The Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, Agbogidi has described his 20-year reign as the traditional ruler of Onitsha as a journey of leadership Change with the sole purpose of fast-forwarding an ancient traditional society to the 21st century.
In an address at his Ofala, Agbogidi said ‘’there is no end in sight because change is a continuous process.
‘’We have to anticipate and be apace with change, else change will overtake us.
‘’On ascending the throne, I defined a personal ruling philosophy of “Peace and Reconciliation based on Truth and Transparency as a Foundation for Sustainable Development’’.
He notes: ‘’Drawing from this philosophy, we have shaped a vision of re-inventing and re-positioning the Onicha Ado N’Idu kingdom.
‘’We have applied modern management and leadership principles to traditional governance and the progressive evolution of the culture of our people.
According to him the basics the re-invention and re-positioning involved the rebuilding of trust amongst the populace, resolution of long-standing disputes within and between kindred families and villages, engendering general reconciliation, and reformation and re-focusing of our youths’ aspirations and energy.
Others include the palace redevelopment as a symbol of change, the re-definition of our community as physical and virtual, and the promotion of self-pride and the spirit of Onicha-ness.
Agbogidi said that vision was pursued through various initiatives over several years.
These, he said involved the youth development workshops, physical and virtual town hall meetings, think tank strategy sessions, engagements with Onicha indigenes outside of the homesteads, and annual conference.
Igwe Achebe explained that the objective has been further enhanced by the endorsement of the Ofala by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) as a major Nigerian festival, thus boosting our plans of bringing the world to Onitsha to experience our rich cultural heritage, and enhancing the growth and development of our community.
He also said there is a second reason why this year’s Ofala is distinctive. ‘’I ascended this throne of Ezechima, the founding father of Onicha Ado N’Idu, twenty years ago on May 14, 2002, which coincidentally was also my 61st birthday.
‘’Thus, I have chosen to formally mark this milestone anniversary with the 2022 Ofala festival as the pedestal for thanksgiving and celebration. This milestone provides an opportunity for some reflection, as follows.
Following the outbreak of the Covid -19 pandemic, we formed the
Onicha Community COVID-19 Response Team (OCCRT) to tackle local
huge health, economic, and social challenges for the world and our country.
Working closely with the Anambra State Government Ministry of Health, the Onitsha Traditional Council, on April 9, 2020, set up the Onitsha Community COVID-19 and under our Response Team (OCCRT), we created a strong team of our indigenous medical, communication, and other professionals at home and abroad, and anchored on the ground by a committed and youthful team of “Wellbeing Ambassadors” and their supervisors.
This was the first of such community responses to the pandemic in the State. Our response moved rapidly through three stages.
• Volunteer Scheme: 35 unemployed youths were trained as Wellbeing Ambassadors, and 7 supervisors were recruited;
• Palliative Support: Four thousand, five hundred and forty-nine (4,549) neediest persons received palliatives of various food items in several phases;
• Preventive Support, Outreach Support and Covid-19 Testing and Vaccinations:
Under the initiative, not less than a hundred (100) tests and 3,435 vaccinations were administered.
‘’Soon, however, it became imperative to re-focus the remit of the OCCRT towards addressing the medium and long-term health, economic and social consequences of the pandemic on the community.
‘’This gave rise to an Economic Empowerment Planning and Implementation Committee comprising a large number of our accomplished indigenes of varied professional backgrounds, who worked virtually from different parts of the world on a pro bono basis.
‘’The team was charged with developing and implementing a plan of action “to support the struggling and budding entrepreneurs in our domain in weathering the post-Covid-19 economic and social challenges”.
The team successfully established an Economic Empowerment Programme in line with our strategy of taking Onitsha through the 21st Century. It was agreed to utilize the already existing Onitsha Advancement Foundation (OnAF) as the platform for action.
Before, then The Onitsha Advancement Foundation (OnAF):
The Onitsha Advancement Foundation (OnAF) was earlier established and duly registered as a not-for-profit organization with the Corporate Affairs Commission in 2014, by the Onitsha Traditional Council, with two major objectives, to support the funding and education of deserving Onitsha indigenes at post-graduate degree levels in all fields of endeavour with a focus on excellence.
‘’I acknowledge our main sponsors – Globacom and International Breweries.
‘’Our relationship over the years with these bodies has contributed in no small measure to the growth and development of the Ofala.
‘’Several persons have also made significant contributions to this year‘s Ofala. To these donors and supporters, we say thank you very much. We will individually acknowledge your generosity.
Special mention has to be made of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), for not only endorsing the Ofala as a major Nigerian festival but also issuing a specific mandate for its support. We look forward to continued collaboration with NTDC.
We also commend the Anambra State Government under Governor Chukwuma Soludo, who recently pledged to ensure urban renewal on Onitsha with the refurbishing of roads and other infrastructure.
Our visitors have come from far and near, within and outside the country, to felicitate with us, notwithstanding the travel challenges of the post-Covid era.
‘’We do not take your friendship for granted and look forward to opportunities to reciprocate your kind gesture. We pray for God’s protection as you journey back to your destinations.
‘’Our appreciation also goes to the various security agencies in the State who have collaborated tirelessly and effectively to ensure a hitch-free celebration,’’ Igwe Achebe concluded. ##