By Sam Eyoboka
LEGAL Luminary, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, President General of Ohaneze Ndi’gbo Worldwide, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule and several other dignitaries were present at the Shell Hall of the Muson Centre in Lagos when Presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission, TREM, Dr. Mike Okonkwo with his wife, Bishop Peace Okonkwo in tow, presented cheques and other items to three outstanding students who emerged winners of this year’s essay competition to mark the bishop’s 73th birthday.
For emerging the prime winner, Miss Miss Onitilo Deborah was rewarded with a cash prize of N100,000, a plaque and a laptop, while her school got three complete sets of computers.
The second position went to Ashiey Davidson Eke who got a cash prize of N75,000 and a plaque, while his school went home with two complete sets of computers.
The third position was clinched by Esigbone Omagbemi, who smiled home with a cash prize of N50,000 and a plaque, while her school also danced away with a complete set of computer.
All the winners who waited patiently till the end of the first stanza of the 19th Mike Okonkwo Annual Lecture, were presented with their prizes to mark the second phase of the annual lecture, with a theme; “Nigeria’s Unity: Matters Arising.”
Advising the young lads from different schools, Chief Nwodo cautioned them to always see themselves as veritable agents of change who will always strive to uplift the nation at every time.
The celebrant, Dr. Okonkwo believes that Nigeria is a great country, “if we are able to get our acts together, the world should wait for us. I know that’s why we are fighting but we will certainly get there.
“Our lecturer and guest speaker have really opened our eyes. I’ve always had taken this thing in my mind that if we really want to interrogate the issues concerning our country…Mr. Chairman also mentioned it…we must divorce our minds from tribal sentiments, religious sentiments, party sentiments.
“If we don’t take those things out of the way and think that we are going to get it right in the country, we are wasting our time because often times you look at what people do it has the tribal coloration, religious coloration. You just mentioned to us how many people were killed during the Zaria crisis, the Christians didn’t say anything, and now they killed Christians, the Muslims also kept quiet.
So there’s a fundamental problem in this country. If an Igbo man is affected, other people will keep quiet. It shouldn’t be. That was not how we started to live. Politicians began to knock our heads together.
“In the past you can go to school any-where. I passed my secondary school exam in Offa, not the one of today be-cause it has developed now. I went to Mayflower College in Ikenne.
“The lecturer said wrong is wrong no matter who perpetrates it. Injustice is injustice no matter who is involved but what we do is that if it has to do with someone from my tribe, we cover it up, it’s no more wrong. How are we going to live in such a society? So we have a job to do, I’m saying this to us as we listen, divorce your mind from tribe.
Responding to Mr. Falana’s challenge to the Church in Nigeria to do something about the challenges facing the nation, Bishop Okonkwo agreed with the lawyer, saying: “I think that the Church first should sit back, we must desensitize the issue of religion as far as it is concerned and see it as an evil that has evaded the country, not just see it from Christian standpoint.
“We must see it as a national issue. This is a problem facing the country. You don’t have any right to take one soul or kill one person, no matter the religion. The Church should begin to interrogate from that stand point. I personally believe that somebody is playing some religious card with the Christians and they are succeeding because once you throw the religious card into any issue, it changes the whole equation.
The guest lecturer, Mr. Falana and chairman of the occasion, Chief Nwodo also acknowledged that the current APC administration has not helped the nation’s quest for unity through its lopsided appointments and regime of impunity.
They were unanimous in their claim that Nigeria has never been this disunited, just as Lagos State governor, Mr. Akininwuni Ambode urged citizens to do things that will unite the nation.
The Lagos State governor, Mr. Ambode who was represented at the event by his deputy, Mrs Adebule, urged Nigerians to contribute their quarter to make the nation work in unity.