By Job Osazuwa
It was an unusual event. A festival of carols held by a community with participants drawn from within and outside the community is not a spectacle that you witness every day. But that was what played out at Nkpologwu, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, on December 24, 2020.
It was a colourful event put together by Acharaugo Foundation, a brainchild of Nze Chidi Duru, a former two-term member of the House of Representatives. The event, the first of its kind, was to provide a reunion for the people of the community. Officials of Acharaugo Foundation had partnered with the priests, leaders and choirs of the three major churches in the town to ensure a successful outing.
Before the date, the first edition of the festival of carols had been massively publicised far beyond the community, and many were those looking forward to the event. By 2pm on Christmas Eve, people were trooping into the playground of the Community Primary School, Nkpologwu, venue of the event, in their numbers.
Many of the participants were those residing in the community, but several others came from other towns in and outside Anambra State, all resplendently attired to reflect the mood of the occasion.
The event commenced shortly after the arrival of Nze Chidi Duru, with the parish priest of Immanuel Church, Nkpologwu, Reverend Canon Clinton Osinachi Ogbonna, declaring the festival open.
The cleric told the excited congregants that peace, love and unity were paramount virtues that were needed in the church and in the state as a whole. He prayed God for prosperity and protection of all indigenes of the kingdom in the New Year, urging the people to always use the life of Jesus Christ as a compass to guide them in how they run their affairs.
Said he: “Beloved in Christ, at this Christmas-tide, let it be our care and delight to hear again the message of the angels and in heart and mind, to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass and the baby lying in a manger. Therefore, let us read and mark, in Holy Scripture, the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious redemption brought us by the holy child. Let us pray for the needy in the whole world; for peace on earth and goodwill among all his people, for unity and brotherhood within the church he came to build, and especially in this our country Nigeria and, particularly our state Anambra.
“Let us remember the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry and the oppressed, the sick and those that mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children, all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love not or who by sin, have grieved His heart of love. Lastly, let us remember before God, all those who rejoice with us especially those in other parts of the world, whose hope is in the Word made flesh and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are one forever more.”
After the prayers, it was time for the carols. Some were sung by select individuals, some by the entire congregation and others by choristers from the three major churches. It was a glorious outing, with tunes from different musical instruments adding more beauty to the euphony.
And as the carols were sung, there were also nine lessons read to the congregation, a task conducted by different individuals. There were also prayers after each lesson.
Aside from the spiritual blessings that they received, participants were also blessed with cash and other gift items by the founder of the foundation, Nze Duru, a lawyer and entrepreneur, who promised that the special festival would become a yearly event. He also gave cash donations to the three choirs to augment their musical instruments.
Among those at the event were Reverend Canon Clinton Osinachi Ogbonna, parish priest of Immanuel Church; Reverend Paul Dimude, parish priest of St. Michael Church; Obi of Nkpologwu, Moses Obijikwa Okpalankwa; Ichie Emma Okenyeka, Onowu of Nkpologwu; Prof. Romanus Ezeokonkwo, president-general of Nkpologwu Progressive Union (NPU); Dr. Ferdinand Ezeiruaku, vice-president of NPU; Bhon Enneth Igweneme and Ogonna, chairman and secretary, respectively, of Acharaugo Foundation intervention committee.
On December 23, members of Acharaugo Foundation had met at Nze Duru’s home, where they had a party. At the event, many people also smiled home with cash and other empowerment items.
A day before then, Acharaugo Foundation had also made many of the locals happy. Many of the women, some in their 70s and 80s, converged on Duru’s family house to felicitate with one another and collect various gifts.
Duru said his decision to distribute palliatives was in response to the feelers from Acharaugo caregivers in the local government area, which showed that the severe disruptions brought about by the raging COVID-19 pandemic affected his people’s businesses and means of livelihood.
He said the Acharaugo Foundation was founded when his late father, an astute businessman, philanthropist and respected community leader who died in 2005, was still alive to serve as a canopy for addressing community development and people’s welfare. It was birthed in 2001 to provide itself as an empowerment instrument in Nkpologwu and beyond. It was gathered that, over the years, the foundation has provided scholarships and grants to support the education of people in Aguata LGA and its environs.
“Growing up, my father ensured we understood why he was doing philanthropy. My father, a community leader and entrepreneur in his time, would always say that the wealth that he had and the resources that were available to him were not because he was the smartest or the most hardworking or the fittest. He believed that it was because God had chosen to bless him. He, therefore, made himself an instrument to extend the blessings not just to people in Nkpologwu community but also neighbouring towns and Aba, where he formerly resided.”
There was also a political angle to the event. The former lawmaker, who was chairman of the Privatisation and Commercialisation Committee in the Green Chamber, was part of the Anambra South All Progressives Congress (APC) stakholders’ meeting, called to mend internal crisis in the party. The meeting resolved to form a formidable front across interest groups in the party towards restoring the party’s fortunes in the zone. The stakeholders agreed to work together to ensure that Anambra South produces the next governor of the state. Nze Duru was thereafter chosen to lead a high-powered committee to interface with the various groups within the APC and other interests in the party and the state.
In attendance at the meeting were Chief Bart Nwibe, Chief Johnbosco Onunkwo, Sir Azuka Okwuosa, Dr. George Moghalu, Dr. Chisozie Nwankwo, Chief Paul Orajiaka, Chief Ben Etiaba, Hon. Nestor Okoro, Hon. Nkechi Nnoli, Hon. Theo Nnorom, Chief Hygers Igwebuike, Chief Innocent Obi, Chief Zokas Aniazoka, Mrs. Constance Iloh, Prof. Orajiaka, Hon Okonkwo Okom, Chief Onyi Uzochukwu, Chief Uwaejina Igbokwe, Chief Amobi Nwafor, seven local government chairmen from the zone, state officers from the zone as well as other stakeholders.