From Magnus Eze and Okwe Obi, Abuja
Speakers and participants at the centenary celebration of former Premier of defunct Eastern Region, Dr. Michael Okpara, yesterday, lavished encomiums on the foremost statesman.
The event held in Abuja also involved Dr. Michael Okpara leadership awards, book presentation and lecture.
Key speakers included Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; and Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo; senators Theodore Orji and Rochas Okorocha, Chief George Moghalu and Onyema Ugochukwu.
In their speeches they implored political leaders to toe the path of Okpara by emulating his selfless and visionary leadership, and deepen good governance in the country. They also said Nigeria was in search of heroes like the former Premier.
Said Onu: “This man was a man of great vision. He built long lasting infrastructure. Politicians should emulate him. He was selfless. For us as a government, we are working hand-in-hand to build infrastructure for a great economy. We must remember that a part of this country, the Eastern region, was the world’s fastest growing economy in those days, about 50 to 60 years ago. This gives us hope that the Nigerian economy can boom again not through commodities but human capital.”
Saraki in his keynote address said Okpara was one of the greatest leaders Nigeria ever produced, describing the agricultural programme of Eastern region under Okpara as most ambitious.
Saraki, represented by his former Chief of Staff, Ladi Lawal, noted that Nigeria needed more Okparas in all its regions – East, West, North and South.
“We need more individuals in our public service like Sir Michael Okpara, who had foresight; we need leaders that seek solutions to the pressing issues of the day. We need men and women in positions of influence, who approach governance with a clear vision, a sign of unwavering courage to do what is right and the clarity of thought and accuracy in action to develop policies and execute them to better the lives of our people,” he said.
Okonkwo, governorship aspirant in Anambra State, said Okpara never had a political godfather, but was able to situate developmental projects across the region.
He pledged to replicate Okpara’s legacies, and even do more, if elected governor of Anambra on November 6.
“I am fired by the zeal to change the narrative in Anambra State and the South East. Our people seem entrapped. They seek a new leadership; one that will inspire them to do more for themselves and their various communities,” he said.
Okpara’s son, Uzodimma, who spoke for the family, noted that one of the most outstanding achievements of their patriarch was what he did in the area of economic development through harnessing the agriculture potential of the region.