Day of honour for Ekwunife
From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
The Nri ancient kingdom in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anmabra State recently witnessed a great influx of people from far and near as Uche Ekwunife who represented Anambra Central Senatorial Zone and Anaocha/Dunukofia/Njikoka Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives for two-terms was honoured.
It was indeed a moment that both the mortal and immortal shared common ancestry as the entire community erupted in joy as they celebrated and honoured Mrs. Ekwunife amid fanfare.
Before the mass that heralded the ceremony, Ekwunife was conferred with the title of Anyanwu Nri (the sun shine of Nri ancient kingdom) by Eze Obidiegwu Onyesoh (Nri Enwelana II).
Senator Ekwunife, accompanied by her husband, Chief Larry, arrived the Eze Nri palace alongside other dignitaries, including the former Senate president and immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, and other members of the National Assembly.
Eze Onyesoh said the decision to confer the Anyanwu Nri title on Mrs. Ekwunife was informed by the numerous developmental strides of the lawmaker which he said had lifted the status of the community.
Eze Nri described Ekwunife as a dogged woman whose commitment towards the development of her community and entire Anambra State was unequaled in the history of Nigeria’s legislature.
He said the people of the community also decided to honour Mrs Ekwunife with the title of Anyanwu Nri as the first and only person to be so honoured in the history of Nri kingdom because of her numerous contributions to the development of the community and Anambra State in general, especially in attracting Federal Government projects.
It was gathered that nobody would be given the chieftaincy title again, making Mrs. Ekwunife the only one to be so honoured in the kingdom with it.
It was also gathered that by the title she has been elevated to the status of a chief, having been made a member of the Eze Nri-in-council as a member of Ndi Alo Eze Nri, the first woman to be so honoured.
Speaking on the significance of the chieftaincy title, a cabinet chief in Nri, Dom Ikeagu, said the former legislator had been given the highest honour in the entire kingdom, pointing out that making her a chief meant giving her the traditional right to shake hands with men.
“The title has made her a very strong and unique member of Ndi Alo Eze Nri which places her above other women. From today, she can shake like men do, you see the traditional staff and fan (Akupe) given to her, it is for shaking hands. Ekwunife by this honour shall never bow before anybody as other women do, she can stand and shake anybody because she has been installed as Anyanwu Nri,” Ikeagu explained.
However, after the traditional rites that enthroned her as the Anyanwu Nri, Senator Ekwunife and her entourage proceeded to St Mary’s Eucharistic Parish for the holy mass that signaled the beginning of the grand civic reception organized by the Nri Progress Union (NPU) in her honour.
In his homily, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor described Mrs Ekwunife as a true Christian who derives joy in seeing other people around her happy.
Bishop Ezeokafor said the event was to honour God first for using Senator Ekwunife as tool to touch lives, as well as used by God to work towards the betterment of the people and the society.
“It is good to give thanks; it is also good to show appreciation for every favour done. Today, the Nri people are gathered here to thank Senator Uche Ekwunife, their daughter and wife for all her numerous efforts to develop the community. It is a great day indeed not only for the Ekwunifes but for all lovers of good thing to know that there is appreciation for every favour done,” the bishop said.
He also called on politicians to learn to give and represent Christ in every point in time, adding that it was by giving that people receive, as he described Mrs Ekwunife as a woman that gives without measures.
Former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme eulogized Senator Ekwunife and described her as a lady with heart of gold.
He said she has distinguished herself in the service to humanity as a great leader, mobilizer and supporter of good governance, commending her for her doggedness in the politics of making beneficial laws for the country at large.
The Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki who was represented by the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State and Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, described Mrs Ekwunife as a humane and hardworking woman who could go hungry to ensure that those around her were fed.
“I am confident knowing your antecedents that you will again put your wealth of experience and hard work when the time comes for you to work for your state and Nigeria at large,” he said.
Also speaking, the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu expressed goodwill to Senator Ekwunife, describing her as a political bulldozer and a grassroots mobilizer who is always on the move.
For the former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, the honour done to Senator Ekwunife was right and good, adding that she has demonstrated uncommon leadership which has been lacking in the country’s political space.
The President General of Nri Progress Union, Chief Frank Obiekwe Oraeki described her as a resilient politician who has been fighting every obstacle on her way to political stardom.
He said the entire community decided to honour her because she uplifted the image and status of the community through her exemplary leadership qualities that stood her out as a champion.
Mrs Ekwunife expressed joy at the large crowd that trooped out to welcome and honour her in the community, assuring them that she would continue to strive harder to protect the interests of the community and Anambra State in general.