Abia State House of Assembly Speaker, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu, Orji, his wife, Odochi, Abia State Deputy Governor's, wife Lady Ananaba during thanksgiving service to mark the occasion
Adeola Akinremi writes on the sights and sounds of annual Abia Day celebration that is fast becoming a must-see event in the state
Last Tuesday in Umuahia, the capital of Abia State, the day had barely broken when residents started to make their way to the township stadium. It was for one purpose; the celebration of the creation of the state twenty two years after. Since it began, it has become impossible for Abians to fathom staying at home on such day every year, and indeed very few do. With all the crowds and raucous merriment at the stadium on Tuesday, August 27, 2013, it was evident that the state governor, Theodore Orji has indeed found fortress in the people he governs.
And to inspire the people who came all over the country to celebrate the founding fathers’ vision for the state, Orji mounted the podium with that single task of moving the crowds that massed the stadium from past to the present and to the future with his speech. He did it. With his speech he moved the audience from the ordinary to historic, from mundane to the sacred and from present to the future.
“The love of freedom brought us here today. Abia cannot be taken from the face of God and given to the face of the devil. Abia was given to effigy and monuments before now. So we fought doggedly and we won the battle and today people can aspire to any level based on integrity and hardwork. We had personal and collective challenges, but we had common agreement to liberate Abians. So we are basking in that freedom that has united Abians. The freedom has brought us confidence and tremendous progress and I want us to maintain that,” he said.
He chronicled the milestones his administration has achieved as he continued to talk. “We have come a very long way and the road has not been easy. Twenty two years in the metamorphosis of Abia State is not an easy thing. It is like a child, you know when a child is born you have to protect the child, if you don’t protect the child, he or she will fall and such fall may lead to her deformation. So a child must be protected until such a stage when that child will walk, that has been the problem with Abia, although people have protected Abia but they have not adequately protected Abia very well. The damages done to Abia during the teething period is what I am correcting now.”
“If the projects that I am doing now were done before now, we could have gone very far. For instance, if I had the Government House in place, if I had the secretariat in place and the diagnostics centre, hospitals and health centres in place, I would have been doing other things now but we are just starting afresh in doing those structures that supposed to be on ground before my coming on board.
“Moreover, there was no philosophy guiding Abia, a state that has its name in the Bible which is christened God’s Own State where every person that is from it or lives in it should behave like God’s own child. But before now the state was channeled not towards God but to somewhere else and that affected our psych and what was being done in Abia. People were so intimidated that they did not have confidence in God that He can do things for them; instead, they had confidence in human being which is an abomination before God. So our people were in bondage.
“But we have been able to liberate Abia from bondage that people can now aspire to any height without relying on any person except God. Now people can worship God in spirit and truth, in every ceremony we do, we dedicate Abia to God. That is a major achievement. These are the corrections that we have been trying to make which should have been made all along. We are making the corrections that had dragged us back but we are in a haste to catch up; we are in a hurry.”
And by the time he was done with his speech, wild jubilation had taken over the stadium with different groups shouting his nickname, ‘Ochendo’. It was no doubt a special moment in the history of the state with awards of excellence given to indigenes whose contribution to society has helped boost the image of the state.
For instance, Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe and Sen. Nkechi Nwaogu, representing Abia South and Abia Central Senatorial Districts were among the 15 indigenes of Abia conferred with the prestigious Abia Merit Award.
Abaribe was awarded ``the Enyi (Elephant) Abia’’, while Nwaogu and Abia-born international handball star, Oluchi Ogwo, got ``Ada Ugo Abia’’ (Most respected Abia daughter).
Others included: an industrialist, Mr Nonso Ogbunamiri; former Deputy Speaker of Abia Sate Assembly, Chief Emeka Stanley; Prof. Samuel Igwe, former Vice Chancellor, Abia State University, Uturu.
Chief Agomo Atulomah, a former Speaker of old Imo House of Assembly (1979 to 1983), when the house voted for the creation of Abia and Dr Greg Ibe, Chancellor, Gregory University, Uturu, a privately-owned institution, were honoured with the ``Enyi Abia’’.
Ogbunamiri and Stanley were conferred with the ``Oke Oji Abia’’ (Big Iroko).
According to Orji, the award was an acknowledgement of the contribution of the individuals to a better society that has improved things in the state.
``They have not stood on the sidelines to merely criticise and applaud only themselves. They are men and women that chose success over failure. They stood for excellence and worked with others to achieve the common good,” he enthused.
The governor paid tribute to the founding fathers of the state and eminent indigenes, who he said, ``continue to devote their energies to change Abia for good’’.
He described Abia as ``a major work in progress’’, and attributed the success recorded so far in the state, to the commitment and determined spirit of Abia citizens in all walks of life.
The obviously elated governor then appealed to the citizenry, especially the youth, to have a reorientation and `drive toward excellence and honest achievement’.
In the end, he said, “today’s celebration is very memorable to us, because it is an opportunity for us to renew our commitment to accept the challenge of leaving Abia State better than we found it. We have resolved to tackle the hard task of laying the foundation for the sustainable development of Abia State through our legacy projects.”
Those who graced the occasion included, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, Hon. Mao Ohabunwa, Colonel Anthony Obi who was one of the past military administrator in the state amongst other prominent sons and daughters of the state.