Benjamin Nworie writes that the 60th birthday of the former Minister of State for Power and Steel, Chief Godwin Ogbaga was a day to reckon with. Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital was agog on October 23, as stakeholders, political associates and people from all walks of lifegathered at the prestigious Dr. Akanu Ibiam International Conference Centre in the state gathered to rejoice and celebrate with the political Icon and elder statesman, Chief Godwin Oyibe Ogbaga as he celebrated his 60th birthday.
It was a celebration of life accomplishments and desires. Cultural troupes were at their best. They rolled out their drums to honour and trill the enthusiastic gathering with traditional and acrobatic dances. He will be remembered in Ebonyi State for many reasons.
He was the first Ebonyian to grace the Federal Executive council as a Federal Minister, where he performed optimally for the growth and development of the state. Ogbaga will also be remembered for his love and care for the downtrodden. The celebration was preceded by a thanksgiving Church service officiated by His Lordship, the Bishop of Catholic Diocese, Abakaliki, Most. Rev. Michael Okoro at St Theresa Catholic Church and other ministers of God.
The Bishop prayed God to protect Ogbaga and his family while the Senior Special Adviser to Governor on Religious and Welfare Matters and Catholic Judicial Vicar, Very Rev.Fr. Abraham Nwali cautioned politicians and Christians against pride and stressed the need for them to be righteous and fervent in prayers to attract God’s blessings.
The venue was filled to the brim. Friends and well-wishers thronged out en mass to honour the celebrant, who also enjoys public commendation and respect for his humility and spirit of cooperation and accommodation. Ogbaga, according to observers freely associates with all and sundry, which off course has earned him many sobriquets and chieftaincy titles, such as Ezeudo (king of peace).
The celebration was not to test his popularity and familiarity with his people and friends but he remains a politician of high repute and standard. Attendance cut across all political divides. As a chieftain of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Ogbaga can be remembered for his selfless services and loyalty.
As a crusader of equity and justice, Ogbaga’s sacrifice in the last general election was exemplary, as he discontinued his senatorial ambition in favour of the former governor, Dr Sam Egwu against the wishes of his populous Izzi clan.
In the North zone with four council areas, it’s only Ebonyi Local Government where Ogbaga hails from has not smelled the senatorial seat since the creation of the state. It was against this backdrop that the former minister opted to vie for the seat to enthrone equity but was not favoured by the permutation that shaped the last general election in the state. But, if Ogbaga had still wanted to vie, he may still have won Egwu, with the numerical strength of his clan, as Egwu has only one “turbulent” council area.
Observers noted that Ogbaga’s “supreme” sacrifice also raised the fortunes of the PDP against the Labour Party, whose candidate hails from the clan. Because of his steadfastness and support, the PDP defeated the LP to a standstill, just to ensure the overwhelming victory of David Umahi.
With his teeming supporters, Ogbaga backed down to ensure the victory of Engr. David Umahi, as the governor of the state and other PDP candidates against all odds. He said that the celebration was to thank God for keeping him and his family alive and for numerous accomplishments. He pledged to continue to contribute towards the development of the state and the nation.
Special and uncommon encomiums were poured on him by stakeholders and representatives of eminent Nigerians who attended his birthday. The state governor, Engr. David Umahi extolled Ogbaga’s contributions, as former Minister of State for Power and Steel to the development of the
state and the country.
At that time, testimonies abound that Ogbaga empowered and employed teeming youths across the state. The governor noted that posterity would continue to remember Ogbaga’s footprints, which he described as
Represented by the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Augustine Nwankwegu, the governor asserted that the former minister had used his various positions to impact positively on the society and humanity.
Ogbaga’s wife, Elizabeth described her husband as a caring father and prayed God to bless and grant him many more fruitful years. Mrs. Ogbaga was the former Member of the Federal House of Representatives and incumbent Commissioner for Culture and Tourism.
The chairman of the occasion, Justice Paul Elechi noted that he knew Ogbaga as his school mate at the prestigious University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in Osun State, describing him as humble and hardworking. At 60 years, Justice Elechi said that Ogbaga made laudable contributions towards nation-building.
Former Minister of State for Health and Director-General of Divine Mandate Campaign, Engr. Fidelis Nwankwo, urged the celebrant to sustain the spirit of his selfless services to the society and urged other individuals to emulate him.
Though Ogbaga was born into a royal family, he achieved greatness through dint of hard work. Because of his exceptional brilliance and strong desire for education, Ogbaga got his first degree in Agricultural Economics in 1979 and thereafter obtained L.L.B (Hons) degree in Law in 1995 at the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus and attended the Nigeria Law School, Lagos. He was called to the Bar in March 1996 and enrolled at the Supreme Court as Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
As a civil servant, he served as an Administrative Officer for many years since 1981 in various Ministries and Departments in the old Anambra and Enugu states and later rose to the apex of the service as Permanent Secretary.
As a founding father for Ebonyi State creation, Ogbaga served as the pioneer Liaison Officer of the state till 1998; Permanent secretary, in Ebonyi State in different ministries and extra-ministerial Departments, including Ministry of Health; Cabinet Office, Administration; Economic Affairs; Political and Special Services and Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
His distinctive service to humanity has not gone unnoticed and rewarded, as he has bagged unsolicited recognitions and traditional titles and blessed with many children.