The Acharaugo Foundation recently organised the first edition of a special festival of carols and nine lessons in Nkpologwu, a community under Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, which turned to a rallying point for the people of the kingdom, Mary Ovie reports
Although the year has been ravaged by COVID-19 pandemic, the Christmas season evokes excitement whether for children or adults. Often characterised by abundance of food, snacks, drinks and, of course, gifts the Yuletide is indeed a season to make merry and also a time of sharing.
It is also a time to reunite and rally round the community. Giving wings to this, the Acharaugo Foundation recently organised the first edition of a special festival of carols and nine lessons.
By 2pm on Christmas Eve, all paths and roads led to the expansive playground of the Community Primary School in Nkpologwu, where the locals had converged for the first edition of a special festival of carols and nine lessons. Dressed in resplendent attires to reflect the joyful season, celebrants – men, women, old and young – had come from far and wide, including sons and daughters of Nkpologwu in the diasporas, to witness the special event.
The festival of carols was advertised to be a memorable event and, as massive turnout suggested, it indeed lived up to people’s expectations. It was facilitated by Acharaugo Foundation to provide an opportunity for reunion and a rallying point for the people of the kingdom to enjoy probably their most colourful Christmas together.
In order not to leave anything to chances, Obi Ogonna and other officials of Acharaugo Foundation had joined hands with church leaders and choir members in the three major churches in the peaceful town, working all day to put finishing touches to preparations so as to make the event truly a memorable one. And the turnout was massive as expected, as the playground in the primary school was filled to capacity – with the people outside the expansive tents and canopies almost doubling those under the tents.
By the time the convoy of Nze Chidi Duru, former two-time member of the House of Representatives, who is the founder of Acharaugo Foundation, stormed the dusty playground where his kith and kin had gathered, the Community Primary School in Nkpologwu erupted into action.
In the midst of ecstatic as crowd were dignitaries such as Reverend Canon Clinton Osinachi Ogbonna, parish priest of Immanuel Church; Reverend Paul Dimude, parish priest of St Michael Church; His Royal Highness Moses Obijikwa Okpalankwa, Obi of Nkpologwu; Ichie Emma Okenyeka, Onowu of Nkpologwu; Prof Romanus Ezeokonkwo, president general of Nkpologwu Progressive Union (NPU); Dr. Ferdinand Ezeiruaku, vice president of NPU; Bhon Enneth Igweneme and Ogonna, chairman and secretary, respectively, Acharaugo Foundation intervention committee.
Declaring the special festival of carols open, Reverend Ogbonna preached fervently about the necessity for peace, love and unity in the church and in the state as a whole. In his intercessory prayers, Ogbonna, who also presided over the various sessions, beseeched God for prosperity and protection of all indigenes of the kingdom as they moved into the New Year, urging the people to always use the life of Jesus Christ as a compass to guide them in how they run their affairs.
“Beloved in Christ, at this Christmas-tide, let it be our care and delight to hear again the message of the angels and in heart and mind, to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass and the Baby lying in a manger.
“Therefore, let us read and mark, in Holy Scripture, the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious redemption brought us by the Holy child. Let us pray for the needy in the whole world; for peace on earth and goodwill among all his people, for unity and brotherhood within the church he came to build, and especially in his this our country Nigeria and, particularly our state Anambra.
“Let us remember, in His name, the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry and the oppressed, the sick and those that mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children, all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love not or who by sin, have grieved His heart of love. Lastly, let us remember before God, all those who rejoice with us especially those in other parts of the world, whose hope is in the Word made flesh and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are one forever more.”
What followed immediately were carols sung in turn by all the congregants, select individuals, and choirs from the three dominant churches who mounted musical instruments in strategic locations at the venue. And in-between the carols, nine lessons (excerpts from the Bible) were read. Like the carols, each of the nine lessons was also assigned to different individuals to read, all sessions interspersed with prayers.
The day’s celebrations culminated in sharing of palliative items, as hundreds of people went home with gifts and other cash donations facilitated by Acharaugo Foundation. Duru, who promised that the special festival would be made permanent as a yearly event, drew a deafening applause when he made cash donation to the three choirs to augment their musical instruments.
In the past, tales had it that choirs from the three leading churches in Nkpologwu used to visit people’s compounds one by one to sing the carols and savour the merriments, which became more difficult and unsustainable as the once bucolic town has grown in leaps and bounds as a result of developments that have boosted its urbanisation pace. Then, it was practically impossible for any household to play host to the visiting choir members and church leaders for more than five minutes, thus denying them the ample time to sing the carols together on Christmas Eve.
On December 23, members of Acharaugo Foundation in Aguata local government area had converged on Duru’s country home to share merriments and party together. Thanks to organisational ability of Acharaugo forum’s 27-man leadership structure that spans entire 20 wards in Aguata local government area, many indigenes also smiled home with cash and other empowerment cum palliative items. This, the foundation’s intervention committee said, is another way to give vent to the late Duru’s pastime: impacting his people’s lives in positive ways.
A day before Acharaugo Foundation delighted the locals with gift and cash items, it was also the turn of the maidens – many of them in their seventies and eighties – to converge in Duru’s family house to felicitate with one another as it was the wont when the late patriarch was alive. And for many that attended the two meetings, it was also a moment of great reunions, especially for some who had not seen one another since the restriction occasioned by advent of COVID-19 and those that used the opportunity of the yuletide to travel down to their roots.
While explaining the rationale behind distribution of palliative items during yuletide season, Duru said it was in response to the feelers from Acharaugo caregivers in the local government area, which showed that the severe disruptions brought about by the raging COVID-19 pandemic affected his people’s businesses and other means of livelihood.
According to the lawyer and entrepreneur, Acharaugo Foundation was founded when his late father, an astute businessman, philanthropist and respected community leader who demised in 2005, was still alive to serve as a canopy for addressing issues verging on community development and people’s welfare.
It was birthed in 2001 to provide itself as an empowerment instrument in Nkpologwu and beyond – as a platform for continuing the selfless services of the industrialist long after his demise. Over the years, it is to the credit of the foundation’s scholarships and other generous grants that many people in Aguata local government area and environs are able to actualise their talents, learn skills, establish businesses, and realise their ambition to go to school, find jobs, and solve lingering problems.
“Growing up, my father ensured we understood why he was doing it (philanthropy). My father, a community leader and entrepreneur in his time, would always say that the wealth that he had and the resources that were available to him were not because he was the smartest or the most hardworking or the fittest. He believed that it was because God, in His wisdom, had chosen to bless him. He therefore made himself an instrument to extend the blessings not just to people in Nkpologwu community but also neighbouring towns and Aba (Abia State) where he formerly resided.”
But it was not all festivities and merriments alone, as activities climaxed with a tinge of politics. During the festivities, the former federal lawmaker, who was chaired the Privatisation and Commercialisation committee during his time in the House of Representatives, was dragged into the Anambra South All Progressives Congress (APC) stakeholders’ meeting, which held in Ekwulobia, Aguata local government area.
The meeting, which was called to mend internal wrangling and have zonal cohesion as the state glides into governorship elections later in 2021, resolved to form a formidable front across interest groups in the party towards restoring the party’s fortunes in the zone and to also interface with both Anambra North and South senatorial districts in pursuit of the Anambra South interest towards achieving the turn of Anambra South to produce the next Governor of the state.
The meeting had in attendance Chief Engr Bart Nwibe (Ugo Igbo), High Chief Engr Johnbosco Onunkwo (Akaekpuchionwa), Hon Sir Azuka Okwuosa (Chinyelugo), Duru, Dr. George Moghalu (Ohamdike), Dr. Chisozie Nwankwo, Chief Paul Orajiaka (Kpakpando), Chief Ben Etiaba, Hon Nestor Okoro, Hon Mrs. Nkechi Nnoli, Hon Theo Nnorom, Chief Hygers Igwebuike, Chief Innocent Obi (Chairman, APC Elders Forum), Chief Zokas Aniazoka, Hon Mrs. Constance Iloh, Prof Orajiaka, Hon Barr Okonkwo Okom, Chief Onyi Uzochukwu (Avenger), Chief Uwaejina Igbokwe (Agbalanze Umuchu), Chief Amobi Nwafor, seven local government chairmen from the zone, state officers from the zone and many other stakeholders from the zone.
And in what seemed to be an endorsement of Duru’s leadership credentials, the zonal meeting chose him to lead a high-powered committee to interface with the various groups within the party and the state towards forming a united front against the divisive positions that ruined the party’s chances at the polls in the past elections.
“I feel honoured to have been deemed fit by elders and leaders of my party, the APC, to chair the committee to reach out to the two senatorial districts to remind them of the commitment to allow Anambra South senatorial district to produce the next governor of the state. This is to make the whole process less acrimonious. We will bring out a candidate that can win the gubernatorial election so that APC can form the next government in Anambra State,” he said.