Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
After a long wait occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19, the investiture of the 2020 Papal Knights, Dames and Medallists in the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja eventually took place on Saturday, October 17, 2020.
Deputy managing director of Zenith Bank Plc, Dame Adaora Umeoji-Nwokoye, stood out among the honourees as she was conferred with the Dame of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of Saint Sylvester Pope and Martyr for her selfless service to the church and humanity.
With her impressive presence, no doubt, the founder of the Catholic Bankers’ Association of Nigeria (CBAN) must have touched numerous lives in the course of her banking career spanning over 20 years.
Young and old, male and female, the crème de la crème of society, staff of Zenith Bank from across the country, as well as the clergy and religious filled the Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro Cathedral, Area 3, Garki, Abuja, and The Dome, venues for the conferment and Umeoji-Nwokoye’s private reception, respectively.
The Archbishop Emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, who recommended Umeoji-Nwokoye for the award, presided over the mass that was concelebrated with other bishops, including the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Most Revd. (Dr.) Ignatius Kaigama, priests from the Archdiocese of Abuja and beyond.
Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu; Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen; and immediate past governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha, were among the dignitaries who graced the Mass.
In attendance at The Dome were the immediate past Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; former Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Ms Amal Pepple; and former Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), immediate past Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka.
From the business community were the chairman and founder of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia; the managing director of Zenith Bank, Ebenezer Onyeagwu; managing director, Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc, Umar Abbas Masanawa; and the managing director of Stanel Group, Stanley Uzochukwu.
Also present was the proprietor of Baze University, Abuja, Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed, while the entertainment world was represented by Kiddwaya of the just concluded BBNaija 2020, and Ozo, another housemate.
Those who also gathered to share in Umeoji-Nwokoye’s day of glory were the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Ignatius Kaigama, the Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese, Peter Okpalaeke; the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Minna, Martin Igwe Uzoukwu; the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, Godfrey Igwebuike Onah, a host of Catholic priests and reverend sisters.
From the church, the awardees and their guests proceeded to Chida International Hotel, Utako District, Abuja, where the second part of the celebration, a reception for all the awardees, took place. Umeoji-Nwokoye who could not abandon the 19 others, also joined the reception. But realising the array of guests waiting at The Dome to rejoice with her, Umeoji-Nwokoye later joined the guests.
The reception witnessed performances and rendition from Frank de Tenor, Joe Praise, Minister Raquel, and a special dance troupe. There was enough to eat and drink, with guests leaving the venue with different souvenirs.
Speaking with Daily Sun, Ekweremadu said more of such Papal honours were needed in the country because the country was losing it in terms of morality, principles and Christian values.
“I think this reminds us of where we are coming from and where we are going as Christians. So, I believe that this recognition will also help to motivate others to do more for God and the work of God.
“So, I congratulate our sister on this recognition and I believe that, once recognised, this is a call for more. So, she should not dump the principle for which she has been recognised today,” Ekweremadu said.
Also, Pepple said it was a good thing for someone to work for God and be recognised: “The person doesn’t see God whom he or she is working for, but those that we call the representatives of God, like Cardinal Onaiyekan, who nominated them for the awards, he saw their labour in God’s vineyard and he decided to recommend them to the Pope for what they have done for God and even for humanity. And the Pope accepted his recommendation, knowing that he will not just recommend people who have not really served God and serve humanity in God’s vineyard.
“I think it is encouraging both for the awardees and also for others who are in the church, serving God. They should never think that their labour is in vain. They should know that God is watching them and the people in the church with them are also watching them and one day, they will be recognised.”
On his part, Kaigama said the Papal honour on Umeoji-Nwokoye was well deserved.
“She is a woman with a very large heart. She’s very sensitive to the needs of people around her – children, vulnerable adults and those in need of one thing or the other.
“So, I think it is because she honours God in human beings that are suffering that God is also honouring her.
“Look at the big crowd of people, look at the bishops from the East, from the West, look at the Cardinal and all of us. We are rejoicing with her.
“She is not only a sound professional in her area of work, she is also a solid Catholic, a real daughter of the church,” Kaigama declared.
For Bishop Onah, people striving to proclaim the virtues of the gospel in their public life are usually encouraged by some kind of recognition.
“In her own case, she has tried to bring in the values of the gospel in many aspects of public life, especially in the banking industry,” Onah said.
An elated Umeoji-Nwokoye said the honour by Pope Francis was very exciting. She described it as a call for more responsibility and duty, and dedication to the work of God and the church.
“So, for me, it is like a platform to be able to do more for humanity. It is like trying to reach out to the indigent, the poor, the less privileged and how you can help to empower those people in the society and work for the church too to make them stronger and grow better,” Umeoji-Nwokoye said.