The dying days of 2019 saw my passage to the East, Onitsha, in Anambra State, precisely.
Was I looking for the wise men from the East, who had brought gifts to the baby Jesus born few days earlier? Date was December 30, and I had set forth at dawn, headed for the commercial city, to partake in the dedication of a Catholic Church, St Francis of Assisi Parish, Inland Town, built, furnished and donated by my friend, Sir Francis Okechukwu Anyakwo.
The Air Peace flight I boarded from Lagos to Asaba was filled to the brim. The airport in Enugu is under reconstruction, till Easter, and passengers naturally gravitated to the nearest gateway: Asaba.
I was fortunate to be onboard with the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, Agbogidi. I paid him royal courtesies, and he asked what was taking me to Onitsha. After I told him, he said he would be at the event, too.
The Obi is a happy man, very happy. And the greatest cause of joy is the Second Niger Bridge, being built by the Muhammadu Buhari government (or regime, if you like. Lol) after many decades of playing politics with the project by previous governments.
As we alighted at that beautiful airport built by former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan in Asaba, Delta State capital, the Agbogidi told me to look at my right when traveling across the River Niger, and I would see the emerging second bridge, in all its splendor.
The maiden bridge was built in 1965, and has been crying for a sibling for years. It turned to a tool for political advantage, as President after President promised to build the bridge, got the votes of the people, and showed a clean pair of heels thereafter. Goodbye basket, I’ve carried all my apples, they simply said. What Napoleon could not do, however, President Buhari is now doing, despite getting negligible number of votes from the area in the two elections he has won.
But that is not the main purpose of this write up. Rather, it is to talk about the homecoming of a backslidden Catholic boy, now a full Pentecostal. Yes, I was born and nurtured a Catholic, in the finest traditions of that church. Begin the Greater Doxology in Latin, and I will complete it for you.
Gloria in Excelsis Deo,
et in terra pax hominibus,
gratias agimus tibi propter magnam….
I loved and still love the Catholic Church, so I was quite glad to break my holiday, fly to Onitsha, to be part of a sanctuary dedication.
On the River Niger, I looked right as instructed by the Obi of Onitsha, and saw it with infinite pleasure, the Second Niger Bridge, rising up in all its glory and effulgence , promising comfort and succor for people of the East, and all those traveling through that region. Again, I say: President Buhari has done what Napoleon couldn’t do, and the bridge will be completed before he exits office in 2023. Hallelujah somebody!
St Francis of Assisi Parish, Inland Town, Onitsha. I beheld it also with infinite pleasure. A work done through the hands of a simple, unassuming, godly man, Sir Francis Anyakwo. Impressive structure. A monument to the glory of God. Built and being donated wholesale to the Catholic Church. On hand to receive and dedicate the edifice was His Grace, Most Rev Dr Valerian Maduka Okeke, who said Anyakwo was the first Onitsha indigene to build a Catholic Church, and hand it over.
Onitsha, new, peaceful Onitsha, where has all the wildness gone? This was not the city I used to know. Onitsha, with its rough and tumble boisterousness, has suddenly transformed into a calm and sedate city. Clean. Non-threatening. Is it because it’s Christmas season? Well, may Onitsha remain so welcoming and accommodating. And may the Agbogidi reign for a long, long time. Amen.
The dedication. Do you recall when Solomon consecrated a temple to God in the Holy Bible? It was the same spectacle. Music, prayers, bible reading, blessing and sprinkling of water,responsorial psalm, litany of the saints, prayer of dedication, anointing of the altar and walls of the church, incensation of the altar and the church, lighting of the altar and the church.
Heavens came down, and glory filled my soul. And the souls of all the faithful, who filled the church to the brim.
In the homily, His Grace Most Rev Dr Okeke, spoke on gratitude, saying it is a feeling of gratefulness or indebtedness. And what I particularly took home was his declaration that “gratitude not expressed is not real. Until you express your gratitude either to God or man for a good done to you, then that gratitude is not real.”
God has done Sir Francis Anyakwo good, giving him a good family, good health, success in business, and all the other good things of life. He has expressed his gratitude through the building of St Francis of Assisi Parish, and donating it wholesale.
The Obi not only arrived early, he stayed all through the dedication ceremony, and paid tribute to Anyakwo, the illustrious son of Onitsha. It conveyed the gratitude of an entire city.
There was great rejoicing in Onitsha, and I sure was glad to have been part of it. The reception lasted from late afternoon into the wee hours of next day.
I left Onitsha, thankful to God for his mercies to the Anyakwos, to Nigeria, our country, and to the Eastern region, which finally has the Second Niger Bridge under construction. Who says President Muhammadu Buhari is not making a difference? And the half has never yet been told. Greater things will our country still see.
Femi Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari