By Fr George Adimike
Annie Okonkwo at 60: Diamond of a Clement Heart
On the 60th birthday of Senator Annie Okonkwo this 23rd May, it is fitting to underscore the goodness, clemency and generosity that have spelt his life these diamond years. In the street of good men, Senator Annie is very outstanding, and he brings Christian clemency and fraternal charity to a profound appreciation and significance.
Both in his private and public spheres or services, he donates himself as veritable hands that soothe people’s pain. In many and several ways, he identifies with the appalling sufferings of the needy. His activities proclaim and echo what the love of God and neighbour provokes.
Earlyish in life, he proved that total dedication and entrepreneurial drive could transport one to prominence and wealth. Blessed with a virtuous and industrious amazon as a wife (Mrs Chinyere) with whom he wedded at age 25, Agunaechemba found a soulmate, companion, friend, helpmate and collaborator.
Together they built a vast business empire and engaged in numerous philanthropic initiatives. Through sheer hard work, he is actualising his destiny as an alpha leader, a philanthropist of note and a devout Christian, who impacts lives, lifts many families out of poverty and contributes immensely to the evangelizing work of the Church.
As he often remarks, what differentiates him from many other political leaders is that before, during and after politics, he is always with his people. Senator Clement Anenechukwu Okonkwo lives the ‘nomen est omen’ (name is destiny) phenomenon; no nominative determinism intended. He is a clement man with a heart of God and a heart of gold. He shows up whenever help is needed and does so freely, readily and happily.
When, unfortunately, yet with sincere gratitude to God, I was involved in an auto crash in Abuja on my way to meet up with a breakfast meeting with the then Senate President, Senator David Mark on 7th October 2008, Senator Okonkwo was prompt and quick to my aid. Together with Sir & Dame David Osunde, Dr Obiora Okonkwo and Senator Chris Ngige, he displayed an unforgettable fraternal solicitude and Christian solidarity, assisting with all the immediate care and decisions at the National Hospital, Abuja.
The haste with which he ran to my aid, the patience, the time volunteered and the resources he committed were clear in demonstrating his clemency, nobility, generosity and godliness. Gratitude never forgets; it remembers. Since then the Senator has adopted me as a brother and a spiritual companion, and he has gone beyond imaginings to live out his part of the bargain. No gratitude measures his worth.
In Annie Okonkwo, it is manifest that what one loves burns his/her time and one’s passions consume one’s resources. That he loves his people with religious devotion and absolute passion manifests in all the people-oriented philanthropic, faith-building and community-developing application of his resources. Through his sacrificial social entrepreneurial engagements towards building a better society, he deploys his resources in assisting the Churches in carrying out their divine mandate and many other instances of giving root to the tree of a free, just and healthy society.
By all measures, Senator Annie typifies a good tool that never rests given his ever-busy schedule to reach out to people big and small. His capacity to honour invitations is legendary. Thank goodness, these sacrifices never go unnoticed going by the plethora of honours being bequeathed on him. In the face of the challenging socio-economic conditions of the society, Agunaechemba stands as pride, and his generosity pricks the conscience of the many self-centred men of wealth. On his diamond birthday, he stands tall as one who has contributed to abetting the colossal damages of poverty in the lives of many families as a man with a clement heart. On his 60th birthday, may God grant him the wisdom, health, longevity and joy of the Lord as Moses (Deuteronomy 34:7). Happy birthday my brother!
Madubuko: Divine Providence as a Grammar of Existence
The life of Monsignor Lawrence Nwafor Madubuko reveals a powerful echo of silence and recollection. In truth, it proclaims what love of God inspires; it resonates with a non-discriminatory love for all and a preferential option for justice, fairness and brotherhood. Spartan or Christian in the face of challenges, the life of Msgr Madubuko is a testimony that relativizes and indeed, discloses the emptiness and impotence of power. His mind is always an invitation to thought, to scholarship – he makes everything fresh, profound, stunning and new. Even without flowery expressive power, the sagacity of his idea and profundity of his thought attenuate the value of orotund and florid oratory and counterbalances the elocutionary capitals.
Monsignor teaches and lives the truth that the terminus ad quem of worship is communion through reconciliation for a ‘reconfiliation’ to the glory of God. He embodies the ‘reconfiliation’, which Christian worship engenders and accentuates Christian brotherhood as a direct effect of faith in Christ, and instrument for the reconstruction of the household of God. According to him, whoever prays ‘Our Father’ as a son is a brother/sister with whom to share the same heavenly motherland.
Madubuko appreciates Jesus’ mission and the Christian vocation as an invitation to ‘confiliaton’ (shared brotherhood) with Christ so that we are made sons by the Holy Spirit to be co-heirs of the heavenly motherland – a place of peace and happiness.
He lives the earthly sojourn amidst struggles and victories, disappointments and achievements, joys and pains, and stresses and hopes with all their attendant challenges and consolations as a pilgrimage with all those who have become brothers in Christ.
Hence, he treats his colleagues, wards and elders as co-heirs of the Kingdom, ‘di anyi’. As such, he behaves kindly, wisely and gently to all within the limits of his ability. He savours the privilege of being made a co-brother with Christ, who gives him so much hope of sharing the same inheritance with him in heaven. In effect, Msgr Madubuko surrenders his life to Christ trusting in his providence while eschewing any allurement to wannabe syndrome.
His profound friendship with Christ, which progresses with a new level of depth glows with so much wisdom that liquidates the pathologies of the two ideological divides of conservatism and progressivism. Msgr Madubuko is not limited in conservatism, and neither is he imprisoned in progressivism; he is simply a Christian. According to him, the sky is always blue, but no two mornings are the same. This statement reveals a lot about his perception of reality that resists any ideological reduction.
At a time when many experience religious fire as heat that suffocates them in the midst of religious confusion, Madubuko’s religious fire produces spiritual light, making him both a luminary and a beacon of inspiration. We cannot be grateful enough for his contribution in illuminating the dark paths of life and alleys of history with the light of Christ.
On his birthday, I pray for more grace and health to the years of this saintly sage, Monsignor Lawrence Madubuko ad majorem Dei gloriam. On this 23rd May, I say once more happy 73rd birthday Mons, et ad multos annos!
Fr George Adimike