Sunday March 2nd is one day that Nzuko Aro Abuja branch will hardly forget to remember. The event was the Branch’s annual Thanksgiving Service held at the prestigious All Saints Anglican Church, 22 Douala Street Wuse District in the Federal Capital City.
On that day, a large congregation of worshippers at 7 am service of the church watched with surprise, emotions, love and huge admiration as Umu Aro stormed the service in their beautiful Omu Aro attire of different colours, styles and sizes. While the women adorned the Omu Aro attire with unique beautiful designs, a white blouse and red head-tie to match, the appearance of the men took the traditional dressing to another level. And that original Aro man outlook that evokes memories of the enviable role of Arochukwu in Igbo ancient history was on display at the event. The message was strong while the people looked elegant.
At the peak of the church service (exactly 9. 15 am) Aro was invited to step forward to the altar. It was a solemn moment of songs and humility before the almighty. Men, women, children, friends, in-laws, relations of Aro community in Abuja danced to the altar, singing, cheering and waving in response to the choruses and beautiful renditions of the choir. The response of the entire congregation was electrifying as the choruses of ancient and modern hit the roof.
At the Altar, the President of the Branch, Fidelis Okoro Nwosu took the microphone to explain the importance. “We are Arochukwu community resident in Abuja! He shouted with a praising Halleluya! Before the congregation!“We are here to seek God’s face for protection and blessing as we prepare to face the year 2015”, the President explained. “Last year was good”. Mazi Fidelis acknowledged. “But we are here to ask God to make this year,2015, better for Arochukwu sons and daughters in Abuja, at home, in Nigeria and around the World,” He concluded. Before the loud “Amen” that greeted the President’s speech could die down, the Vicar of the church, Venerable Andrus Ukaejiofor took over. “I welcome the initiative of Arochukwu community in Abuja. God will receive your prayers and honour your request. I urge other communities in Abuja to borrow from the Aro example”. Then the heart of the event came. The Vicar offered prayers for God’s mercies and blessing for members of Nzuko Aro Abuja Branch. Thethanksgiving service coincided with an event to mark the 3rd Sunday in Lent in the Anglican Calendar.
With the Church service over, the whole Aro community moved to a venue in Wuse Zone 3 at the city center already arranged for a lavish reception courtesy of Umu Aro who worships in All Saints Anglican Church Wuse, Abuja. The reception began with praises, singing and dances. It also witnessed ‘akirinja”, jokes, networking, relaxation, reunion and more.
The culture of annual thanksgiving to begin the year has become a tradition initiated by Nzuko Aro Abuja Branch. The objective is to handover Aro sons and daughters and their families’ resident in the Federal Capital Territory to God for protection, guidance and blessings in any given year. Given the diversity of the faith of its members and the Christian denominations, the choice of the church to host each year’s thanksgiving is based on rotation. This privilege is limited only to four orthodox churches – Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist. In any of the churches chosen to host the Thanksgiving, Aro sons and daughters, in the particular church of choice is usually saddled with the responsibility to host the event at no financial cost to the Branch. This involves provision of food, drinks and other entertainment at a convenient venue to the whole of Aro community in attendance after the Church service. Aros in Abuja and their families look forward each year to the Thanksgiving with optimism, hope and excitement.
But if the Annual Thanksgiving Service has come to stay as an enduring innovation by Nzuko Aro, Abuja Branch, it is because the branch has chosen to be different in all respects. It is also one of the many innovations that the branch has created to make Nzuko Aro in Abuja prosperous, interesting, participatory, engaging, valuable, responsive and community-sensitive. There are very many of such initiatives. This is possible because in its leadership structure, organization and engagements with members, Nzuko Aro Abuja Branch has established an institutionalized procedure built on welfarism, openness, participation, transparency and accountability. The meetings are conducted in a way that ideas are allowed to germinate and nurtured to grow. It is never a one man show. For instance, the Branch took far reaching measures to create sound financial base, develop service arms that deal with welfare needs of members at record time. The mode of communication between the Branch and members in times of emergency or distress is not only fast but efficient and responsive. All members of Nzuko Aro, Abuja Branch feel protected and have the confidence that in times of need, their community will be fully mobilized at record time to come to the rescue. The Branch demonstrates this clearly when any member is sick, in distress, or feel excluded in matters of public interest in society.
On the death of a member or close relations, prompt attention of the Branch is usually handy, timely and visible. To make this happen, Nzuko Aro Abuja Branch through creativity and innovation floated activities/events that raised the capital base of the branch to a sound and comfortable height. Amaikpe can assert that Nzuko Aro Abuja branch is financially solid and the richest branch in Nigeria. In addition, the branch has in place a functional co-operative society that is available to all members. The Co-operative is willing and able to support members especially the indigent ones who have attractive business ideas and plans. Most importantly, members view the management of NzukoAro Abuja Branch and its service arms over the years as inclusive, efficient and accountable.
At every meeting, the financial information on the Branch transactions and financial in-flows are presented. As a result of the confidence of members of the Branch on the leadership, the people-oriented procedures and structures of administration, the common syndrome of rumour, mutual suspicion are reduced. At meetings of Abuja Branch, attendance is usually huge and encouraging resulting in over flow of ideas. The public confidence on the leadership explains why the members are always willing to contribute, provide ideas, options and even resources in pursuit of the Branch programmes.
When problems arise in the Branch, such are dealt with in line with already established procedure, rules and regulations without fear or favour. Everyone looks forward to the meeting with mutual respect to one another. In Abuja Branch, decisions are ruled by effective communication, open debate, wide consultations, constructive engagements and consensus. This has helped to reduce conflicts and build trust between the leadership and the led over the years. In Nzuko politics, Abuja Branch will serve as interesting case study. At a time that rebuilding Aro institutions, systems and procedure have constituted major challenges in our community at all levels, the lessons from Nzuko Aro Abuja Branch as a an island of success within Nzuko Arochukwu becomes timely and more relevant.