The Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, the wife of the former Premier of the Eastern Region and first President of Nigeria, the late Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dame Prof Uche Azikiwe, former Governor of old Anambra State, Senator Dr. Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, former Nigerian Ambassador to Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, Amb. Justina Eze, and Chief Maxi Ukuta, on Friday, poured encomiums on Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State for his vision and steadfastness in upholding the legacy and spirit of Dr. Azikiwe of blessed memory for the world to appreciate.
Speaking during the unveiling of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Centre – the former Enugu residence of Dr. Azikiwe known as old Premier Lodge, renovated, furnished and decorated with personal effects and other monuments of the great Zik of Africa by Governor Ugwuanyi’s administration – the leaders commended the governor for all the outstanding things he has done to immortalise the foremost nationalist.
They described Governor Ugwuanyi as a true leader who has shown enormous commitment and passion for the preservation of what the great Zik of Africa represents to Ndigbo, Nigerians, Africans and the world, adding that the idea to immortalise the Nigerian statesman and tell his inspiring story for reference purposes, tourism and posterity are commendable.
In his speech, the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Achebe, applauded Governor Ugwuanyi for “his zeal and steadfastness in ensuring that the legacy of Nnamdi Azikiwe is not swept under the carpet, adding that posterity will always remember the governor for the gesture.
The Royal Father further expressed gratitude to the governor “for all the things you have been doing to uphold the legacy of Nnamdi Azikiwe, and support the family he left behind.”
He said that Governor Ugwuanyi’s commitment towards upholding Zik’s legacy is uncommon “particularly in Nigeria where we easily forget our leaders, forgetting their efforts, their sufferings and what they denied themselves.”
Speaking on the edifice and what it represents as a historical, educational and tourist monument to remember the Great Zik of Africa, Igwe Achebe revealed that “young people could come here and appreciate the efforts of our leaders past, their philosophies, their leadership principles, their sense of humility so that we can emulate them.”
On her part, Zik’s wife, Prof. Uche Azikiwe, stated that “the family of the late Nnamdi Azikiwe will never forget Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State,” revealing that the governor’s humility is unprecedented.
Prof. Azikiwe recalled that Ugwuanyi was the first governor to pay an official visit to the Onuiyi residence of the Great Zik of Africa in Nsukka since after his death, adding that it was during the visit that the governor promised to renovate the Zik’s Lodge in Enugu to serve as a monument and tourist attraction.
She expressed delight that Governor Ugwuanyi has fulfilled his promise to keep Zik’s legacy alive and support his family in different ways.
Zik’s wife equally thanked the governor for appointing their son, Uwakwe Azikiwe as his Special Adviser on Special Duties shortly after the visit to the Onuiyi residence in 2016, reiterating: “The Nnamdi Azikiwe family will never forget you, Your Excellency, we will never. The Igbo people say that whoever respects the king will be a king. You are already a king but the greater king will reach you in Jesus Name, amen.”
In his goodwill message, the former Governor of old Anambra State, Senator Dr. Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, lauded Governor Ugwuanyi for immortalising Dr. Azikiwe through the newly inaugurated centre, expressing fulfillment that the governor has done it for the late Zik and his family.
“I am happy that this thing has been done. Gburugburu (Ugwuanyi) I thank you very much for remembering our greatest man. I want to say that when you water others, you will be watered. When you show kindness to others, people will show kindness to you.
“Your Excellency, I thank you once again for doing this and I thank you for doing this in Enugu. I am also asking the Federal Government to take note. Zik was President of Nigeria, this kind of centre should also be in Abuja,” Senator Nwobodo said.
Overwhelmed with joy, Ambassador Eze, pointed out that Governor Ugwuanyi is “one single man who is always concerned about everybody’s problems, who is trying to remember all the past heroes,” stressing that the governor is also “one single man in Igbo land who remembers that those who have served should be honoured,” and prayed God to preserve and protect him.
The former member of House of Representatives and former Nigerian Ambassador to Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde urged young people to emulate Governor Ugwuanyi “so that their days shall be long.”
She described Zik as “a great man” who never for once thought of himself but others, saying: “How could Zik have come to Nsukka that was never in the map of anywhere to give an Nsukka man an image that the whole world today can stand and say that the best university established in Nigeria is in Nsukka?”
Corroborating the previous speakers’ remarks, one of the closest friends of Zik, Chief Maxi Ukuta, stated that “God has used Governor Ugwuanyi to do many things over Zik”, restating that “since the demise of Zik, he (Ugwuanyi) was the first head of government that took people and members of his government to pay a visit to his wife, Prof. Uche Azikiwe at Nsukka.”
According to him, “it was the same Governor Ugwuanyi who took the stress to improve the road that leads to Zik’s house and improve electricity within his residence. Thank God that today, His Excellency (Ugwuanyi) has been able to put into history Zik’s Centre. A lot will be learnt from there. God will bless you for this; we appreciate you.”
Explaining the concept of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Centre, Zik’s son and Special Adviser to Governor Ugwuanyi, Uwakwe Azikiwe, hinted that “the centre will mostly focus on being an exhibition of his life, showcasing his leadership qualities, make his works available to researchers, organise sponsored scholarly awards such as essay competitions; and be involved in media releases such as documentaries, movies, etc.
Inaugurating the Centre, Governor Ugwuanyi disclosed that the multi-purpose monument was developed by his administration to immortalise, propagate and perpetuate the leadership ethos, patriotic ideals and scholarly insights of the legend, Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.
The governor said that he was pleased that his administration’s vision for the project has finally come to fruition, and paid glowing tribute to the Zik of Africa for his worthy legacies, which he said persuaded his government to embark on the Zik Centre project, comprising a museum for Zik’s personal items, pictures, quotes, poems, letters, speeches, articles and tributes.
His words: “Zik of Africa as he was fondly called, a scholar par excellence, foremost nationalist, outstanding patriot, inspirational leader, philosophy king and first-rate wordsmith contributed hugely to the Nigerian nationalism, political leadership development and educational emancipation of our people.
“It is therefore my profound honour and great privilege to commission the newly completed Zik Centre in honour of the icon and enigma, Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, to educate the younger generation and inspire them to higher goals of intellectual development, service and patriotism.”
Earlier in his address, the General Manager/CEO of Enugu State Housing Development Corporation, Hon. Chukwuemelie Agu harped on Governor Ugwuanyi’s ingenuity in thinking in accordance with time for the good of the generations unborn and hailed the governor for honouring Zik in recognition of his socio-economic and political contributions to the development of Nigeria, particularly the people of Enugu State.
Hon. Agu who expressed excitement that the Corporation was part of the memorable and historic project, explained that “the Centre is to preserve the lyrics and the history of this Premier of the then Eastern Region thus the name Heritage.”
Dignitaries at the event include the Deputy Governor of the State, Hon. Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Edward Ubosi, the former Deputy Governor of the State, Ezenwata Okechukwu Itanyi, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Peter Ndubuisi Mbah, represented by Hon. Okey Ogbodo, and the Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province and Bishop of Enugu Diocese (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma.
Others include the Anglican Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Aloysius Agbo, the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Enugu State Chapter, Rev. Emmanuel Edeh, the Chairman, Enugu State Council of Traditional Rulers, HRH Igwe Amb. Lawrence Agubuzu, the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Simon Uchenna Ortuanya, other members of the State Executive Council (EXCO), the Director General, PDP Campaign Organisation, Chief Ikeje Asogwa, among others.