Address By His Royal Majesty, Nnaemeka A. Achebe, CFR, mni, Obi of Onitsha,
Address By His Royal Majesty, Nnaemeka A. Achebe, CFR, mni, Obi of Onitsha, On The Occasion Of A Courtesy Visit Of His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, To Ime-Obi Onitsha On Saturday, 22 February 2014.
On behalf of the people of Anambra State, Onitsha Kingdom and myself, I heartily welcome you on this unexpected, but highly appreciated, visit to us today. We were the parties that were seeking opportunities at this time to visiyo you I n Abuja to express our gratitude on several grounds.
Firstly, following my three months' absence abroad, I had personally wanted visit you in Abuja to thank you for the encouraging and extremely helpful suggestions you gave to me on our self-help palace project during your last visit in November 2013. You can see that the first phase of the project is near complete, and I wanted to use the opportunity of my visit to invite you to cometo Onitsha once again to perform the formal opening of the “new” palace during our next annual Ofala festival in October. The new Ime-Obi Onitsha presents a twenty-first century concept of a palace for the people, not of the Monarch alone. Thus, the palace already has an IT Center and will also incorporate a Library/Archival/Resource Centre, a Museum/Art Gallery, Conference and Meeting Facilities, and Offices for our Constituent Groups, without diminishing or distorting the traditional roles and functions of the palace.
Secondly, our son and Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, is about to hand over the baton of governance to his elected successor, Chief Willy Obiano. Peter Obi has done very well and the people of Anambra State are truly enjoying the peace, development and progress that he has engendered during his tenure in office. We are aware how close you have taken him, and that his far reaching achievements would not have been all possible without your generous support for him. Indeed, you had already received a letter to the effect that the elders and leaders of Anambra State wanted to visit to thank you for supporting Peter Obi, and to pray that you extend the same goodwill to his successor.
Now, instead of us coming to Abuja to pay our respects as is appropriate with protocol, you have turned the table on us by coming to us, instead. This is a genuine reflection of your distinctly humble and practical approach to life, both in governance and politics, as well as in your personal life. Mr. President, may we therefore take this opportunity to thank you very much for your love for Onitsha and Anambra State and for saving us the trips to Abuja to do the same. Indeed, as they say, the mountain has come to Mohammed today.
There are many more things to be grateful to your government for, but let me single out the construction of Zik's Mausoleum, which is now nearing completion after some sixteen years of delays, dilly-dallying and cat and mouse games between successive governments at both state and federal levels. It will go down in history that it was your administration that had the determination andzeal to finally give our beloved Right Honourable, Chief Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Owelle-Osowa Onitsha, first President of Nigeria, and Zik's of Africa, a befitting resting place. Mr. President, we cannot thank you enough for this gesture.
Your Excellency, the twenty-first century has kicked off in tension and turbulence as peoples and governments all over the world are steuggling to adjust to the inevitable forces of change that are resulting from the impacts of Information, Technology and Communication. There are tensions in the Middle East, Europe, Far East, The Americas and Africa. In Nigeria, we have our own share of problems to which, by the will of God, you have to lead our responsesas President. Critical amongst these are: the armed insurgency by the Boko Haram in the North-East parts of the country, the imbalance in the conditions of life and living between various segments of our society, general security, and corruption in public life. We, the people of this country who elected you, have the duty to support you with our constant prayers and constructive advice, including drawing attention to areas that need improvement. In this regard, we urge you to remain focused on your transformation agenda, paying particular attention to national security, the general elections in 2014, which must bepeaceful, free and fair, and the economics of fuel price subsidy, which is eating deep into the budget of the country.
It took great courage and foresight to convene the National Conference in the manner you have done and we of the South-East states join the rest of the country in applauding you. No right thinking Nigerian would want a dismemberment of our dear country. Collectively, we have far more to lose in such eventuality than in staying together. What the majority, including the people of the South-East, are saying is that there is urgent need to rearrange the country to give a greater sense of belonging to all the constituent groups, including the minorities. We pray that your government and the National Assembly will create the enabling environment for the success of the Dialogue.
I cannot resist mentioning once more our indefatigable outgoing governor, Mr. Peter Obi. Your Excellency, you know and we know that Peter Obi is your greatest supporter and pillar of strength in the entire South –East, and will count amongst the few that believe most in you in the entire country. Shall we call him you younger brother or even your son? He will now become fully availablewhen he leaves office next month and we urge you to take him close to you and deploy him effectively, particularly in the immediate period ahead. We assure that he will be an even greater asset to you now that he is free from the burdens of State governance.
Mr. President, Anambra people recently elected a new Governor, Chief Willy Obiano, in a process that was widely heralded as peaceful, transparent and fair. By so doing, we have again shown the light to the rest of the country that politics and elections in a democracy should not be matters of do or die. Our Governor-Elect is a technocrat who, we believe, will build on the foundations laid by his predecessor and take the State to the next levels. We pray that you accord him the same understanding, favours and love as you did with Mr. Peter Obi.
Finally: a reminder. When you visited us in 2011 during the general elections campaign, you promised that the Second Niger Bridge between Onitsha and Asaba will be completed and become operational during your tenure as President, if elected. We elected you, but what was not clear to us was the tenure you had in mind. In any case it takes a few years to accomplish such a project and we are concerned that time is running dangerously short. This bridge will be a great legacy to the presidency of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in the history of this country. We pay that you will give this very essential national project the attention it deserves.
Your Excellency, there will be an opportunity for a vote of thanks but let me remind you that Anambra State is well represented here today in terms of the State Government, State and Federal Legislators, Traditional Rulers' Council, the Elders Council, Religious Leaders, the President-Generals of Community Organizations, Elected Chairpersons of Local Government Councils, Traders Associations, other eminent citizens, and the Onitsha community. That we have assembled like this with less than twenty-four hours' notice is a mark of our unity as a people, as well as our high regard for you. We pray for you and wish you very well as you discharge the onerous duties of governing our county.
Thank you very much for listening to us.
Nnaemeka Achebe CFR, mni
Obi of Onitsha
22 February 2014.