The first posthumous and commemorative centenary anniversary in honour of Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara, first republic politician, nationalist and former premier of Eastern Region of Nigeria (1959 -1966) holds on Thursday, June 3 at Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja.
The event, which has Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, as chief host and the governors of eight other states in the South-East and South-South, formerly part of former Eastern region as co-hosts, is expected to be graced by dignitaries which include President Muhammadu Buhari, former president, Goodluck Jonathan, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, former Senate president, Bukola Saraki, ministers, senators, House of Assembly members, among others.
The event would be under the chairmanship of Chief Kanu Agabi, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
A statement issued by Tobs Agbaegbu, chairman of the organising committee said the ceremony for ‘M.I. Power’, as Dr. Okpara was popularly called by his associates and admirers, would feature, among others, a public lecture on the theme: “Quest for a New Nigeria: The Michael Okpara Leadership Model” to be delivered by Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, a political economist and Chairman, United Nigeria Airlines.
Other highlights would include the unveiling of Michael Okpara Leadership Centre, and two books Okpara biography and Okparanomics, a special publication by renowned economist, Dr. Pius Okigbo, that provides synoptic insights on Okpara’ administrative prowess as the Premier under whose era the Eastern Region emerged the fastest growing economy in Africa, between 1950s and 1960s.
The event will also feature the presentation of Okpara Leadership Prize to a number of personalities, two universities and their Vice Chancellors, namely Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU) in Abia State and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).
Among high profile personalities who will receive Okpara leadership prize at the event include Jonathan and Atiku, four governors, Ikpeazu, Abia; Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti; Godwin Obaseki, Edo and Duoye Diri of Bayelsa State. Three ministers of state: Chief Timipre Sylva, Petroleum; Dr. Uche Ogah, Mines and Steel Development and Goddy Jeddy-Agba, Power.
Some highly distinguished legislators, academics and political actors were also listed to receive awards.
The Centenary Organising Committee proffered reasons for presenting the Okpara Leadership Prize to the personalities. According to the Chairman, Agbaegbu, “the awardees are being honoured for commitment to public service, political leadership, business leadership, research and innovations and Philanthropy” pointing out that “the idea is to deepen the ethos of public and community service, dedication to service as well as to promote role models as the nation, Nigeria, seeks to nurture a new generation of leaders across public and private sector to inspires confidence for an enduring future for the great country and continent.”
The event is being organised by the Michael Okpara Foundation, in partnership with Verbatim News network Limited, publishers of the popular Verbatim News Magazine.
The Michael Okpara foundation is a non-profit, non-political, and non-sectarian educational and research organisation established to immortalise the works and legacies of Dr. Okpara, collaboratively with institutions, organisations and stakeholders, for the purpose of designing innovative and workable solutions to contemporary political, socio-economic and development challenges in Nigeria and Africa.
It also seeks to immortalise the Iconic leadership model and political philosophy of Premier of Eastern Region, Dr. Okpara by promoting stakeholders’ engagement, public lectures and generating pragmatic approaches to facilitate good governance, public trust, transparency and accountability as well as ethos of nation-building in Nigeria and across Africa.
The amiable Premier and nationalist, Dr. Okpara would have been 100 years old having been born on 25 December 1920.
Dr. Okpara in his life time was a medical doctor, elder statesman of repute and uncommon administrator under whose tenure as Premier, the Eastern Regional Government from November 1959 to January 1966 was a political colossus, bridge builder, quintessential leader as well as dominant voice and influencer during the Nigeria’s First Republic era.
The Eastern Region with its capital in Enugu, comprises nine states in the present day South East and South South geopolitical zones including Abia, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, and Rivers.
Dr. Okpara was former member of Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly on the ticket of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC). He was known to be a courageous leader who led by example and no probe ever found fault with his administration.
He replaced Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as Premier of the region and served in that capacity from January 7, 1960 to January 14, 1966. While alive, he received the award of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), one of Nigeria’s highest honours in 1964. A native of Umuegwu-Okpuola, Afugiri, Umuahia North Local Government Area, in present day Abia State, Okpara died in December 1984.