He is not known for lavish celebration but spends his stupendous wealth in acts of philanthropy. But recently, the Prince of Ukpo Kingdom, Prince Arthur Eze, was at the receiving end, as Igbos across the South-east honoured him in recognition of his outstanding charitable acts. KASIE ABONE writes
He is bold, humble and easygoing but always full of life. His physical size bellies his ingenuity, enormous wealth and huge golden heart of charity. To date, he is acclaimed to be the biggest known philanthropist from South-east whose kind gestures cut across the entire region and Nigeria as a whole. He acts like one obsessed with the acts of giving as if the whole essence of living depends on making others happy. He is Prince Engr. Arthur Ezeh, from the royal Ukpo Kingdom in Dunukofia clan in Anambra State. He is the Chairman of Orlanto Atlas Petroleum, the largest indigenous oil exploration firm in Africa.
Prince Arthur Ezeh means different things to different people. To the poor, homeless, sick and needy, he is the Ozoigbondu (the one who saves lives). To the politicians and political office seekers, he is the go-to whose keys unlock political opportunities across the land. To the churches and their congregants, Prince Eze is the most sought after as his presence at every church service, irrespective of denomination, unlocks the doors to funds on which God’s houses are built even as the lucky worshippers present at such services are showered with abundant cash blessings.
The unemployed youths and students go to him for job opportunities and scholarships. And to his community, Ukpo, this illustrious son of the soil is a pillar through whose numerous high net-worth connections and businesses attracted developments to his community even as he has written the name of the town on the global tourism map through the annual ofala festival, which he solely sponsors.
Unlike the biblical prophet who is not honoured at home, Prince Eze is so loved by his people; his celebration across the land still reverberates.
The prince is not given to loud celebrations. Besides the annual Ofala Festival of Ukpo kingdom which attracts people from all over the country and the huge sums which he doles out to good causes, Arthur, as he is popularly called, is not known to indulge in elaborate celebration of any of his birthdays even when friends and well wishers were favourably disposed to it.
But all that changed when the man with a golden heart clocked 70 years. It was a moment of honour, as Igbos from all walks of life in particular and Nigerians in general, against his expectations, honored him in various ways in recognition of his various acts of tremendous kindness to humanity over the past years.
The windows of honour were opened by Ebonyi State government and her citizens. To them, Eze’s acts of charity are unprecedented in our time.
At a well-attended ceremony held at Akanu Ibiam International Conference Centre, Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, the Prince of Ukpo was honored with a traditional title by the council of traditional rulers of the state in recognition of various giant philanthropic gestures to the people of the state.
In appreciation of their gestures, Arthur doled out a whopping N200 million to the monarchs, who in return gave him bags of Abakaliki brand of rice and thousands of tubers of yams.
The Executive Governor of the state, Dr. David Umahi at Abaomege community in Onicha LGA of the state, named a major road after him.
The construction of the overhead bridge in Ebonyi State was flagged off by Eze himself. The governor of the state, Dr. Umahi in addition appointed him the Chancellor of Ebonyi State University. He was later taken round the state to inspect the governor’s legacy projects. The activities culminated to a lavish party by his host at the Governor’s Lodge. The governor who paid glowing tributes to Arthur, described him as a personal friend and an illustrious son of Ndigbo who has used his wealth to touch the lives of others.
The event attracted the crème de la crème of Ebonyi state indigenes, politicians, government appointees, senior civil servants, clergymen, traditional rulers and their friends.
Not wanting to be outdone by Ebonyi State government, the Enugu State Governor, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi also hosted Prince Arthur Eze to a well-organised and colorful luncheon at the government house.
It was a very emotional outing for the astute oil mogul and philanthropist as prayers and enconium were showered on him. Eze has come to adopt Enugu as his second home having lived there all his life. At a colourful luncheon held at the Governor’s Lodge, Ugwuanyi described the prince as a brother and son of Enugu who has contributed immensely to the socio-economic development of the state and her people.
The high profile event attracted the Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Edward Ubosi; Chairman, Committee on Banking and Currency, Federal House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Jones Onyereri; Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma and his wife, Joyce; Commissioner of Police, Enugu State Command, Danmallam Mohammed, former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Chief Dubem Onyia; His Imperial Majesty, Igwe Austin Ndigwe, Eze Uzu III of Awka Kingdom, Anambra State; Dr. Tony Okam and the Chaplain, Enugu Government House Chaplaincy, Rev. Fr. Chinedu Ozoude, among other dignitaries.
The party continued at his palatial residence in Enugu where he treated himself and guests to sumptuous meals and good music. As a lover of good music, he danced away to the rhythm of the music.
But the climax of honour was bestowed on him in by the five South Eastern governors at a high-class event organised by Ndigbo Lagos in collaboration with South-east Governors Forum held at Intercontinental Hotel, Lagos.
In attendance at the august occasion were the five South Eastern governors and or their representatives, politicians, Igbo businessmen and women and the Igbos resident in Lagos and in the Diaspora.
At the occasion, which provided a platform to discuss pertinent issues relating to the economic development of the region, the general future and well being of Igbo people in Lagos state, climaxed with the bestowing of honor to Prince Ezeh. Adducing reasons for bestowing such unique honor to the oil magnet, the body said he has contributed immensely to the socio economic development of the Ndigbo Lagos, Igbo land in Nigeria and the Diaspora and the entire Nigeria through his philanthropic works. He was therefore conferred with the Patron of Ndigbo Lagos as well as adoption into Ndigbo Lagos Patron Hall of Fame.
In attendance were Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Ebonyi State Governor, Dr. David Umahi; Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, and the representatives of governors of Imo, Anambra and Enugu States. Also present at the gathering was Pat Utomi, former governors and deputy governors, retired military generals from the region and top local and international business tycoons as well as captains of industries.
“There is no better way to wish you well on your special day but to pray for the blessings, love, good health and guidance of the Almighty God in your life so as to continue to be a blessing to mankind,” the group said.
“Ozoigbondu, you’re the best boss ever. A quintessential leader! I’m proud to be associated with you. You inspire me in so more ways than one. I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with you. Thank you for your patience in mentoring me. Thank you for always being so supportive. I appreciate your encouragement and support. Thank you for your selflessness. Happy Birthday My Boss!” Dr. Tony Nwoye said.
The last edition of the Ofala festival for the Ukpo kingdom was remarkably different. The occasion witnessed the continuation of the 70th birthday celebrations of the most illustrious Ukpo prince.
In attendance to felicitate with him were top politicians, clergymen, security chiefs, traditional rulers, among whom were former Anambra State governor and PDP Vice Presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi; Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi; Minister for Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige; PDP Senator elect for Anambra Central, Iyom Uche Ekwunife; former Senator, Dr. Andy Ubah amongst many others.
The Minister of Labour, Senator Chris Ngige described Prince Arthur Eze at 70 as a young old man. He said they had been friends since 1967 when they were boys. “He is somebody I have known. God has been gracious to him; He has given him good health, the resources to touch other people and he has been doing so very well and efficiently. And what do we say? We say he should continue doing what he is doing very well and wish him many more years of good life.”
The flamboyant oil mogul who knows how to enjoy good life treated himself to a princely birthday gift, the 2019 model Rolls Royce. To have a taste of luxury, he took the Ebonyi State governor, Dr. Umahi, on a jolly ride in his wonder on wheels.
Born to the Ukpo Royal Kingdom, Engr. Arthur Ezeh who is the younger brother to the current Eze of Ukpo, Igwe Robert Eze, trained as a chemical and mechanical engineer at California State University, Long Beach after graduation from St. Augustine’s Secondary School in Nkwere in the present day Imo State.
Flamboyant and very wealthy, Engr. Arthur Ezeh founded Atlas Oranto Petroleum in 1991, which is the largest holder of oil exploration blocks in Africa. To date, the company is the largest holder of oil exploration blocks in Africa. The company’s acreage continues to grow, and just two oil blocks alone can produce more than 100,000 barrels of crude oil each day. Arthur loves good life. He is an ardent lover of good music. He not only single handedly equipped the choir of his local church; he has a live orchestra at his palatial home.