Fr George Adimike
A curious mind will undoubtedly struggle to understand the subject matter of this piece, but it is simple. It is merely an invitation to look at July from the context of Peter Obi and Victor Umeh as they celebrate their birthday on the 19th, and to view their lives in the context of the significance of July. Renamed from Quintilis in 44BC to honour the memory of Julius Caesar, a Roman statesman, general and historian, July significantly bears the name of a great man instead of a god or goddess as many other months do.
Emperor Julius Caesar, quite remarkably, not only conquered the Gaul (part of Italy, Belgium, France and the Netherlands) but also laid the foundation to many great prodigies that influence the world today. For instance, he developed the structure of this current calendar with 365 days, the Julian calendar, which Pope Gregory XIII modified and perfected in 1582. Hence we moved from Julian calendar to Gregorian calendar in use today. July used to be the fifth month of the year (Quintilis) because the Roman calendar used to start in March. It was only in 713BC that Numa Pompilius added January and February to Roman calendar.
Named after a great emperor, Julius Caesar, July also has great significance for the peoples of both northern and southern hemispheres. Given the different climatic conditions of the world during this month, summer for the north and winter for the south, its significance is context influenced. For the north of the world, July signifies splendour and glorious radiance, and for the south of the world, it highlights reflection and meditation. July, therefore, presents us with two sets of complementary characteristics, namely splendour-glorious radiance and reflection-mediation. These two characteristics are certainly not mutually exclusive but compatible and complementary; as such, they mutually enrich each other. Of note then is that July is a great month for men of grace and consequence.
Having been born on July 19 (the day Queen Mary I, daughter of King Henry VIII, was made the queen of England in 1553), Peter Obi and Victor Umeh started their earthly sojourn within the context of July. They were found within the horizon of greatness marked by the gracefulness of either warmth or reserved attention. While accidents of history have seen them divest their destiny from each other, it has been challenging to divorce these two great men from each other. It does not take wizardry to appreciate the enormous impact of their togetherness on the socio-political landscape and developmental strides of Anambra State, nay Nigeria. No one needs the so-called crystal ball or a magic wand to see a divine hand in their togetherness, which confirms the truism in Igbo aphorism, “Igwebuike”. Their joint birthday on July 19 seems to echo the mystery of the united service they are destined to offer our society. The nostalgia which the united P-Square arouses in many of their fans and friends points to the impoverishment society experiences when a great team de-emphasize unity.
Both Mr Obi and Chief Umeh have at many and several times been of help to each other, and together to the society not minding the degrees or percentage. Since I met both of them together around 2004 at Blessed Tansi Seminary, Onitsha, I have developed a profound appreciation of teamwork instead of individual efforts. While own effort can be a saving grace, yet a synergy built on a good foundation and principle is always better. Irrespective of various degrees of hurts and disappointments my Christian faith audaciously dares to hope that they will overcome the temporary setbacks to forging unity. Though it may seem a naivety, the fact that nothing in this world lasts forever reinforces my hope. This hope is only a simple Christian wish and has no connection to their political choices. Both of them were alumni of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, both from Anaocha (Agulu and Aguluzoigbo) and both beloved sons of Dim Emeka Ojukwu and Archbishop Albert K. Obiefuna. Fate has brought them together, and they have to see beyond their differences to the common vocation they have. Supposedly, they are not enemies and at the same time not the best of friends, but they may not deny the society what their togetherness has to offer.
Let their birthday be an opportunity to think about their paths that kept crossing. Some might consider it prudent to shy away from identifying with either on their birthday not to hurt the feeling of the other. However, their birthday presents an opportunity to celebrate these outstanding stars from the East. As a Governor, Mr Peter Obi redefined success and will remain a household name relative to excellence for decades if not centuries. As a senator, Chief Victor Umeh took representation to a very high echelon. He became one of the few voices for reason, a voice crying for the East, and against injustice, and with his trademark cap and contributions embodied the desire of Ndigbo at the Senate. Peter Obi’s excellence gives him a voice as a highly sought-after oracle, while Victor Umeh’s prodigies at the Senate within a short period make his absence an impoverishment of the Senate. His absence arouses nostalgia for the days he roared at the Red Chamber. Both are successful and have contributed immensely through their public services, and every person of goodwill will acknowledge that.
They might not have scored 100%, but obviously, they made first class. They might not be saints, but they are miles ahead of their colleagues and display absolute willingness to be the best of their versions. Who is even without fault? The perfect one is yet to be born. So it behoves on me to invite them on their birthday to strike a balance between the supposed security of privacy and surrender to the vulnerability, to which relationship exposes one. Sincere goodwill for the other will surely liquidate fear for the leap required by true reconciliation in the awareness that no matter our pretences to strength, we are not the drivers of our destinies.
As I acknowledge these great men of grace and consequence born on July 19 (Peter Obi and Victor Umeh), whose synergy has brought a lot of good and will still bring, may I restate that this piece is simply an affirmation of God’s grace on Obi and Umeh and an invocation on them for more significant impact on the society. No matter their differences, this piece expresses hope and urges them never to celebrate a decade or silver jubilee of misunderstanding. There is no future without forgiveness, says Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They are important to Ndigbo, Nigeria and the entire humanity and the more united they are, the better for our human community. Concerted efforts yield more significant socio-developmental dividends than isolated efforts, for united we stand.
July of Caesar is July of the great – of persons of grace and gravity, men of goodness and consequence.
Since it is my month of birth (July 12) and ordination (July 7), may I shout out to my fellow July celebrants.
July 3: It is a July of Dr Mrs Rose ANAZODO – a great teacher at the Unizik and administrator with the Anambra State Government.
July 20: it is a July of Mr Val Chineto OZIGBO – a transformative gentle achiever and a great soul who was the immediate past President of the Transcorp Group.
July 24: It is a July of Fr Chike Mike OSAMOR – a priest of Issele Uku but a fidei donum in Lagos, Church of Presentation, Festac Town, whose intellectual wizardry, spiritual exploits and pastoral husbandry are tellingly incredible.
July 28: It is a July of Prof Chukwuma Charles SOLUDO – a world-class economist, whose intellectual and administrative prodigies place at the demand of groups and nations.
Once again, happy birthday His Excellency, Mr Peter OBI (Okwute) and Senator Victor UMEH (Ohamadike)!
*Fr George Adimike writes from Rome.