L-R: Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Dr. Victor Ike Oye, Amb. Bianca Odimegwu Ojukwu, Obiano , Ekwueme, Justice Peter Umeadi, Dr. Nkem Okeke, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, Dame Virgy Etiaba, cutting the special Anambra 25th Anniversary cake at dinner held at the Governor’s Lodge Amawbia

Recently, Anambra capped its six-month long celebration of the creation of the state with honours for about 300 indigenes and non indigenes of the state who have impacted it. David-Chyddy Eleke reports that the awards ceremony was unforgettable in every aspect

Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano on August 24th, 2016 held a world press conference to mark the commencement of the 25th anniversary of the creation of Anambra State. The anniversary celebration he had said would span about six months, to be spiced with various activities including lectures, carnival, trade fair, awards presentation and so many others.

The awards presentation which was part of the last among the six-month-long event was held recently, but it turned out to be bigger than what was expected. It was an occasion that must have been painstakingly organised. Starting from the array of cars in the very expansive compound beside the governor’s lodge which served as car park, to the make of the cars, one can tell that it was a convergence of men of means even without setting feet inside the equally expansive tent which served as venue of the occasion.

It was simply an event packaged to honour those who have made Anambra’s story a success since its 25 years of existence. Everyone who had contributed anything to the growth of the state in whatever way seemed to have been remembered by the organisers in one category or another. Most were dead already, while so many others were not from the state, but for their contribution, the governor insisted that they were worth being honoured. In all, over 300 of such people carted home awards, making it almost the highest number of awards to be given out in one single event.

Stepping into the tent, one can feel that the state left no stone unturned in ensuring that a memorable event was held. The split unit air conditioners oozing white smoke first send a chill down one’s body on stepping into the tent from the blazing sun outside. The seat arrangements and the lightings in the hall were exquisite, but the candles, six in number that burnt on every table made even all the difference as guests trooped in and took their seats, depending on where they were designated to sit.

The entry of the governor, Obiano, signaled the full commencement of the event as shouts of Akpokuo Dike Aguleri; his traditional title rented the air. When he mounted the stage to address the people, his first statement was to express happiness about being the first jubilee governor of the state in the history of its creation. “I am happy to the jubilee governor of the state, words cannot express my happiness.” He added that Anambra people are hardworking, industrious and enterprising, and have remained so in any part of the world that they found themselves, and that the day was a day to reward all for what they stood for.

The awards were presented in 10 different categories including; Pillars of Our Heritage Awards, Light Bearers Awards, Lifetime Achievement Awards, Philanthropists Extraordinaire and Business Titans Awards, Ambassadors of Excellence Awards and Outstanding Public Service Awards. Other categories are; Lifetime Achievement Awards for Pillars of Inter-denomination Harmony, Icons of Education Awards, Icons of Tradition and Service to Humanity Awards and Evergreen Posthumous Awards.

Under the Pillar of Our Heritage Awards, Anambra government honoured Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, father of former Biafran leader, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who was recognised for his acumen in business and known to be the man who lent his exotic Rolls Royce car to Nigerian government to convey the Queen of England when she visited Nigeria during the colonial era. His son, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who led the secessionist struggle for Biafra in the 1960s was also honoured in the same category. Others were; Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, renowned novelist, Prof. Chinua Achebe, Olaudah Equiano, said to be the first slave to buy back his freedom from his slave masters and later fought against slavery and Francis Cardinal Arinze, reputed as the first black man that came near to being the Pope.

In the Light Bearers Awards, Dr Alex Ekwueme; former vice president of Nigeria, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, former Eenate presidents; Chuba Okadigbo and Nwafor Orizu, Louis Mbanefo, Arch Bishop Jude Okolo; Papal Nuncio to Dominican Republic, Arch Bishop Valerian Okeke and Arch Bishop Christian Efobi, both Catholic and Anglican Arch Bishops respectively. Obiano explained that both categories already mentioned would have streets named against their names in major towns in the state.

In the third category, the Lifetime Achievement Awards, General Ibrahim Babangida was honoured for being the Head of State that created the state. Alongside the military general are past governors of the state, both military and civilian. The likes of Col. Joseph Abulu, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Col. Michael Attah, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Dr. Chris Ngige, Mr. Peter Obi and Dame Virgy Etiaba, were all honoured in the category.

In other categories, traditional rulers who have served over 30 years on the throne were also honoured, while business men and philanthropists who Anambra have in their numbers were also called out for honour. In this category, the likes of Prince Engr. Arthur Eze; Chairman of Oranto Oil, Sao Tome and Principe and defunct Triax Group was honoured, alongside Dr. Innocent Chukwuma of Innoson Motors, Dr. Ifeanyi Uba of Capital Oil and Gas, Dr. Cosmas Maduka of Coscharis Motors, Chief Ernest Azudialu Obiechesi of Obijackson Foundation among numerous others were also honoured under the category; Philanthropist Extraordinaire and Business Titans Awards.

Members of the National Assembly, both past and serving were also honoured under the Outstanding Public Service Awards, while religious leaders from various denominations were honoured under the Pillar of Inter-denomination Harmony Awards.

Obiano who displayed exceptional strength by personally presenting the awards to all the recipients radiated in smiles after the presentations. He conveyed his thanks and happiness over the attendance and also restated his drive to make Anambra a business destination for anyone willing to invest in business around the country. He added that the honour to all was though for their contribution to the state but added that it should signpost the beginning of what the state demands from them.

For business men, Obiano reminded them of the need to ‘bring back your Dollars and Naira and invest in our state.’ He assured that he and his team have created an enabling environment for business to thrive in the state, and that it was left for them to invest at home. The Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe had in the anniversary lecture titled; Aku Ruo Uno, which means letting ones wealth come home, reminded the people of the state on the need to invest at home to grow the state economy.

Most of the awardees who spoke to THISDAY expressed happiness over the awards, and also lauded the governor for the initiative which they said kept nothing back in ensuring that all that were worthy to be celebrated were not left out. Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Pauliinus Ezeokafor said the ceremony met every expected standard both in planning and those who were honoured. He however added that through human error, some people may have been omitted unintentionally, but the overall planning was perfect. He urged those who were not lucky to bag awards in the celebration to wait for a better time as better awards may be awaiting them in the future.