By Chika Abanobi
In many communities in Imo State, sons and daughters, at home and abroad, are providing some basic amenities for their people. They range from solar-empowered street lights and security outfits to community clinics for free medical healthcare, road repairs, and provision of foodstuffs for indigent citizens. In Biblical language, they are their brothers’ keepers, people who think about others’ welfare. Apart from those operating from home, these philanthropists are based in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Mr. Val Ukwunna based in Maryland, USA donated a clinic to his community of Umuoda Nguru in the Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area. The facility, officially opened by Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, former governor of Imo State, provides free medical care to his people and has a medical doctor and nurses under his pay. In addition, Ukwunna installed solar light-emitting diode (LED) street lamps in various parts of Umuoda to light up the community at night.
The installation of solar LED street lamps to provide electric energy by solar photoelectric conversion is one social development bug that has spread to most of the communities. For instance, one Chief Ugochi Ikwu, based in New Jersey, USA collaborated with Dr. Amanze Ikwu and Ezenwa Nwawudu, both based in the United Kingdom to do the same in their village, Egberede, Umunneato autonomous community in Nguru, Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area. In Eziala, Emma Njoku, a legal practitioner living in Abuja and London installed solar lamps in parts of his community including the road running from the tarred road at Ekenguru towards Orie Ihitte. In Umuoni, Ihitteafoukwu, Ahiazu-Mbaise, Nnadozie Nwachukwu also based in the United States, was nicknamed “Let There Be Light in Umuojiagwa” for installing about 20 such solar street lights in his community. So did Mr. Valentine Echebelem, the overall community leader at the town’s square called Ukwuoji Roundabout.
Njoku also helped to mend some hitherto impassable parts of the Okpuala-Aba Branch Road that extends to Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State, and is building gutters to improve drainage on that road. His effort has helped economic activities in Mbaise. Travelling from the place to Aba in Abia State and Port Harcourt through Okpuala is now possible. Apart from that, he has put many of his community youths to work as vigilantes in Eziala, Umunneato Nguru (formerly Ekenguru). Right now, he is repairing the road between the part of the town called Ekenguru starting from the tarred road to another part of the town called Amaoji Ogbe.
Lady Adaure Odu, an events manager and owner of big-time fashion outfit, during her birthday celebration recently reached out to 20 widows and indigent women in her community, Ezuhu na Amadi, in Nguru-Nweke autonomous community, Aboh-Mbaise Local Government Area, with a gift of one wrapper and N30,000 each. The women were also served drinks and cooked food. Mrs. Ogechi Njoku-Ebirim, a lawyer from Ogwu in Nguru Aboh-Mbaise has also been into the empowerment of widows for over 25 years. So is Bishop Mrs. Bernadette Keke, nee Iwunze, of the Ministry of Repentance and Holiness, Worldwide. The woman who resides in Houston, Texas, USA, reportedly sends money home every November to buy bags of rice, beans and tomatoes and share with widows and widowers as a way of commemorating her own annual American Thanksgiving. Oftentimes she sends monetary packages to be distributed along with the foodstuffs to widows, widowers and orphans. Mrs. MegMay Iberi-Onyewumbu who died in London recently had empowered and built homes for many women in her community, Ogwuama in Ahiazu-Mbaise and beyond while alive. Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Aguwa also based in the United States sponsors the scholarship of five students in her community, Ezuhu na Amadi, Nguru.
Uche Iwunze, pastor of the local branch of Ministry of Repentance and Holiness, and chairman, Aladimma Umuoni, recalled how a son of the community, Dr. George Echebelem, based in the United States, sent huge sums of money for distribution among the poor of the community. He also bought tricycles and motorcycles and had them distributed to able-bodied but unemployed youths in the community. Another son of the community bought cows and had their meat distributed to his kinsmen. Lady Ngozi Imoh, leader of the women’s wing of Mbaise Leadership Forum, along with other women leaders, recently organised a women programme which featured a cultural fashion parade and debating competition and in which winners and runners-up from various communities carted home prizes and palliatives.
In a chat with Saturday Sun, Mr. Ukwunna said he was happy to make his little contribution to the betterment of his community by providing the clinic and solar energy lights. Brig. General Joe Osuji (rtd.) praised the man for his selfless community services. Lady Imoh said that with the enthusiasm they saw in participants in this year’s event, next year’s would be better organised to engage and empower more women and girls financially through the establishment of a microfinance bank so that they can get loans to start-up businesses.
Commending the initiators for these developmental projects, Mr. Chris Ohanele, the Moderator of the Mbaise Leadership Forum noted that the projects will have positive impact on the quality of life of people in the communities. He also praised the “Adopt-A-School” idea proposed by Mr. Ike Nwaobasi, a devoted member of the association and which some communities and alumni associations have since keyed into and are using to renovate and rebuild schools. Iwunze said that the solar streetlights have helped to turn their communities into “small Londons” at night and to improve security.
But a source who did not want his name in print alleged that some of the projects being executed seem to have some political undertones to them as some of the benefactors could use them to launch themselves into political relevance in the minds of the people. But Mr. Ohanele denied such plans. “They’re not politicians and I’m not aware that they’re jumping into the arena. In any case, what I care most about is their work which truly adds to the development of their communities and the welfare of their people. We need more people to do similar things.”
Pastor Iwunze added: “I agree that if you are philanthropic, it could be an advantage to you should you be in politics. But not so when your charity is a seed you have sown under the covenant of God as in seed time and harvest. God loves a cheerful giver and he who helps the needy has paid his insurance against the devourer.”