Thursday November 16th, 2000. Africa hall, International Conference Center, Abuja. 9.00 AM prompt. Security arrangements were at its best. Only guests with the official invitation cards were allowed into the hallowed chamber of the hall. The honorees, their relations and invited guests turned up in their very best. All kinds of regalia were on parade. The entire ground and environment around the International Conference Center wore a carnival outlook as guests who could not make it into the hall proper took positions at various corners outside. Such was the setting as the Head of State of Nigeria – President Olusegun Obasanjo arrived and stepped into the Africa hall to decorate distinguished Nigerians who deserved to be honored. Among them was His Majesty, Mazi Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro. Key functionaries from all walks of life – including retired and serving personnel from both the private and public sectors were equally honored. The list included former heads of state – General Yakubu Gowon and Alhaji Shehu Shagari who bagged the highest national honor of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), former vice president – Dr Alex Ekwueme, prominent traditional rulers such as Eze Ogbonnaya Okoro – Eze Aro of Arochukwu, sultan of Sokoto – Alhaji Mohammed Maccido; distinguished business executives of both the new and old generations, among others.
Eze Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro was decorated with the honor of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR); the only traditional ruler in the entire southeast to be so honored that year. The choice of the Aro monarch was said to be unanimous as the town is the only acclaimed ancient state with proven history of kingship in the entire Igbo speaking area. President Obasanjo described the monarch as a “Hero” and told him that he was chosen because “he had distinguished himself by serving his society and Nigeria honorably, honestly and successfully”. National honor, according to the president “is a recognition of Nigeria’s best and brightest”. It is “something that money cannot buy”. “It transcends materialism and will last as long as the society endures, he opined”. Eze Aro had arrived Abuja a day before with his entourage which comprised of some members of his cabinet, a representative of the governor of Abia state and several other officials of Abia state government and Institutions in the eastern part of the country. He was immediately checked into a reserved presidential suite at Nicon Hilton Hotel from where he received Aro indigenes and friends at the federal capital city and environs who had gathered to pay him homage. It was a spectacular sight as the audience applauded as the citation of His Majesty; Eze Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro was read.
Dressed in most fitting regalia devoid of the masquerade – like attire of some traditional rulers, Eze Aro stood honorably, acknowledged cheers, and shook hand with Mr. President before being decorated. After the award ceremony, His Majesty paid a courtesy visit on the then senate president – Honorable Pius Anyim in his office at the National Assembly Complex. His host who praised him for his exceptional qualities and achievements that earned him the honor just bestowed on him warmly received him. The Eze Aro enjoined the senate president to cultivate patriotic ideals as a way of entrenching unity and harmony among the various peoples of Nigeria. He also urged him to use his good office to attract meaningful development to needy communities as part of dividends of democracy. Before he departed Abuja, the Nzuko Aro hosted him. In his speech at the occasion, Eze Aro thanked the leadership and entire members of Nzuko Aro for finding time to organize the reception in his honor even at short notice. That showed unity and the kind of solidarity that existed among them, he noted. According to him, the national honor, which was given to him, is for the entire Aro as he is only a servant. Continuing, he recalled his message to all Aro when he was coroneted, “that every Aro person is wearing the Eze Aro crown”. Therefore, “they should be reigning where ever they are and also strive to do just those things that will uplift the image of the kingship”.