Football And Democracy At Work In Abia – By Eddie Onuzuruike


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If I go back to the classroom to teach again, I will repeatedly use football analogies and allegories. As experienced today, they are handy, elucidatory and facilitate teaching. The cable and satellite televisions have compulsively sent football to all closets, homes and all the corners of the world. People now belong to teams faraway from their residential and ancestral homes. They get passionately attached and become namesakes in Diaspora. Their teams are taken very seriously in preference to our National teams, and they even shed tears and become violent when these adopted teams lose matches.

One of my cousins who hardly walks well due to a childhood injury goes by the name Vandasal. My carpenter rudely corrected me that his name was no longer Zebulon but Renaldo. I got even with him when I stopped him from signing against Zeb, his name in the pay sheet. This forced him to notarise his new name, as I argued, he may come back to claim that he was not paid. Before the civil war, a man in my clan was popularly known as Rigogo. Strange as the name sounded to me, I couldn’t help hailing him as others did. By all means; he was a very good goalkeeper. It was in later years that I learnt that Rigogo was a world-class goalkeeper. That is soccer for you.

I may not be alone in employing the football talisman. Some years ago, when I was still living in Abuja, I accompanied a family to a thanksgiving service and saw football dancing on the pulpit.

The thanks-giver was a known Chelsea fan and was the unofficial chairman of the Blues club in an Abuja suburb. He had in the process handed out T-shirts, mufflers, banners and other insignias of his beloved club. That Sunday, his adherents adorned these memorabilia to attend the thanksgiving. The presiding clergy would not let some opportunity slip through his fingers and after the thanks giver’s appearance, called on Chelsea fans to come with their offerings. Immediately after, a large murmur replaced the Chelsea heraldry and it was the Manchester United and other club members who felt that Chelsea was given an undue advantage, oddly, in a church that should play fair. More so, Chelsea was to play Manchester United that evening. The offering trail continued as the clergyman announced team after team. It is glaring here that the Marxian perspective of religion being the opium of the masses was beaten that now, football or soccer as the Americans prefer, has become the opium of the masses.

In July 23rd, 2010, in the banquet hall of Government House Umuahia, football sneaked into a very solemn business. It was the PDP chairman then, Dr Okwesilize Nwodo who came to Umuahia to persuade Sir T.A. Orji to come back to PDP. Midway into his speech delivered with epic mastery and in the presence of PDP heavy weights like, Chief Martin Elechi, Governor of Ebonyi State, unarguably the oldest serving Governor in Nigeria, erstwhile minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, immediate past National Chairman of PDP and an Abia son of repute, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, Chief Whip of the Federal House, National Assembly, Hon. Mao Ohuabunwa, Senator Nkechi Nworgu, Barrister Emeka Nwaogu, a serving Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of Abia extraction, the deputy Governor of Enugu State, Chief Onyebuchi and other notables, who stormed Abia State like a cavalry, Chief Nwodo spoke- we are seeking for our missing rib, Chief T. A. Orji is a material we cannot afford to lose in a political war such as this, we should put out our first eleven and T. A. Orji is a superstar striker.

Three days ago, precisely may 28 2013, the PDP in the state staged a democracy walk which snaked from the state Assembly at Ogurube Layout, through Ikot Ekpene, Finbarrs, Bende Roads and Umuahia North Local Government Headquarters. It ended at the Government House where they addressed the Governor.

Senator Emma Nwaka who has astutely and masterly led the PDP in Abia since the reunion, employed footbtall again. He told the governor their mission. Having commended his efforts in developmental strides, he told the Governor that it was halftime. Moreover, as a good coach, he has come to advise his players, the Governor being a key player. He exhorted the governor to intensify his efforts in the delivery of democracy dividends for a happy conclusion.

This drew a hilarious ovation, which gave the chairman a little break before concluding.

In paraphrase, we thank you immensely for all you are doing for all, especially for Abia Youth whom you have empowered in air-conditioned vehicles to enjoy and earn a living. He gave the key of a Sienna space wagon to his Excellency as the Abia PDP’s contribution to the governor’s largess. Democracy has come to stay in Abia the Governor began; we have salvaged power in Abia from government of one family, by one family for one family to government of the people, by the people for the people. I do not need to say it all as we will still meet later in the day to commission two roads and again, tomorrow is Democracy Day.

The ebullient Governor went on later in the day to commission two road projects, one in Abia Central Senatorial Zone, the Ajata-Isieke Road which was impassable hitherto but will now predominantly serve farmers in evacuating their farm produce. The second road in the list was the Obikabia- Ururuka road, a twenty-nine kilometer thoroughfare that aided vehicular movement greatly. Most of all, it will enhance the haulage of materials to a federal government installation site. These two are part of the 52 roads started in the second tenure of the administration.

On the 29th May proper, the Democracy Day took another hue. On approach to the venue, sighting the host of clergies at the dais and numbering over ten, one would mistake the gathering for a Pentecostal revival. Somehow it was a revival rededicating to God Almighty, Sir T A Orji, Knight of Saint Wesley, a man who strongly believes in the efficacy of prayers, especially prayers of the saints. The host of the clergy dazzling in their flowing, white apparels with streaks of other bright colours- many typical of bishopric royalty and apostolic elevation, unarguably held sway for the better part of the day. This was to be as their position at the centre of Umuahia Township Stadium opposite the state box where the Governor sat, flanked on all sides by stakeholders, party chieftains, aides and dignitaries from Abuja and beyond. That instantly made the clergy the cynosure of all eyes. His lovely and stately wife, Lady Mercy Odochi Orji maintained her usual dignified composure, as she was always happy whenever ecumenism was at work.

The presiding clergy, the Archbishop of Aba ecclesiastical province and Bishop of Umuahia diocese of Anglican communion, Archbishop Ikechi Nwosu spoke with ecclesiastical authority, enjoined leaders to lead with the fear of God, endorsing all Governments to be of God and so, should enjoy the biblical prescribed support from all citizens including performing their numerous civic duties. Relevant bible readings were taken by the party chairman, Barrister Emma Nwaka and his Excellency Sir T A Orji.

Highly immersed in the word of God and thus rededicated to the almighty, Chief T.A. Orji emphasized his promise and resolved to serve with the fear of God. He reeled out the manifest Legacy Projects, those completed, some ongoing and the ones coming aboard like the Ubani Ibeku/Ngwu Uzuakoli housing estate whose foundation will be commemorated on Friday, 31 May, 2013. He assured that the new Government House would certainly be ready before 2015. Elder statesman, Dee Bob Ogbuagu, Chairman of the occasion, a man who cut across many generations and has survived the colonial politics till present day era, directed the events with familiar eloquence and experience.

Abia is destined for good things, courtesy, the re-engineering of Chief T.A. Orji who has sworn to part with the indolence and prebendal bestiality of the past. According to an anonymous saying, ‘coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success.’ Going by this, Ochendo’s Abia is a success story. Since after Dr Nwodo’s visit mentioned above, the governor skillfully wrought a peace process unimagined, bringing all together. Since then, they have been keeping together and working together in collective decisions resulting in growth in all areas and most of all, all the big wigs are physically present in all events giving the governor unquantifiable solidarity. As witnessed on the democracy day, the federal legislators and ministerial appointees like Uzo Azubuike and Sen. Nkechi Nwaorgu, Gen Ike Nwachukwu, Mao Ohuabunwa, Sen. Chukwumerije and Amb. Ojo Maduekwe to mention a few, have constantly been part of all state events from time to time. Abians are happy with the projects placed on ground for which the governor has been worldly acclaimed, the most recent being ‘The Man of the Year 2012’ bestowed by Daily Independent Newspapers award series.





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