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An individual’s culture is an expression of learned behavior patterns and perceptions influenced by age-long traditional norms and mores passed down from one generation to another. Culture has also been defined as an integrated system of traditions and practices which are characteristic of the members of an identified society.

Africans are very proud of their tradition and cherish their cultural heritage. The Igbo people have a saying that anyone who has lost his culture has lost his identity. With growth and development, Nigeria is becoming a more cosmopolitan society with individuals moving to the large cities or even overseas in search of the golden flees.

However, Nigerians hardly ever forget their roots and endeavour to go back home periodically. December and January are months that find many Nigerians travelling to their villages and communities to enjoy the festivities of Christmas and the New Year with their kith and kin. Others take advantage of traditional ceremonies such as the New Yam Festival, the Ovia Osese or the Oro Festival to visit their hometowns. Coronations, births, deaths or weddings are also occasions that people seize to visit the family members who still reside in their original communities. This was the case with the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, who spent over a week in the State of her birth, Rivers State to attend a wedding, funeral, women’s empowerment programme and the official launch of a school.

It is often said that home is where the heart is and the warm and rapturous reception Dame Jonathan received from her kinsmen and women demonstrated the love and pride they felt that their daughter had come from Abuja to visit the community.

On the First Lady’s arrival to Rivers State on Friday, 14th June 2013, she commissioned the Yitzhak Rabin International School and Resource Centre in Port Harcourt. During the commissioning, she also received an award from the Yitzhak Rabin Centre for African Development for her successful advocacy for women empowerment and her pursuit of peace on the continent. The award was formally presented to the First Lady by Mr. Yuval Rabin, the son of Late Prime Minister Rabin.

In her speech on the occasion she maintained that education forms the bedrock of any society and continuously has vast influence on the progress and development of mankind. The school, named after Nobel Peace Laureate and Israel’s former Prime Minister, Mr. Yitzhak Rabin, will accord priority attention to ICT and the early learning of technology.

The next day, the First Lady attended the solemnization of holy matrimony of her junior brother who is a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon. Evans Bapakaye Bipialaka. He tied the nuptial knot with former Miss Rhoda Sika. Dame Patience was the Mother of the Day at the wedding reception which took place at the Civic Centre in Port Harcourt. The occasion was graced by many prominent Nigerian citizens and community members.

The First Lady is well known for her gender empowerment activities as well as her philanthropic initiatives that have helped to transform the lives of the less privileged in society. On Wednesday, 19th June, 2013 Dame Patience commissioned the South South Zonal Office of the Women for Change and Development Initiative located on Abeokuta Street at the D-line area of Port Harcourt. The zonal office is expected to serve as the reference point for women empowerment in the region. The First Lady distributed empowerment items including sewing machines, pepper processing machines as well as cassava grinding machines to women in 23 local government areas of Rivers State. The women included market women, non-indigenes of the State and special groups. In her address to the women she reminded them that for the progress of the State, the women must be law abiding and encourage peaceful coexistence in their home and community. Pointing out that the items would help the women in supporting their families; Dame Jonathan observed that Nigerian women had a lot to contribute to the development of Nigeria, especially through their communities.

The First Lady’s audience with 135 Chiefs from the Kalabari Kingdom; the meeting with the Apiti of Rumueme and President-in-Council of Rumueme Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State; as well as the courtesy call on the Amayanabo of Ogoloma, King Emmanuel Ibiagolika Obudibo, Ikwo V typified the wise African adage which states that, “Wisdom is not like money to be tied up and hidden.” Dame Patience listened to the wisdom that the traditional leaders and royal fathers dispensed; accepted their prayers and sought their continued cooperation with the present administration. She especially requested their continued prayer for peace in their domains in particular and Nigeria in general.

On Saturday June 22, 2013 hundreds of people thronged Okrika, Rivers State to attend the burial of Pa Desetima Nyingierefaka, the paternal grandfather of the First Lady. Pa Nyingierefaka died at the ripe old age of 92 years. It was both a solemn religious affair and a colourful celebration of life as dignitaries as well as people from all walks of life came to pay their final respects to the late patriarch.

Rev. Ndukwe Ukonu, who preached at the burial, read John 11:20-27 from the Bible where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and urged everyone gathered to turn to God ''because no one knows the time or hour of death.'

Dame Patience also used the opportunity of her visit to the State to inspect some of the ongoing sand filling, land reclamation and shore-line protection projects in various parts of the Okrika community which were in various stages of completion.

The First Lady’s visit to her roots was indeed a memorable one that demonstrated her love for the nation’s womenfolk and the strong bond she shares with the people of Rivers State.

Written By Joy Bello

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