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ENCOMIUMS AS ARCHBISHOP OKEKE CELEBRATES

By NBF News

Archbishop Okeke flanked by friends as he cuts the anniversary cake

February 18, 2012 the Archbishop of Onitsha Archdiocese and Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, Most Rev. Dr. Valerian Maduka Okeke, marked the 10th Anniversary of his Episcopal ordination. In his sermon during the Mass service to herald the anniversary, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu, Most Rev Dr. Calistus Onaga said such calling is a special one because, as a leader, one is not the sort of leader that the world is used to. According to him, such a one is the servant of the servants of God.

Bishop Onaga said: 'We are here to celebrate an epoch, in the sense that we are celebrating an achiever, who has held sway in the area of discharging his duties, not only as an Archbishop whom God entrusts all his flock, but as the servant of the people of God. It is therefore worthy to note that since God alone appoints a man to this office despite the fact that man is unworthy, God wants his priests and Bishops to dedicate their lives to the people of God for whom they are consecrated his Bishops despite their unworthiness'

On the infrastructural development in the Archdiocese since the Episcopal ordination of Archbishop Valerian Okeke whom he described as Preacher, teacher and an erudite scholar, Bishop Onaga extolled the achievements made so far especially at the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, the seat of the Archdiocese.

'Archbishop Val Okeke has recorded monumental strides in the area of infrastructure since he assumed this big office. It is not always easy to follow steps already set by another person, but is always easy to set a step and that is what our Archbishop is passing through because all the other Archbishops that have stayed here set a very high standard and that is what the new Archbishop is battling to maintain and even he has done it better,' he said.

Also speaking, the National President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and the Archbishop of Ibadan Archdiocese, Most Rev. Dr. Alaba Job, represented by Rev Fr. Ralph Madu, described the celebrant as a fearless man who always stands for the truth.

Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi, represented by his wife, Mrs. Margaret Obi, also described Archbishop Okeke as a man whose commitment to the development of mankind is total and urged him to continue with his good work.

Mrs. Obi also disclosed that the Archbishop played a very prominent role in the recent handover of schools to missions, adding that 'the church and Anambra State government have always worked together and the resultant effect is that today, we remain the first and ever state to handover schools to their original owners'

According to the wife of Anambra State governor, the rot in education sector, when it was totally under the administration of the government, had eaten deep into the fabrics of education which retarded the speed at which teaching and learning was accelerating.

She maintained that the Archbishop played very important roles in the transformation and rebuilding of some institutions in the state and called on other men of God to emulate the Catholic cleric.

The former Vice President of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, said that Archbishop Okeke is a detribalized man of God who, according to him, does not discriminate against people of different denominations and other faith.

Dr. Ekwueme acknowledged that the task of being a leader and leader of God's people is a greatest task to be entrusted on any man, adding that, like the biblical Moses, one needs extra grace to succeed.

He congratulated him for marking 10 years as the shepherd of the Ecclesiastical Province and prayed God to grant him extra wisdom and good health to be able to do the job without fear or favour.

Senator Chris Ngige also applauded the Archbishop. According to him, 'we are celebrating a very vibrant man of God, whose sense of humour drives home his sermons.

'He is a careful man of God, who uses jokes to teach his people. He has never been arrogant; he is a man of God that offers himself to the people, by being accessible to every one of them,' he said.

For the National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Chief Victor Umeh, the celebration was timely because it came at a time the country is passing through a lot of security challenges. He stressed that the commemoration service afforded the people opportunity to hear the message of peace.

He challenged other men of God to always shun materialism and face the task of evangelization which, according to him, will help reposition the society for the better and called on the celebrant not to lose focus in discharging his duties.

Responding, the Archbishop thanked all the people that attended the celebration and said a special prayer for peace and progress in the country, which he said had eluded the people, especially Igbo in the recent times.

He advocated for special investment on vocational institutions, which he said would redirect the younger generation to hard work. Most Rev. Okeke also urged Ndigbo to make sure they always come home to build a formidable force that would be anchored on unity. With that, he said, they can achieve anything they want, adding that the major problem facing Ndigbo, as a people, is their lack of unity of purpose.

'There is need for Ndigbo to come home and build a formidable front and also help us rebuild our states. It will help us back to our feet because, it appears our brothers and sisters have forgotten that they came from home and should build the home for the future of our people'