By Vincent Ujumadu
NZE Akachukwu Nwankpo is the Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Technical Matters and secretary of Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, SURE –P. Last weekend, at his home town, Okija, Anambra State, Nwankpo narrated how he missed being ordained a reverend father in the Catholic Church at a time people in his community were almost counting him as one of their indigenous priests.
In this part of Anambra State, any family that has a reverend father is considered a lucky one in view of the respect accorded priests and the rigorous nature of becoming one. So, when the young Nwankpo gained admission into St. Paul’s Junior Seminary, Ukpor in Nnewi South local government area, his parents and kinsmen were happy. Through hard work, he progressed and obtained the Bachelor of Philophy degree of the Pontifical Urban University of Rome before a certain event terminated his priestly ambition. The presidential adviser, who spoke during his induction into the Noble Order of the Knights of St. John International at the St. Mary’s Church, Okija, said that following the death of his only brother after he had obtained his Bachelor of Philosophy degree and was at the last lap of his becoming a Catholic priest, there was so much pressure on his parents that he should get married to perpetuate the family name.
Addressing the congregation which had reverend fathers and his classmates at junior and senior seminaries in attendance, he expressed happiness that despite his inability to become a priest, he has maintained his position in the faith.
Narrating the story, he said: “I was an altar boy when a young priest working in my parish then, who is today the Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Most Rev Hilary Okeke, advised me to become a priest. That was how I entered St. Paul’s Seminary, Ukpor and progressed to the senior seminary. But after a painful experience my parents went through following the death of my elder brother, there was so much pressure on them that I should get married. My parents had earlier lost six children and we remained two and, when my brother died, I was the only one remaining.
“At that point in time in my life, I had become a bit radical in the seminary and following my kind of life, the then Archbishop of Onitsha, who is today a Cardinal, called me and said that he had discovered that I could serve the church better from outside the seminary. When I wedded, my classmates in the seminary, many of whom are priests today, served the Mass and God has blessed that wedlock with five children. I am happy that despite my failure to be ordained a reverend father, I have been maintaining my position in the faith. I am also happy that today, I am privileged to be a Soldier of Christ in the church as a Knight of St. John International.”
Some of his classmates in the senior seminary said Nwankpo’s departure from the seminary was a big surprise to them because he was one of those doing well. “We still see him as one of us in spite of the fact that he is presently serving the President as a special adviser. We know that through him, God has a good plan for Nigeria and Anambra State and our prayer is that the plan would come to fruition,” they said.
Bishop Hilary Okeke of Nnewi Diocese, who presided at the Pontifical Mass, said Nwankpo remained one of his special sons and reminded the congregation that one could work for God in various ways. “I am happy that he has not stopped serving God despite the fact that he did not become a reverend father,” the bishop said.