By Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Former Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; her husband, Dr. Ikemba Iweala; Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Patrick Ukah, who represented the state Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa; former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, top government functionaries, several captains of industry, clergymen and traditional rulers yesterday converged on Ogwashi-Uku to celebrate the 90th birthday of the traditional ruler of Ogwashi-Uku Kingdom, Agbogidi Obi Chukwuma Anishi Okonjo.
The royal father and father of the former finance minister marked his 90th birthday in grand style with a thanksgiving service at St James’ Anglican Church, Ogbe-Ofu, Ogwashi-Uku, the administrative headquarters of Aniocha South Local Government Area of the state.
The traditional ruler was accompanied to the thanksgiving service by his wife and renowned academic, Professor Kamene Okonjo, the royal family members and well-wishers, including several royal fathers across the state and beyond.
Executive members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) from the national office, University of Benin and University of Ilorin were among professional bodies that graced the occasion.
Delivering a homily during the service, with theme: ‘The Father, Priest of the Home’, Venerable Emmanuel Afamefune attributed the declining standards in our value system vis-a-vis the upsurge in criminal activities in Nigeria to failure of parenthood especially fathers.
Afamefune stressed that the society could rise from the ashes of moral decay to new heights of peace and progress if fathers, as the standard bearer of respective families, retraced their steps as role models for their children and families.
Afamefune, who stood in for the Anglican Bishop of Asaba, Rt. Rev. Justus Mogekwu, who is on official assignment in Jerusalem, said it was a happy coincidence that the Anglican Communion all over the world was celebrating Father’s Day on a day King Okonjo turned 90, advising fathers to lead by example rather than precept.
He noted that societal vices like secret cult, drug abuse, violence against women, broken homes, insincerity in relationship and business and armed robbery have been on the increase because young people copied them from irresponsible fathers.
While congratulating the Ogwashi-Uku monarch as “a true achiever whose achievements have received world-wide acclaim,” the cleric challenged him to do all within his power to unite the Ogwashi-Uku kingdom towards sustainable peace and development starting from the royal household.
The state Governor, Okowa, urged families to emulate Okonjo by inculcating in their children the true Anioma and African values of humility, hard work and respect for others and constituted authorities, describing as remarkable ‘’the fact that a monarch at 90 could walk to the Church altar for thanksgiving to God.’’
While congratulating him and wishing him good health to continue to pilot the affairs of his people, the governor, who spoke through the information commissioner, Ukah, urged the people to rally round the royal father for the peace and development of the entire kingdom.
Executive Assistant (Special Duties) to Okowa, Dr Awele Nwabuokei, also urged the people to draw a balance between traditional practices and Christian or modern values in order to advance the course of societal development.
The former finance minister, her husband, her younger sister, Dr. Njideka Udochi, and one of the children (King Okonjo’s grandchild), Mr. Okechukwu Iweala, all spoke glowingly about the monarch and patriarch of the Okonjo family of Ogwashi-Uku, harping on his love for education, culture as well as family and community values.
According to the former minister, one of the greatest legacies of their 90-year-old father was the culture of humility, respect for human dignity and pursuit of educational excellence for both male and female children.
The highpoints of the thanksgiving were the bible verses recitation and drama depicting the value of family bond and intercessory prayers among Christian families presented by children and youths of Saint James’ Anglican Church, Ogwashi-Uku.