By Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia.
Your Excellency, I wish to use this medium to congratulate you as you gradually climb to meet many of us in the Diamond Club of 60; and like the diamond, you will surely be more precious and radiant. There is an unsolicited, yet a useful advice, which from my personal experience, I will avail you in your odyssey to 60. There is this natural mystic that occurs to most humans; a sort of systemic entropy or metamorphosis that comes in form of health disposition between ages 58 and 60. It is a creative disposition, which with a good composure will surely sublimate your life style around 60.
Your Excellency, as you mark your 58th birthday on May 12, 2020, please immerse yourself in the kernel of this letter, to wit, the centrality and transcendence of God in the affairs of men; and that those who fear and worship Him will always emerge victorious. The foregoing theme has a profound significance in your life. I say this because while in Enugu State Government, you were once kidnapped, hounded and locked in the boot of a Peugeot 504 car and taken outside Enugu state, and after an extensive rigmarole, you regained your freedom. The Federal Government arraigned you in a court for alleged forgery case, but later realized their blunder, and thus you were discharged and acquitted. An orchestrated whistle blower had laid claims to local and foreign currencies in your guest house at Maitama, Abuja, but nothing was found. A fair-skinned and skilled hired assassin had come after your life on your way to work at Abuja, but God shielded you.
As the Deputy President of the Senate, your Abuja residence was at a point invaded in a Gestapo style by fierce-looking and hostile anti-riot police men, but on realizing their foolery and impudence they retreated. Yet on another day, we woke up to the news that thieves had broken into your Abuja residence and were forcing themselves into your bedroom, obviously to snuff out your life, but they were overpowered and apprehended. You were falsely and maliciously accused of amassing numerous and nonexistent properties in Enugu, Abuja, Dubai, the UK, the USA, Canada, etc, including the Modotels, Enugu; all in a fruitless effort to discredit you. In a faraway Nuremberg, Germany, a group of wastrels claiming to be fighting for Igbo interest attacked you with neither cause for their action, nor reason for their guide. Their injudicious, misguided and most cowardly aggression not only attracted for them an unimaginable public opprobrium and condemnation, but has put a question mark on the collective Igbo weltanschauung in the contemporary global civilization; as well as its pretensions to Igbo pragmatic solidarity and mutualism.
Your Excellency may also recall that as a Chief of Staff to the Government House and later the Secretary to the Enugu State Government, arrows were fired at you from various interests whose quivers were full of poisonous heads. Even within the government were your colleagues who plotted to betray you by playing the Judas as well as whipping up unnecessary sub-cultural sentiments to undo you. Needless to remark that even those outside the government, particularly in the opposition, perceived you as part of their nemesis. You emerged victorious in the face of these, not by your might or power but because of your faith in the assurance that those who fear and worship Him will always emerge victorious
Your Excellency may have drawn immense inspiration from an outstanding Nobel Laureate, a German-born theoretical physicist and one of the best brains that has ever lived Albert Einstein (1879-1955). He had noted that great minds have always encountered violent opposition from the mediocre. Another German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, explained that truth passes through three stages; first, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed by the mediocre. Third and finally, it is universally accepted as self-evident. And the mortal sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo admonished that only the deep can call to the deep. Thus, in all the above circumstances, you had remained focused; exhibited maturity and equanimity, unflappable emotional balance and a profound sense of forgiveness even to the worst of scoundrels. More importantly, you have discharged your functions in all the positions and responsibilities entrusted on you most creditably with glamour, verve and panache, to the consternation of your adversaries. You must have relied on the postulation by Winston Churchill (1874-1965) who enthused that “you will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” Thus, in difficult moments, when ordinary mortals give in to despair and frustration, you have shown purposeful leadership; you would, like phoenix the bird, fire an ember from a heap of ash, inject new verve into exhausted possibilities and would create a path through a cul-de-sac. These attributes of Your Excellency are in tandem with the time-honoured assertion of Booker Taliaferro Washington (1856-1915), the American educator, author, orator, and adviser to multiple presidents of the United States of America, that the accomplishment [of any man] is usually measured by the obstacles he overcame to reach his goals.
Your Excellency, the labyrinthine nature of mankind is as old as creation. In the Greek mythology, for instance, there was a Prometheus, the Titan, whose benevolent spirit to mankind, instead of attracting to him admiration and respect, rather incurred the envy and persecution of other gods. Likewise, the renowned Greek philosopher, Socrates (469-399BC) was banished from Greece and eventually administered to a poison, hemlock, which took his life. Aristides, the hero of the Marathon War, was noted for valour, incorruptibility and magnanimity, but in spite of his heroism, the Greek authorities plotted for his banishment. In 1633 AD, Galileo Galilei, the father of observational astronomy, modern physics and scientific method was convicted on the charges of heresy by the Catholic Church for advancing the theory that the “earth revolves around the sun” in contrast to the Catholic view point that the “earth was the immovable centre of the universe”. The name Jeanne d’Arch, the Maid of Orleans, France, resonates to this day not because of her charming beauty but more because she was martyred for the courage of her convictions. Miguel Servetus was tied to a stake and burnt as a heretic in 1553AD because, among other things, he was the first European to correctly describe the function of pulmonary circulation in the human body. Other outstanding men of history who had at various times suffered all forms of attacks and deprivations, persecution or paid the great prize include, J.F Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, etc. In all the foregoing illustrations, the above icons, instead of diminishing in stature, became more amplified. You would have observed a common thread between you and the revered historical personages of the past, that a noble spirit is a virtue.
As you mark your birthday, I congratulate you. I congratulate you because there is hardly any part of Enugu West Senatorial District that does not feel your impact as a senator. For instance, my community, Ugbo will remain eternally grateful to you. Since the coming of Ikeoha, Ugbo has become a tourist destination and a model in transformation of a rural area – from the winter of despair to a summer of hope; many more communities in Enugu West and beyond share in the Ugbo experience. We are thankful for the thousands that have benefited from the Ikeoha Scholarship Scheme and Bursary Awards. With gratitude, we commend your vision in the road network that connects over seven Anike communities in Awgu LGA and several constituency projects in the Enugu West Senatorial District. On a broader scale, the change in status of the Enugu Airport to Akanu Ibiam International Airport owes its upgrade to your leadership skills and the cooperation of other members of the National Assembly from Enugu state.
Your Excellency, your story remains an inspiring tribute to the power of a human being to shape his destiny and the destinies of his environment. You have through a quality representation shown empathy and relief where before had existed frustration, despair, animosity and deprivations. You have indeed touched numerous lives, wiped tears and put smiles on countless faces of both men and women. At a point in your service, the Ikeoha Sanctuary was an elastic capacious canopy, capable of accommodating even the least deserving from Enugu West and beyond.
In the various offices you have held, you have not only added expertise and finesse but have often expanded the authority and stretched to the limits of the offices in your characteristic solicitude to change the narratives of your constituency. Thus, your community, Mpu, the entire Aninri Local Government Area and several communities and individuals will forever remain a reference point in the enormous possibilities and benefits of quality representation in government.
There is a truism that every object is best appreciated by comparison. Therefore, permit me to state that among the Nigerian senators, both the former and serving, even your detractors concede that Your Excellency, Senator Professor Ike Ekweremadu, PhD, CFR, is most outstanding. It is incontrovertible that Enugu West Senatorial District has a senator with exceptional vision and reflective intellectual prowess; a man with strong ethical persuasion, purveyor of superior morals and a veritable source of pride and inspiration. Above all, he is a man of uncommon resilience and legendary humility.
Ikeoha Ndigbo, may the heavens light continue to cast its shade on you and may the guards of angel encompass you as you march on!
Mr. Ogbonnia writes from Abuja