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A museum for Ochendo plaques By Eddie Onuzuruike

Senator Theodore Orji
Plaques symbolise awards, prizes and honours accorded individuals and groups in recognition. These are not mere decorations but for deeds of public good. In like manner, titles given in Igbo Land and other tribes have far reaching effects as in the first instance; they ascribe people into different social classes like the Chief, Nze and Ozo and further, in appreciation and recognition based on achievements in wealth and bravery in wars.

These are symbolised in many art forms with materials from straws, leathery objects fabricated from animal skins, plastics, ivory, cloths, bronze castings, beads and stone works. Some are epitomised in carvings, bracelets, anklets and other ornamental matters which when out of use may be placed for display and preservation in Museums. Most of these are relics today and have been subject of controversies and diplomatic rows like the Queen Idia Mask, looted from the Benin Kingdom by British explorers, which became the emblem of FESTAC 77 still held in the British Museum till this day.

Some prehistoric thrones are symbols and objects that reflect the status of occupants like kings, queens and other monarchs. These depended on the country, artists and in some cases influenced by the applicable religions. Some were even made by sculptors and carpenters.

From facts available, some of these works assumed high relevance. Many were imposing to the extent that subjects and servants pay obeisance even when cleaning or positioning the thrones in the absence of the occupants.

His Excellency, Sen T A Orji has attracted more of these and we can authoritatively affirm that he has had his fill but his activities and performances keep inviting more accolades that metamorphosed into awards. Precisely during his governorship era, commendations and appreciation of his good works from individuals, educational sector, professional bodies and faith based organizations came in droves. I could recall a few of these glorious deeds that couldn’t escape the notice of many. Even the most ungrateful of the earth joined in hailing.

Senator Orji as a consummate civil servant unprecedentedly promoted all civil servants to the next higher salary level in 2007, poignant at a time when the civil servants were demoralized and disenchanted and his avuncular action practically turned things around and like glucose to the athlete, reinvigorated the civil servants ending up in too many awards even on his way out by Abia Labour Union who titled him the Pillar of the Civil Service. Mind you, he is a product of the civil service and knew where the shoe pinched and applied the most effective soothing balm. This began a romantic relationship that trailed his tenure. It is on record that Abia civil servants were among the first to enjoy the new minimum wage then, padded with a little extra to it during the Jonathan era. Health workers and other specialist groups in Abia had the special salary scales, the CONHESS and CONMESS in May 24, 2011, and for eight years had a robust relationship to the extent that his tenure was devoid of strike actions and union unrests.

Security challenges as tough as it is today happened in Abia and took a toll on him with unimaginable recklessness. The difference then was the absence of banditry. Aba and environs were almost warfronts and nearly rubbed shoulders with Beirut of the Middle East except in banditry and bombing as noted above.

Ochendo came out of all these smoking and smiling and got more recognitions home and abroad to the extent that security and crime watch magazines applauded, topped by the police boss then, IGP Mohammed Abubakar, who, based on the superlative impressions affirmed that ‘Abia is a case study.’

Added to these swarm of homages included the Americas, where NANA, National Association of American Nurses And Midwives led by Mrs Bath Nnaji, the wife of the Geometric Strongman flew home and congratulated Ochendo, citing a case where a mother of one of the nurses, based on lab reports and collaboration with the doctors in the Abia Diagnostic Specialist Hospital, Amachara, was healed and not only that, saved money in round trips that would have gulped dollars.

As captured earlier, no good deed is left unnoticed, and potently there was scarcely any community in Abia that didn’t recognize Ochendo with suiting titles: Ochendo, Grand Governor, Ebekuo Dike, Utu Agba Igwe, Omeziri Mba etc.

These did not come from Abians alone but other tribes of Nigeria. If I should remind you, the highly venerated Ife Kingdom with the Ooni of Ife then, Oba Sijuade who was at the helm bestowed him with the Tobalashe of the Source and in the same year, he was the Special Alumni of the University of Ibadan, his alma mater, where he delivered the annual lecture.

In focus today is the Dr Michael Okpara Leadership Prize for Exemplary Political Leadership. It could be recalled that in 2018, Ochendo was on the podium of Verbatim and was decorated with the Beacon of Hope for democracy. In one of the exhortations, a group addressed him as GCOM, Commander of the Masses!

Going back memory lane, Dr Michael Okpara was the Premier of Eastern Nigeria comprising present day South East and South-South States with evidence of superfluous achievements in all sectors of human endeavour and economics seen in farm settlements, industries like the Turners Asbestos, and Golden Guinea Breweries, cattle ranching, hotel chains and industries like the Presidential Hotels cum Catering Rest Houses and paper mills. What more could a man have done in helping his citizens and immortalizing himself.

For these multiple laurels in plaque form, Ochendo may need a museum and an experienced curator for custody.

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