Chief Anthony Akuneme (Ochendo) ADF CO-FOUNDER/PRESIDENT
Chief Anthony Akuneme (Ochendo) ADF CO-FOUNDER/PRESIDENT

Destination: The ancient town of Awo-Omamma in Imo State. The first Awo-omamma Development forum (ADF) event. The idea of a social network to bring together all “progressive Awo-omamma sons and daughters worldwide, was conceived in mid June 2016 when one Mr. Val. C. Akudinobi, a UK resident whom I never met invited yours truly to donate my “goodwill” in the setting up an online forum individual and collective development. One thing led to the other and the result is what we have today as the outing of the Annual Awo-omamma Day, billed for every 31st December, henceforth.

In line with our vision, ADF seeks to redefine standards of development enterprise and to celebrate enduring values in our communal living, in a rather unique and novel way. We wish to brainstorm on everything Awo, the history, the people their strengths and indeed their weakness. We randomly picked a few individuals from varying areas of life and decided to show case them, not necessarily because they are the best or biggest, but because we yet had to use someone to show that a day like this where all Awo-omamma people, home and abroad, rich and poor, could assemble under one roof, was indeed , a possibility. Of course our selection process may not have been perfect, but now that we are sure that those things found among civilized people are also possible in our locality, we promise a better outing in 2017.

The task is not going to be easy; we never deceived ourselves that it will be. It required the cooperation of all to accomplish. We intend to compliment government in creating access to education and wealth for our next generation. Education makes a man easy to govern, but impossible to enslave. Our maiden essay competition lend itself to our avowed commitment to make education lends itself to our avowed commitment to make education and a culture of entrepreneurship the bedrock of our development. Gradually we hope to engage our traditional custodians, to promote all our positive cultures and deemphasize the negative ones that hold used down.

We intend to hold our leaders more accountable and to motivate our best eleven to dare the arena of politics. Our modest efforts are already yielding positive fruits as seen in the grading of road and continuation of the already awarded NDDC ones members cut across all the major political parties, with some holding major appointments in state and federal governments, which make our intentions and actions to easily find its way into the corridors of power, with attendant positive outcomes.

We hope to continue to do our best to continue to do our best to grow with our people especially the younger ones and to build their capacities too. It is with the most profound sense of pride that we proclaim that is barely ix months of setting off, we have raised several millions of naira, from our members scattered in six continents, which we have judiciously deployed in innovative value adding human development initiatives such as, Essay competition for our undergraduates with mouth watering prizes, grants for the most outstanding entrepreneur in each of the thirteen villages, inter village soccer and cultural dance competitions, children’s party, a road show around the villages, an inter denominational thanksgiving service as well as a full blown international attracting some of Awo-omamma’s best and bringtest as resource persons.

Doubtless, we cannot get it all right in one fell swoop. We hope to make our honest mistakes and learn there from. We plead for patience, tolerance, constructive criticism and less of the inter communal political land mines that have held us down for decades.

I welcome all our friends and families to Awo mara mma, the land of twenty four hour of sunshine, the beacon of light on the famous njaba hills, the pride of old Oru, the envy of her neighbours far beyond orashi.

The days of polarizing the town for petty partisan or and personal reasons are over. We remember the days of VERITAS AND SWIMMIOLOGY and of onu nkapia and onu ugburugburu, when the town was sharply divided with indigenes lining up behind two prominent citizens, Dr. BU Nzeribe and Chief DN Akuneme, two childhood friends who apparently had clear pictures of development of their town, albeit from two different perspectives.
Pharmacist Akuneme happened to be my dad, coincidentally and shared so many intimate stories with me as a kid, about his youthful bonding with “Ben” (which is how he addressed Dr Nzeribe who in turn called him “Dan”)

It is noteworthy that both of them were born in the same year. Both were born of peasant parents and grew up in the village but were both fired up by a great zeal to acquire the Whiteman’s education and civilization. Both took turns to visit each other and run errands for their respective mothers. Nzeribe would often accuse his Ubogwu friends (Akuneme, Obibuaku and Nwakibu) of making him spend three nights in Ubogwu ( one night in each person’s family) while they three always came to Umuezike together and spend just one night especially in the farming season.
Both travelled abroad about the same time, BU left first and had DN mobilize Awo-omamma indigenes living in Enugu then to organize a befitting send forth party for his friend Uzoukwu. Both left with scholarship. Ben went to America while Dan followed few years later to Britain. Both had passion to grow with their rural people and to bring home the development they had imbibed. One set up a resort and a novel primary boarding school, while the other set up a full scale drug making pharmacy in the villages thus bringing the world to Awo-omamma via Bush paths.

Both resisted the huge attractions to raise their families in the better organized white man countries as most of their other counterparts did, but returned immediately upon graduation to settle almost full time, not in Lagos or Owerri, but right Awo-omamma, exposing their beautiful matrimonies and young children to the vagaries of life in the village where basic amenities like light and water were nonexistent.
Dad told me more things about Awo-omamma and it’s people. He taught me to love and accept it as my town and told me that you can only have one town in a lifetime, that you can truly call  your own. I heard him describe AWO-OMAMMA in several flowery terms such as THE BEACON OF LIGHT ON THE FAMOUS NJABA HILLS. Hence I grew to be passionate about and so inseparable from my town. God bless papa, where ever he is. God bless his friend Benjamin Uzoukwu NZERIBE…. Indeed, his impacts in the modern AWOMAMMA are big and yet unmatched till date. God bless AWOMAMMA. Together, let’s renew the pictures handed to us by these great men of our time. Udo diri anyi nile.

Chief Anthony Akuneme (Ochendo)
Assistant Comptroller of Immigration
ADF CO-FOUNDER/PRESIDENT

 

This article was first published on Omamma Voice Magazine 2016 an annual publication of ADF.