Atani and her philanthropic sons

Ogbonnaya Akoma

At the last count, I had found out that Atani village had been blessed and gifted with producing the highest number of patriots and philanthropists in the whole of Arochukwu! The mmawuru village has proved to be one of the most progressive of all the villages in Arochukwu today – in the areas of philanthropic, patriotic and altruistic tendencies. Of course, the village has been the luckiest to have more sons and daughters who do care and do more for their village and Arochukwu in general. Without any shadow of doubt, Atani has become one of the very few villages that have continued to ‘make Aro thick,’ as some people would say. Invariably, I don’t think any other village has attained the standard set by Atani in Arochukwu today in these sphere. 

A few examples may suffice here. Atani had produced a famous traditional birth attendant who had handled nearly half of all the births and deliveries in the town and beyond before death snatched her away. She was Daa Ahiazu (who had transited in 1996 or thereabout.) Those who had lived in or had contact with Arochukwu before, during and in the immediate years after the Nigerian-Biafra civil war can testify to this day that Daa Ahiazu  used her God-given talent and acquired skill/knowledge to deliver pregnant women of their babies with exceptional care, love, diligence and mirthfulness! Daa Ahiazu was most philanthropic. My late Amuvi-born mother did not relent nostalgically in narrating to me how Daa Ahiazu had lovingly and most kindly treated her when she had gone to her in Atani to be delivered of me on 23 October, 1959. Really, Daa Ahiazu gave her best to Arochukwu. What of Mary Kanu, the famous trado-cultural Atani musical maestro, who put ‘Aroness’ in many of us? 

We see today that some people offer others beers while such people drink in drinking stores within Arochukwu. This did not happen before the 1980’s. Someone had introduced that act of philanthropy and magnanimity in Aro. His name is Chris Ogbonnaya Ukpabi, an agric-trained politician then. It was this public-spirited man that started the hilarious spate of offering friends, associates and well-wishers ‘free drink’ in Arochukwu as he drank, and which has subsisted till today! He is a great son of Atani.

In the area of teaching and learning, the Rev’d Uchenna C C Elekwa (Ph D) and his ever-smiling, amiable spouse, Lady Bright, will forever be remembered for the philanthropic ways they had used their good offices to serve the people of Arochukwu – either as classroom teachers, Principal of Aggrey Memorial Secondary School, Arochukwu; Government College, Umuahia, as national officer of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, or as Education Secretary, Local Government Education Authority, Arochukwu; or at ASUBEB headquarters in Umuahia! The couple gave their best to their people, even in community services. Lady Bright Elekwa serves Arochukwu today as the president-general, Nzuko Arochukwu (Women’s wing.)

In trado-cultural matters/itu eye, Mazi Nwamuo Echemazu gave Arochukwu the best. Dee Nwamuo never took sides; he never accepted or gave bribes while taking part in any matter but was always upright and just no matter whose ox was gored! I witnessed that in 1992. In that year, one of his kinsmen had gone behind to offer bribes to some of the would-be arbitrators in a case involving his daughter and her husband for them to side him during the judgement. Dee Nwamuo declined to accept a bribe the man had given him; instead, he promised the man he would critically look into the issue, and he did just that when the time came. When Dee Nwamuo found out that the man’s daughter was the offender during the trial, he quietly took his bag, hung it on his left shoulder as he used to do, and walked away to the disappointment of his kinsman! He asked the woman to go and apologise to her husband, beg him and make peace with him.

Arochukwu had no town hall before 2015! Many Aro sons and daughters had contributed uncountable times, made forced and free-will donations, and paid imposed levies for the building of the hall since 1976 it was started. Those abroad were never left out – they were made to contribute, all to no avail. Then, during an Aro Day event that year, an illustrious Atani son, Dr Alex Otti, got up and tersely indicated that Aros were going to celebrate the next Aro Day in their hall! That was all; no elaboration. That proclamation came to be as he had made it and, today, the elusive Aro civic hall, through which many of us had feasted on Aro for long years without much to show for it, came to be through Alex Otti! The on-going perimeter fencing of the hall could go for the best in the world. What of the construction of the then impassable Ibom-Central Market-Amaikpe road and that of Isimkpu-Amangwu-Asaga ring road he had attracted? Yes, Atani and her philanthropic sons and daughters.

What of Chief Obasi Lawson’s recent philanthropic gestures in Arochukwu? In the past, it was Prof Obiako’s filling station in Ahia Ohuru that stocked petroleum products in Arochukwu, supplementing those in Mazi Ikem’s petrol station along Africa Road, Obinkita. At a stage, the two filling stations nearly became moribund, and petroleum products supply became epileptic in the town; even ‘standard’ hotels did not exist in Arochukwu then.        

But what is the situation today? Chief Obasi Lawson (Sobaz) has built one of the reliable filling stations at Ibom-Oror axis and, beside the filling station, he went ahead to build the ‘second-best’ hotel in Arochukwu today, after that built in the heart of Atani village by another illustrious son of Atani. That the owner of that hotel in Atani decided to build that type of hotel in his village is purely an act of philanthropy and magnanimity, and not an economic venture. Yes, an act of philanthropy indeed! This is in addition to the two super jeeps Sobaz had presented to traditional rulers of Ibom Isii kindred and Ezeagwu kindred in Arochukwu. This is philanthropy at its highest order. Apart from the donation, it is said everywhere that Chief Obasi Lawson has been helping his umu nna and other people to secure land to build their own houses in Obigbo axis of Port Harcourt where he is based. Those who live in Obigbo and Port Harcourt always talk about the philanthropy of Sobaz in this regard.

According to people, there is only one ‘digital’ Ezeogo in Arochukwu today. Can you guess the Ezeogo? Yes; Mazi Charles Kanu Okoro, Ezeogo Atani, the only ‘His Royal Highness’ Ezeogo we have in Arochukwu today; he is also the only Ezeogo in Arochukwu that has been given a bus, through donation, by the Abia State Government which he still drives till today? Ezeogo Atani is reputed to be the Ezeogo who always appears neatest and in costliest costumes and apparels in dressing while attending events and functions; others say he is the best Ezeogo in Arochukwu – from the way he conducts himself and handles trado-cultural cases that are brought before his court in his palace, and yet he is only one of the ‘new’ Ezeogos in Arochukwu! Through his conduct, Atani, today, probably has the best record in justice administration and adjudicative mechanism in the whole of Arochukwu, traditionally speaking. 

It is really a thing of joy to behold what Atani and her patriotic, philanthropic sons and daughters have been doing in Arochukwu in general. Let this philanthropy continue, please.

About author

Ogbonnaya Akoma

Public health practitioner/public affairs commentator
Trans-Amadi Layout, Port Harcourt, Rivers State

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