. The seemingly bucolic idyll – the camels grazing by the side of the road, the ox-carts ferrying goods for sale – belie the underlying atmosphere of fear.

Nor is Aisha alone in her plight: one in four women in northeast Nigeria are now widows as a result of the conflict, leaving many of these families to suffer from the absence of their fathers and husbands.

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Added to this, an estimated 2.1 million people have also had to flee their homes, which in a largely agrarian community severely increases the threat of hunger. If people can’t grow food, work their land, then they risk starving.

Ya Kaka, 25, and her children also receive support from WFP with funding from the European Union (EU). But she is a victim of another aspect of the conflict – forced marriage. When she was 18, Ya Kaka was kidnapped by insurgents to become a ‘bride’ for a soldier – however, Ya Kaka was already married, with children. Ya Kaka was finally able to escape and return home after three years of captivity and giving birth to a baby.

“I was always scared that I might get caught. But one day, I woke up and decided to escape. I was ready to do whatever it would take,” she said.

Unfortunately, when she returned, Ya Kaka’s first husband rejected her and her new baby because she’d been married – albeit as a kidnap victim – to another man.  Now Ya Kaka lives, with four children, in the village of Kukareta, near Damaturu, only able to feed them with the food she receives from WFP.  “I’m hoping and praying to God to take away all my pains, I want to forget all I’ve gone through or all that I’m always thinking about,” said Ya Kaka.

Almost 5 million people currently suffering acute food insecurity in need of urgent assistance in the conflict-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. WFP is supporting up to 1 million people with emergency food and nutrition assistance for children, supported by its donors including the EU.

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Chi Lael and Dr. Kelechi Onyemaobi work for the United Nations World Food Programme, the
The world’s largest humanitarian organisation saves lives in emergencies and uses food assistance to help people recover from conflict, disasters, and the effects of climate change. Send them an email at Chi.Lael@wfp.org and Kelechi.Onyemaobi@wfp.org.

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SPECIAL REPORT

Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye On Msgr. Mgbemfulu

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L-r: Fr. Sylvester Dunu,Mr. Peter Obi, Msgr Sylvester Mgbemfulu andMr. Celestine Oguegbu when Obi paid a visit to Msgr. Mgbemfulu at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Nibo after he retired as a Chemistry teacher at St. John Bosco Seminary, Isuaniocha for thirty-eight years.

By Val Obienyem*

Yesterday marked his golden priestly anniversary (50 years). I was among those who were under his guidance, both as a mass server and in the seminary. Unfortunately, after representing Mr. Peter Obi at three events, I arrived late as his representative at the event after the homily by another of our great teachers, Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye. However, I caught the reverberations of the sermon upon my arrival. OSTENDE said it was the first time he observed the emotional side of our Lord Bishop, thus prompting my request for the video. I just finished listening to it after today’s 6 am mass. I appreciate the sentiments expressed by the bishop. The sermon summarises that Monsignor Mgbemfulu is a priest in both fact and name. Prompted by the foregoing, may I repost my article on him in 2020, when he retired after 40 years in the seminary? I was humbled when Msgr said that this article inspired him to pen down his autobiography, which was one of the books presented at the anniversary.

Read on!

Sylvester Mgbemfulu:A Priest And A Teacher

We cannot study our subject, Monsignor Sylvester Mgbemfulu in isolation, but must first look at the subtle interplay of culture, tradition and heritage all of which helped shape his outlook and even concept of reality.

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Among these influences, perhaps after his parents, there is his hometown. Born on the 30th of September, 1945 in Uganda, in today’s ANorth Local Government Area of Anambra State, he attended primary schools in Ugbene, Ugbenu and Nando. These towns of relatively same level of development, tucked away from civilization at that time, may have contributed to his shyness. After his primary education, he stayed in the village helping his parents in their vocations, especially farming and fishing. He still recognizes the species of fish by their silent cries, speed and other aquatic characteristics which only fishermen understand.

While in the village, like other children, as testified by some of his age-mates such as Chief Simeon Dilinyeru, he was awed by the periodic visit of early priests to the area for spiritual ministration. At this point, he started yearning to become like them, particularly, as revealed by his immediate elder brother, Mr. Longinus Mgbemfulu, with the support of his father who saw it as a good omen that he was born on a day one of those priests first visited their community. Fortune smiled his way when, in 1962, another of his elder brothers, Hon. Mmee David Mgbemfulu took him to Aba to join him as a vendor of newspapers. The movement to Aba exposed him to another stream of influence as one experiences the movement from primitivism to modernism.

As a young boy, Mons as he is fondly called by his people, seemed ready-made for the priesthood. This was attested to by his people of Ugbene, including his brothers and age mates and brothers who contend that he was made for the priesthood and nothing else. Speaking to them, this writer figured out that Mons has always been calm, reserved, soft-spoken and inclined to sanctity. Simeon Dilinyeru reveals that they “grew up together and went to school at the same time. At that time some people were against his becoming a priest but we knew that he would eventually become one because of the holiness of life that was decipherable even at that young age. Rather than struggle for anything, he would let it go”.

From Aba, Mons was enrolled at All Hallows Seminary, Onitsha in 1963. In 1968, he moved on to Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu. Due to the Civil War, the Seminary was largely peripatetic, moving from one town to the other as dictated by the uncertainties of the war. Eventually, he was ordained on the 20th of April, 1974, by Francis Cardinal Arinze, then the Archbishop of Onitsha. We can, therefore, say of him just like all priests and ex-seminarians who imbibed the right training, that he was moulded by the best institution for that purpose – the Seminary. There, his body and mind, character and disposition in life were profoundly formed. He was undoubtedly presented with the usual opportunity to devour books hungrily, to imbibe sound discipline, to think, to inspire holiness by living a holy life, to realize how sweet and noble it is to work for God and perhaps as sometimes the case, he got intoxicated by over-dose of religiosity.

Even as a young priest, the priestly vows of obedience, poverty and chastity made the greatest meaning for him and he resolved to succeed rather than fail with them. As a new priest, he received the gift of a motorcycle from his people, which he put to full use in the propagation of the gospel. Seeing the competition of virtues in him, Cardinal Arinze took special interest in him and sent him to St. Paul’s Seminary, Ukpor as the Rector, after a stint as the Assistant Parish Priest to Monsignor William Obelaguat St Mary’s Catholic Church, Inland Town, Onitsha. Following Mons’ progress and love for education keen interest, the Cardinal sponsored him to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) to study Chemistry.

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On graduation in 1981, while waiting to resume in the Seminary of the newly-created Awka Diocese under the pastoral care of Most Rev. Dr. Albert Obiefuna, Mons was posted as an Assistant Parish Priest to St Patrick’s Cathedral, Awka which then covered many towns. During this period, this writer served Mons at mass at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, Dodo, Oji River. We then usually referred to him as the Short Priest. He was about five feet tall, but the authority and majesty of the priesthood made him seem taller. Mons has maintained his stature over the years without any extra ounce of flesh to burden him simply because he is exceedingly temperate in food, drink and other worldly indulgences.

The following year, 1982, his long sojourn in the Seminary began at St. John Bosco Seminary, Isuaniocha. Except for three years, he was in the USA on sabbatical, he was in the Isuaniocha Seminary for thirty-eight years variously as the pioneer Rector, Academic Dean, Co-ordinator of Science Laboratories, and Spiritual Director, from which he retired in 2020, after reaching the canonical years of seventy-five. Only priests that are manifestly free from every kind of corruption and superior to the consideration of money can stay in such an environment for almost forty years without some protest. On the 17thof December 2020, during his send-off at Isuaniocha, Mons exposed his inspiration in his address: “One of the past Rectors of this seminary, Very Rev. Fr. Ikem Oliobi did inspire me with the newspaper cuttings he used to paste on the walls of his living and sitting rooms. One of such cuttings read: ‘Bloom where you are planted’. What a statement with lots of lessons”.

With the foregoing, the search for Mons’ secret of remaining in the seminary during his pastoral work ended. The popular view about his long stay in the seminary was captured by a priest of the diocese, Rev. Fr. Dr. Cosmas Ebebe this way: “For his many years of teaching in the Seminary, some priests used to joke that he has been ‘forgotten’ there because his location remained the same when other priests were given new postings”.

But his stay in the seminary was eventful and could be seen from the reactions of many of the students that passed through him. Each epoch had its own identity of Monsignor Mgbemfulu. During the writer’s own time, from 1987 to 1989, we called him “Omo”. The set of the late 1990s nick-named him “Sawan”. The Chemistry laboratory was his second home, and the students joked he did not buy fuel for his brown Corolla panel van but rather mixed some chemicals in the lab. with which he powered the car. As a teacher, he is Chemistry-intoxicated as he could be seen now and then fiddling with specimens, opening and closing the descanter or pouring one chemical into a test tube. His name provided chemistry with a synonym.
Fr. Obinna Dike remembers his first day in the Chemistry lab., where he usually had his lectures and how Monswelcomede the class with the song: “ Come and see American Wonder”. Was it meant to frighten them? Not at all; knowing Mons, it was a joke he used to welcome some of his students who were thinking about what Chemistry had to offer.

Whatever impression students had of him, mostly informed by the exuberance of the youth, one thing is clear: Monsignor is a person that can reason and be reasoned with. He is possessed of great personal warmth and what can be called spiritual charm.

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The sentiments of his former students were summed up by the Chairman of Old Boys of the seminary and a lecturer at Oko Polytechnic, Mr. Celestine Ostende Oguegbu in a compact paragraph: “Permit me to remark that throughout his stay in this Seminary, he was an outstanding tutor and committed to promoting excellence in both our education and spiritual life. Monsignor is ever smiling, always tolerant and eager to help when students have things bothering their minds”. Earlier, in an eloquent exordium, he had described Monsignor as a “great teacher of teachers”. Bursting with compliments, Mr. Tochukwu Oboboegbunam described him as a “rare synthesis of ability and integrity”.

Though he occupied all positions available in the seminary, one constant thing was that he remained the Chemistry teacher and the Chemistry lab. was his office and second home, thus echoing his lifestyle, the statement credited to Democritus: “I would rather discover a single demonstration in Geometry than win the throne of Persia”. Sometimes, it was even rumoured among Seminarians that the secret of his looking young every day could be explained by the possibility of Mons having discovered through chemical mixtures an elixir to look younger which he kept to himself and periodically sipped in the chemistry lab.

The end of the story is that Mons was married to Chemistry as the priestly vocation, and for years was one of the resource persons for JAMB and WAEC on the subject. Unable to separate himself from Chemistry, let us sample some lines in his address during his send-off party, where, referring to his preceding statement, reduced it to some Chemical analysis: “… the statement takes me to one of the topics of study in practical Chemistry, ‘Theory of Indicators’. Under the topic, we observe that an indicator is selected such that its end-point will be close to the stoichiometric point of the acid-base titration it indicates and that the choice of an indicator depends on the strength of the acid and base to be titrated. Because many acid-base indicators are plant pigments, plants of the same type have flowers of different colours in soils of different pH. So every indicator has a pH range at which it changes colour, i.e., at which it indicates and this is the basis for the choice of indicator in volumetric analysis. When this natural law of the behaviour of plants is applied in the deployment of personnel in the Church and government, the result will be a wonderful beautiful mosaic of outcomes. Let every administrator take good note of this. Everyone has the potential to bloom where he/she is planted and if planted within the right pH range of his God-given talents”.

From the foregoing, we imagine what long marriage to Chemistry has done to Mons! He sees life and living from the prisms of Chemistry. Fr Ebebe got it right when he said: “He was perhaps the best Chemistry teacher of his days”. He reminds us of Napoleon Bonaparte, who expressed part of his strategy in the mathematical formula: “The strength of an army, like the amount of momentum in mechanics, is estimated by the mass times the velocity”. We are profoundly influenced by what we do well.

Mons was kept in the Seminary precisely because of his virtues and the seminary provided the right pH range for his development through time and he bloomed through his work. Again, Fr. Cosmas Ebebe was apt: “Msgr. Sylvester Mgbemfulu is a consummate, humble, hardworking and service-oriented priest. He was called to the altar of the Lord as a priest but he ascended to the altar of holiness by his submission to God and authority in the Church. He keeps the laws of God and so does not find it impossible to keep human regulations”. Mons’ Parish Priest and a retired Army Officer, Rev. Fr. Ignatius Ukoh said of him: “Monsignor is an example of what priests should be: obedient and completely detached from material things. He stayed long in the seminary with apostolic patience, forming the young ones, teaching and being faithful to the Church”.
In 2015, some old priests, including Monswhot had served the Church in various capacities were elevated to Monsignors. What are the attributes that qualify one to become a Monsignor and what are the criteria? Purely an honorary title, it is often bestowed by the Pope on the recommendation of bishops, on priests who have distinguished themselves in the service of the Church. Monsignor Sylvester Mgbemfulu’s elevation shows that he bloomed to fruition when he was dropped.

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Another criterion for naming one a Monsignor is the age factor. At a time we started witnessing very young priests being named Monsignors, Pope Francis in 2014 made it mandatory that for any priest to be so named, he must have reached the age of sixty-five. Yes, at sixty-five, everybody can effectively and objectively measure one’s contributions on their very terms. This is a welcome development. It is not about the magnitude of our achievements, but the fact that we did our best and put up the utmost sacrifice where we found ourselves. The children of these days and those who attended Isuaniocha in late 2000 may not understand what the town was or looked like when Monsignor started his apostolate there. It was then devoid of all the trappings of modern development including electricity. As a student, when it rained, no vehicle plied the road to the town from Awka. One could just imagine how many times Mons slept outside the school because the rains prevented him from getting back to the station. For a priest like Mgbemfulu, his apostolic triumphs lay neither in the Naira he has made nor the mansions he has erected, but in how many times rains denied him access, how many priests he has formed for God and how many souls he has saved. Even in his hometown of Ugbene, his people said of him: “Mons was instrumental to so many people that embraced Christianity in Ugbene, our town”. His niece, Onyinye Mgbemfulu said: “Mons taught us so many things, namely, how to pray, respect for sound values and love for education”. Profoundly fond of him, his elder brother, Mr. Longinus Mgbemfulu said he was the best brother anyone could ever hope to have; not in terms of material things to gain from him, but his concern for one’s salvation.
Beyond preaching Christ to his people, he also identifies with them in various other ways, especially in infrastructural development. He loves his town, attends meetings with them and contributes to the development of the area. He was the Special Assistant to Archbishop Albert Obiefuna on the construction of access roads to the Ugbene and other neighbouring communities in the 1980s. He contributed perhaps more than any other person to the construction of the bridge over the Ezu River to access Ugbene from Amanuke. Simeon Dilinyeru reveals that he was granted the honorific title of Ike Ugbene because of his devotion to the progress of the town: “He joins the town’s meeting every December, and we rely on him to know the truth at times of doubt or deliberate falsehood. Once he says what he knows, everybody believes. There is nothing that goes on in the town that he is not rightly informed”.
On their expectations, still representing the voice of this people, Dilinyeru said they had long awaited his ascendancy to the Episcopacy but were handicapped to do anything about that since it is the prerogative of Rome.

If popularity is determined by how widely one is known, Msgr. Mgbemfulu, from his little corner, is unarguably the most-known priest among other priests of Awka and Ekwulobia Dioceses. This is so because priests ordained in the 1990s till date in both dioceses passed through him.

Mons is also profoundly charitable within his limited means. He made a lot of sacrifices for the good of students but always within what he could afford, and that defines true charity. Again, let Fr. Ebebe who worked with him as an Auxiliary let us into Mons’ considerate nature: “His selflessness is perhaps his most hidden virtue but counting in his Favour before God. When I did one year of apostolic work at St. John Bosco Seminary, after graduating in Philosophy in 1984/1985, Fr Sylvester Mgbemfulu was on the staff as the Chemistry teacher. A senior Seminarian, Mr. Peter Okoye from Nanka had severe liver problems and was declared terminally ill. The course of his treatment entailed taking him to the University Teaching Hospital Enugu once a week while he remained hospitalized at St Joseph’s Hospital, Adazi Nnukwu. The problem of taking the seminarian to Enugu in a private vehicle rather than the use of public transport came up for discussion. Fr. Mgbemfulu donated his only panel van for the service. He gave what he had for the course of charity. When I got to Adazi Hospital, the hospital Chaplain and manager who had a relatively brand new Peugeot 504 was touched by the kind gesture of Fr. Mgbemfulu and in following his footsteps asked that I left the panel van at Adazi and conveyed the sick seminarian with his 504. That began my weekly journey of driving Fr. Mgbemfulu’s car to Adazi and driving the 504 to Enugu with the sick seminarian. It lasted for some months before the seminarian later died. His selflessness spoke loudly to other priests. Secretly, many of us admire him for his obedience, humility, and holiness of life. We cherish his whole-hearted cheerfulness and his detachment from material things. He is a loving saint for whom we are praying for his final perseverance. Sometimes, some of us say, ‘I wish I had the good disposition of Fr. Mgbemfulu’.”

Many people corroborate Fr. Ebebe’s position. I heard a former Acting Rector of the institution telling how Mgbemfulu challenged the spirituality of the priests that worked with him. He said that while in the Seminary, Mons’ magna silence started at 4 am daily when he would always be seen in the Fathers’ chapel meditating and praying even before others woke up. Most Fathers who worked with him, like Fr. Barr. Clement Muozoba, remembers him very well as a priest who hates oppression, extravagance and display. “No one”, Fr. Muozoba says, “ever questioned his assiduous devotion to his many tasks”. Fr. Anthony Umeh also expressed the character of Mons with great exactness: “His quiet, staid character, his modest simplicity and indiscourageable honesty and just nature won him the hearts of many who have worked with him”. Indeed, he is the living embodiment of Aeschylus’s poetic line: “for not seeming just, but being so”.

Mons has a shy disposition and that could be noticed even at first meeting with him, but like St. Francis of Assisi, he loves nature and cherishes its company. Once not in the lab., he would be busy under the mango trees watching and appreciating nature. The guinea fowls that found sanctuary in the Seminary fly off when anybody is in sight except Monsignor Mgbemfulu. Even at the point of leaving the Seminary, he was thinking about what happened to them and made a final plea for the animals in the following words: “As I retire from the seminary, I shall miss the fraternal company of the priests on the staff, my classes, the chemistry laboratory which has become my second home, the mango trees especially those behind the lawn tennis courts and our harmattan season cherished and welcome but evasive guests: the guinea fowls who have been given sanctuary in the Seminary over the years and for whom I plead on their behalf that the tradition is not allowed to die”.
As a priest, though soft-spoken, every word that comes out of his mouth is loaded with wisdom. As a student, this writer carried a notebook and biro at all times to catch ideas or wise sayings in their flight. I just came across one of my jottings thus: “Today being Sunday, the 25th of September, 1988, Fr. Mgbemfulu during his Sunday Homily said that ‘self-preservation is the greatest instinct in man’.” Such are bits of wisdom contained in his utterances and those of formators everywhere. Such words leave powerful impressions on one’s emotions.

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As he enjoys his deserved retirement at St. Felix’s Catholic Church, Nibo, I am sure the place will become a pilgrimage for the Old boys and others in society. Who would not like to visit such a person for diverse reasons: to thank him for remaining an exemplary priest, for his contribution to education in the State, and the training received under him, among others?

The first pilgrimage to the great priest was on the 4th of January, 2021 by the former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi. During the visit, he thanked Mons for his contributions to education in Nigeria. In reply, Mons, pleasantly surprised, thanked Mr. Obi for championing the education revolution in the State through the return of school to the church.
As we cherish the example of Msgr. Mgbemfulu’s life, let us endeavour to learn from him and pattern our lives after his. This is the best legacy to learn from him.

*Obienyem, Special Adviser to Mr Peter Obi, wrote from Lagos.

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SPECIAL REPORT

From Geometric To Alaoji Power Plant, Gov. Otti Pushes Ahead For Stable Electricity In Abia

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By Kazie Uko*
Having literally solved the problem of power generation and distribution in Aba and eight other local governments, through the Geometric Integrated Power Project, Abia State Governor, Dr. Alex Otti, has shifted his focus to the remaining eight local governments in the state, beginning from Umuahia, the state capital.

In a bold move to achieve uninterruptible power supply across the state, Governor Otti on Tuesday embarked on a tour of the Alaoji Power Generating Plant at Alaoji, Ugwunagbo Local  Government Area, on the outskirts of Aba.

The Alaoji Power Plant, a 1,074MW combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT), has been developed in multiple phases. It boasts of four GE Frame 9E Gas Turbines of 126MW, each, and two GE Steam Turbines of 286MW, each.

The project is being developed by the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) under the Federal Government’s National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) programme. The first phase of the power plant, which saw the completion of the four gas-powered Turbines, was commissioned in 2015 by former President Goodluck Jonathan. Work is currently ongoing on the additional two Steam Turbines, which will bring the plant’s total capacity to 1,074MW.

Speaking during his visit to the power station in company of the Chairman of Chrome Group, Chief Emeka Offor, whose company is the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor to the plant, Governor Otti said his administration was committed to facilitating the Alaoji Power project’s execution by providing necessary support and resources.

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He acknowledged the huge potential that the project holds in the economic, social and infrastructural development of Abia State, in particular, and Nigeria as a country, when fully completed and becomes operational.

The Governor observed that the plant was not currently generating any power, a situation blamed on unavailability of gas by the operators. He, however, expressed optimism that the challenges would be resolved soon, assuring that his government would do everything possible to ensure the success of the project.

“At the moment, my understanding is that the plant is not generating any power because of gas issues, which I believe would be solved shortly, but I think the more fundamental issue is that the capacity is very low.

“From what I gathered from the consortium clearly, the capacity could be expanded from anywhere between 45 megawatts to one thousand and seventy two megawatts.

“We will do everything possible to ensure that this happens.

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“They have given us a timeline that anywhere between 18 and 24 months that maximum capacity would be achieved, and my plea to them is that since we have virtually solved the Aba power needs, that the first set of power that will be generated from here would be transmitted to Umuahia and distributed through the EEDC (Enugu Electricity Distribution Company), which luckily is controlled by the Chrome Group, too, and I have gotten approval and understanding (from Emeka Offor) that that would happen,” the Governor said.

To accelerate the pace of work at the plant site, Governor Otti immediately directed the Mayor of Ugwunagbo LGA, Chief Emeka Ihesiaba, to liaise with the Commissioner for Works, to provide easier access to the site. He noted that the move would facilitate the smooth transportation of materials and equipment to the site.

“The whole idea is that a lot of materials and machines are already at Onne Port, evacuating them into this yard will be a tall order.

“You can see how we rigmaroled to get to this place, but this is quite close to the express, if we give them access, it would be easier for them to deliver on the contract they have and the other seven or eight local governments that are not covered by the existing IPP project and then to other parts of the country because I believe that this goes also to the national grid”, Otti said.

Governor Otti emphasised the importance of prioritising the transmission of power to areas in need, particularly highlighting the significance of delivering electricity to Umuahia and the other eight local governments of the state not captured by the Geometric Power Plant.

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He commended the efforts of the Chrome Group and its Chairman, Sir Emeka Offor, for their dedication to ensuring the success of the project which centers on enhancing the capacity of the Alaoji power generating plant.

Speaking, Sir Emeka Offor stressed the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors in driving sustainable development and expressed gratitude to Governor Otti for his unwavering support and commitment to the project.

He highlighted the potential benefits the project holds for the people of Abia State, which, according to him, include uninterrupted power supply, employment opportunities, among others, adding that with the support of government, the project would be delivered on schedule.

“This project is all about enhancing the power supply and knowing that the Governor is interested in making sure that Abia people enjoy power 24/7.

“The people of Abia will benefit enormously from the project. They are going to enjoy surplus power. You heard the Governor saying he wants part of this power to be sent to Umuahia directly. That is possible. The effects will trickle down to the people. The people of Abia State are going to enjoy,” Offor assured.

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*Uko is the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor Abia State

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