By Chinonso Alozie
Owerri —It was celebration galore at the ancient town of Ogberuru in Orlu zone of Imo State weekend when Sir Paul Obi’s Foundation awarded 30 scholarships to indigent students from 12 autonomous communities in the area as part of its contribution towards the growth and development of the society. Twelve of the beneficiaries were university students while about two scores were at secondary school level prior to the introduction of free secondary school education in the state. The Foundation was set up by a philanthropist and Company Secretary of the Nigeria Independent Petroleum Company Plc, NIPCO, Chief Paul Obi.
Speaking during the formal inauguration of the Board of Trustees, BoT, of the foundation, Obi said the effort was part of his commitment to contribute to the progress of humanity through the encouragement of educational pursuits.
He said that the non-profit and non-partisan foundation was aimed at promoting excellence in Ogberuru as well as other neighbouring autonomous communities where the beneficiaries hailed from, adding that he, “started nursing the philanthropic idea in 2001 and put it to informal effect in 2005 prior to the formal launch.”
According to him, the foundation was put together in memory of his late father, Augustine Okoronkwo Obi who was instrumental to his being a lawyer, but died before he could graduate from the university. It was initially for indigent people from Ogberuru Autonomous Community but has now been extended to the 12 autonomous communities in the area making up the Ochasi clan.
“The importance of education cannot be over-emphasized as illiteracy is a major factor in breeding and promoting poverty of the mind and spirit,” Obi, who is the Ochendo Ogberuru added, pointing out that the scheme was primarily aimed at supporting the training of beneficiaries through the university to enable them assist their families as well as contribute to the development of the area and society at large.
He further said that the foundation would support the handicapped and empower the youths for social regeneration as well as serve as pressure group to draw the attention of government to the problem of erosion gullies ravaging some parts of the clan.
Obi said the project which was attracting the support of the traditional rulers in the area and beyond, would be attacking poverty with its available resources through educational support with the ultimate aim of improving quality of life of residents of the communities and the state in general.
He noted that the support of the traditional rulers has been legendary in view of the pedigree of the person behind the foundation. He also stated that some of the blue chip companies he is associated with, such as NIPCO, 11PLC, IPSL, RSL among others, have shown interest in partnering with the foundation in relevant areas.
In his comment, a member of the BoT and traditional ruler of Ezimba Ogberuru, His Royal Highness, Eze Mike Igwenma, said that anyone who showed interest in helping societal development and progress like Obi would be encouraged at all times.
Also, another traditional ruler, Eze Damian Obianigwe, who spoke on the occasion, lauded “Obi’s lofty vision that gave birth to the foundation,” maintaining that such a venture was the first of its kind in the area and should therefore, be encouraged by all.