From George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme and the Ghanaian President Nana Addo Akufo were penultimate Saturday bestowed with the highest state merit award of the Grand Chancellors of the State of Imo, the first of its kind in the annals of the state history.
The Grand Chancellor of the State of Imo is the highest in the categories of awards in the state reserved for former governors, both civilian and military, who had governed the state from its inception as a way of recognizing their contributions to the socio-economic and political development of the state since its creation in 1976.
The state law which established the awards also gave the governor the right to nominate anybody who in his estimation has contributed to the development of the nation.
The two statesmen are the first who are not from the state to be so decorated with the award by the state governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
They were decorated at an elaborate and colourful ceremony held at the Imo Hall of Fame at the Ojukwu Centre with a guard of honour mounted by the officers of the Imo Civil Guards.
Governor Okorocha speaking on the occasion disclosed that the Imo Merit Award was earlier passed into law by the state House of Assembly and was established to honour men and women from within and outside the state who have contributed to the development of the state and humanity in their chosen fields of endeavour.
His words: “This award which has the backing of the state Assembly through the appropriate legislation is meant to recognize persons who both within and outside the state have contributed immensely to the development of the state, country and Africa at large.”
He pointed out that the pioneer recipients are not only men of integrity who have contributed to the growth of democracy, both in Nigeria and Ghana, but also in Africa at large, saying that they deserved the award, which is the first in the state.
Also speaking, the Speaker of the Imo state House of Assembly, Hon. Acho Ihim, said that when the state governor sent an executive bill to the House, it passed the legislation to back up the awards because the members reasoned that the awards would be a way to recognize those who had contributed to the development of the state and the country in general.
The President of Ghana, Akufo thanked Governor Okorocha for choosing worthy citizens of other nations and states as the pioneer recipients of the state highest award, saying that it demonstrated that he (Okorocha) is a pan-African.
s words: “I salute the vision of Governor Okorocha for choosing worthy citizens of other nations as the pioneer recipients of this great honour. This demonstrates his desire to build a united Africa which we will all be proud of one day.”
Other dignitaries present at the ceremony included the Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere, Mrs Nneoma Nkechi Okorocha, members of the state House of Assembly, among others.