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Dave Umahi: A lemonade for Ebonyi people

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By Sunny Igboanugo

It is said that nature can give a man lemon, but cannot give him lemonade. He would have to pluck the fruit, crush it and make the juice for himself, before enjoying it hot or cold. Development, ensconced in the idea of democracy dividends, takes a cue from this.

As a reporter with The Guardian, in Enugu, I was one of  those invited in 1996 to accompany Walter Feghabo, then a Navy Commander and the first Military Administrator of Ebonyi State, from the Enugu Airport to Abakaliki, the state capital, to assume duties after his appointment by the late General Sani Abacha.

The euphoria that day, was tremendous. Speakers after speakers acknowledged the obvious fact of developmental deficit staring them in the face. It was the stark reality emanating from decades of alleged neglect, transferred from the old Eastern Region through old Anambra and then old Enugu and Imo states, that later gave birth to Abia, through which part of Ebonyi was carved.

But the lamentations of the people at that elaborate ceremony, if anything, represented a minute fraction of the enthusiasm and hope, as the implication finally sunk in the people that they had finally taken their fate in their own hands. It actually gave impetus to a battle cry.

Then, gradually, brick by brick, the reconstruction began. As I became a regular visitor, in the line of duty, I saw Abakaliki, begin to take shape, more as the end of military rule, gave birth to democracy. It was a season of red roofs. That was the colour most government buildings seemed to have adopted.

It was not all glory though. Development, naturally has many shapes and sizes, including the good, bad and ugly sides. It was common on many occasions, to be summonsed to the state for news breaks, especially during the internecine political battle between Sam Egwu, the first civilian Governor of the state and Anyim Pius Anyim, former Senate President. But even then, Ebonyi continued to trudge on, brick by brick.

The last time I made a trip to the state, was sometime in 2009 from Lagos for a media tour organised by the state government under the last but one, headed by erudite sage, Martin Elechi. It was an impressive outing that took about three days of intensive activities, touring the project sites, from roads to agriculture, educational institutions and some other structures, some completed, others ongoing and many in the works.

However, what I hear filtering out from Ebonyi today, gives the impression that there is a genie from the magic lamp in the state performing some unimaginable feats. His name is Dave Nweze Umahi, an engineer, scholar and politician. He is said to have spread the state with a streak of projects, like nurseries on a rice farm.

Somebody described the number of projects embarked upon by the governor as agukata-agba-awaa – the Igbo hyperbole for uncountable, literally meaning that attempts to count could break a jaw. I hear that Ebonyi now has a brand new Government House. I hear also that he has built more than 500 different roads. There are also hundreds of classroom blocks, including teachers quarters.

But, the most prominent are the legacy projects, which he now flaunts. They are seven in number, viz: The International Shopping Mall, the Industrial clusters, including the waste to wealth recycling plant, the International Market, and New Building Material Market, about 20 flyovers, a brand new Dave Umahi University of Medical Sciences. The icing on the cake, is that the governor is also delivering a brand new airport to the state, before leaving office in just a matter of months.

No wonder President Muhammadu Buhari is always heading in that direction. In fact, Ebonyi, remains the state most visited by the President since assuming office in 2015, if not in the whole of Nigeria, then in the South East. I hear that another of such visit is already in the offing.

No wonder the governor had the confidence and courage to pick form and actually saw his contest through for the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2023 election, where he sought the nation’s number one job, the only serving governor from the South East to dare.

Of course it is no longer news that he made very little impact, a development, which comes from a different trajectory altogether. Electoral victories at that level do not rest on performance alone. Rather it is a function of the Nigerian reality. I’m sure if Umahi had commuted the funds for the project into raw cash and distributed same to delegates during his campaigns, the outcome would have been different.

Nonetheless, the governor, does not seem deterred or dispirited from the original focus. He has instead, fired on with more gusto, a drive, which seems to derive its impetus from his peculiar philosophy as underscored by the plans of the founding fathers for the state and the people. In a recent interview I read, where the governor, explained the raison d’etre he explained that the gigantic projects he is building today derives from the burning desire to enhance the rating of his people in human development context.

Hear him: “I build mind-blowing projects to let, first and foremost, our brothers and sisters in the Southeast know Ebonyi State has come of age. So, if I have achieved nothing, it’s to instill confidence in our people because even when we talk about marginalisation of South East, you come to South East, we talk about the marginalisation of Ebonyi people. So, I built that project for people like you, to assure you that we went to the same school, that we have the same brain and that we’ve come of age and that nobody should neglect Ebonyi State again.

“To some people, we use it to punish them. Those who neglect us are being punished by this gigantic project and my projects are projects you can’t find anywhere in South East. You can crosscheck that. So, it’s for punishment. The benefit is to instill confidence in our people, to make our people number one in everything we do.

“That’s why when you are going to marry, you don’t wear tattered dress, and you ask yourself, what is the economic benefit of the beautiful dress you are putting on? It’s to instill confidence and make your bride to accept.”

It was interesting hearing him expand on that legacy on Monday when he appeared on Channels Television’s Politics Today, where he told his host: “We’ve turned Ebonyi State into a construction site. Even for five hours, you won’t be able to mention all the infrastructures we’ve put together in Ebonyi State.

“For me, the greatest legacy of my administration, are – the confidence we’ve instilled in our people, the confidence that our people can now boldly say, ‘I’m from Ebonyi State, by reason of the transformation that has taken place in Ebonyi State.”

He went on: “I’ve made more business people, I’ve made more engineers, I’ve made more contractors than the number of politicians that I’ve made. The infrastructure is given. It is one of the musts that you have to do. Education is a must, health is a must. But these things are very important, because when you build the people then they will build the nation. These are my legacies. People will be thinking that I’ll be talking about the international airport, I’ll be talking about the famous David Umahi University, I’ll be talking about the concrete roads of over 1,000 kilometres of eight inches concrete. No, my legacy should be on human capital development.”

More! The governor, also assured that he would not infest the state with the disease many states suffer – debt overhang either in form of infrastructure or wages, adding that he would ensure that his successor would not be handed a dead duck government.

Hear him: “My administration has not owed any pension or gratuity, but rather, we’ve paid a lot of backlogs, when we came on board. The balance of pensions and gratuities in Ebonyi State at the state level, is N3billion. What we did when we came on board was to use part of our Paris Club refund to offset most of the debts we met on ground.

“We plan in next year’s budget to pay off the remaining N3billion debts on pensions and gratuities. That is why you have the budget of the Ministry of Finance to be 19 per cent, which is the highest. What we intend to do is to pay off the N8billion we took from the UBA and then pay off the N3billion for pension and gratuities, pay off the N 3.5billion of the retention fees for our contractors. We also have the intention to give allowances to every civil servant in Ebonyi State as Christmas package.”

Now the jury is out about Umahi’s many other engagements, especially his politics. Not a few of his critics, are surprised that he has since decided to pitch his tent with the APC at this time, after getting everything he has in politics from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). There are also many who believe that he ought to align with the Labour Party (LP), the only party, with the brightest chance of producing the first President of Igbo extraction, a project, he seems to favour.

But Umahi seems not persuaded or sold on these sentiments, but rather appears to cling to party loyalty more. In fact, he boasts that there is no party in his state outside the APC. “Anybody that tells you that there is another party in Ebonyi State outside the APC, tell him to shut up,” he says.

To prove that, he has asked other states to stay away from making contributions as the campaign trail of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu lands in the state on October 22. “I’m going to put about 50,000 Eboyians to come and welcome our presidential candidate,” he said.

Well, the taste of the pudding is in the eating, they say. The ultimate decider on how well Umahi’s politics has resonated with the people, in the contest of all politics being local, would be determined by the same people. That will be by next year when the governor files out against his opponents to contest the Ebonyi South Senatorial seat.

Regardless, what would come into little contention, is that the governor, has etched his name boldly across the pages of history of the state. Anyone that ignores him in this regard, as far as opening up the state to the world, must be an enemy. His philosophy of the Ebonyi Man, as standing shoulder to shoulder with his counterparts elsewhere, seems not only to have reflected the vision, hopes and agenda of the founding fathers as expressed at that event some 26 years ago, but achieved substantially. He therefore deserves a drink from the lemonade he has made out of the lemons nature has provided for his people.

 

Igboanugo is the Publisher of Whirlwindnews 

Opinion

 Foolish is not Igbo! Neither is cowardice wisdom!

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First of all, I don’t believe what I have just read, which was attributed to General Azubuike Ihejirika, was written by him. I don’t. Indeed, if I believed for one second that the revered General wrote that piece, I would simply have taken a more reticent position of ignoring it. Why? The Igbo have a saying that a man that allowed an idiom to be explained to him should know that the dowry paid on the mother’s head is a waste.

In that context, I would see it as a military stratagem by the accomplished officer, a way of saying the opposite of what is in the public sphere. After all, stooping to conquer is a weapon commonly used by the military. So, I address this to the person that wrote that trash under the caption, Foolish is not Igbo, purely out of the need to counter the war currently being wedged against my people, Ndigbo and not as a reply to General Ihejirika. Who am I, even, a bloody civilian to join issues with such an accomplished soldier and a gentleman?

I can’t really remember the first time I read the piece of trash. It must be several months ago. I ignored it at that time for obvious reasons, one of them being that the political atmosphere in Nigeria is not as charged as it is at the moment and it would amount to a complete waste of time. I cannot afford that luxury today, because of the critical issues at hand and the place of the Igbo people who are the major target in them require the fullest attention to any element, no matter how minute capable of damaging them further. In fact, to keep silent now to the deliberate effort to destroy the Igbo essence, which this is all about, is criminal.

Yes! Just like the trash written by Chukwuma Soludo, Governor of Anambra State, my governor, I couldn’t make head or tail of what informed the entire rubbish I read outside the fact that there seems a hidden agenda by the author to sustain an onslaught against a people that neither stole the yam or cocoyam of Nigerians, but whose only sin is wishing and sometimes demanding to be allowed to be Nigerians – to be allowed to be citizens, not only as spare parts sellers at First Gate in Ogba, Lagos, okirika merchants at Sabon Gari in Kano or rubber shoes at Ochanja Market in Onitsha, but to actually raise the bar, by joining other groups in the country in the alluring dream of reaching the zenith of self-actualising aspirations of clinching the nation’s number one job. Matter finish!

Now, how did Ndigbo wrong the naysayers in Nigeria? The author of the trash opened with pure lies, as usual, which have been employed times and again to try to hoodwink the unwary, to the effect that Ndigbo captured the juicy positions in the years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Pray! What position did Ndigbo get in Nigeria at that time to the exclusion of other ethnic groups? In 1999, Obasanjo, a Yoruba was the President, Atiku Abubakar was the Vice President, while an Igbo man was the Senate President. Recall, no Igbo man was a Service Chief under Obasanjo. An Igbo man was not the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN). In fact, none has been, ever!

The likes of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Obi Ezekwesili and others, whose names were loud in that government, were just Ministers, which was statutorily allotted to every state. Is it the fault of the Igbo man that these Ministers, by sheer dint of performance became the stars of that government.

Okay, Chukwuma Soludo became the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) But before him, there was Joseph Oladele Sanusi, a Yoruba man. So, was it that position that is causing the whole deafening din of the Igbo took all the positions?

Under the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, Ndigbo lost the Senate Presidency and began to play the second fiddle in all departments. The only notable position then, was the Inspector General of Police (IG), held by Ogbonnaya Onovo. Outside it, what next? In then National Assembly, they only occupied the positions of deputies.

It gets funnier, when you hear the din loudest about how President Goodluck Jonathan practically handed over his government to Ndigbo. Abeg, how? What were the positions they held in that government? That Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala held the position of the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy? She was nothing more than a Minister. The highest position was the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), held by Anyim Pius Anyim, outside Ike Ekweremadu and Emeka Ihedioha being Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively.

Okay, it was under Jonathan that appointed Ihejirika as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), the first of that position ever held by an Igbo man since history. But how long did it last before he was practically bullied out by those who believed that it was unheard of, in the same manner that they dealt with Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe as Chief of General Staff under the Ibrahim Babangida military presidency?

Indeed, I’ve searched in vain to see how Ndigbo were specially favoured during this period under reference that many people continue to bandy about. The only plausible explanation is that somehow, because of the need for balance, which are sometimes inevitable under democracy, except in the current dispensation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) era of President Muhammadu Buhari, where impunity has become such a fashion, the various leaders in Nigeria during the period tried to refrain from the primordial attitude of unabashedly relegating Ndigbo, or indeed any group to the background. That was how the Igbo man found himself in positions hitherto believed to be sacrosanct.

Thus their long absence from these positions, is what gave the impression of favouritism towards them. But, that was until the coming of Buhari, who, having no penchant for pretenses about his special hatred for the Igbo, and who seems to savour every opportunity to prove it in words and actions, reversed everything.

Now for those blaming the Igbo for playing bad politics under Buhar, let us examine the facts starting with the APC. Did you know that Ogbonnaya Onu was the National Chairman of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and that Rochas Okorocha brought his own faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), both of which collapsed into the party at its formation?

This was the contribution of the South East. But in the end, what did they get in return – Organising Secretary – given to my friend, Osita Izunaso – to be arranging chairs and tables and booking hotels for members during party events? That’s all the South East, a whole leg of the tripod that is Nigeria. That is the party you want the Igbo people to rush into.

The author of the trash that was mimicking Ihejirika, pretends that it was the Igbo that began throwing stones at Buhari, causing him to act against them. What a blatant lie! Yes! Ndigbo didn’t vote for him. But so did the Yoruba not vote for Obasanjo in 1999. But did Obj draw out his bayonet to pursue every Yoruba man? Did he not employ his number six, to capture the zone subsequently, such that only Lagos survived the political tsunami that swept the entire South West into the PDP?

So, Buhari’s manifest treatment of Ndigbo, was not because they failed to vote for him, but a function of deep-seated hatred, flowing apparently from the vestiges of his civil war memories. Recall the confession of Femi Fani-Kayode, who disclosed what the President allegedly told him at a private meeting at Transcorp Hotel in Abuja, about why he would never forgive the Igbo.

Okay, Fani-Kayode could be lying. For a man that talks from both sides of his mouth as times demand, you couldn’t take that past him to lie against the President. But, has the President himself discharged himself to the contrary to disprove him either in words or deeds? Did the world not hear when he made his 97-5 per cent remarks in far away United States regarding Ndigbo? Has he deviated from its full implementation? Okay, what crime did that Igbo youth corps member commit in 2016, when he was singled out in Daura, during Christmas visit to the President, to be schooled about how his fathers were defeated in Biafra, a boy – whose parents, apparently were not even born during the war.

The impostor, writing in the name of Ihejirika, forgets that this is the time of the internet when just by a punch of the keyboard buttons, many information would unravel. He is telling the world how the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is the harbinger of the bad luck Ndigbo have been suffering in the last seven years plus. He talks glibly about a campaign of violence to pull down Buhari and his government. Where? When? At what point? What violence did the youths at Onitsha Head Bridge and Upper Iweka carry out before hundreds of them stopped bullets with their chests? What violence did the Igbo youths praying at a primary school in Aba commit, before they were mowed down in a hail of bullets from the guns of Nigerian security operatives who invaded the arena, knelt down in the manner of practice at a shooting range to take aim and open fire? Have you forgotten how the President refused to watch the video of that sad incident during an interview with Aljazeera?

Indeed, what record of violence did IPOB have before the group was designated a terrorist organisation as against Fulani herdsmen, known to have invaded and wiped out whole communities, which earned them the unenviable tag of the fourth deadliest terrorist organisation in the world, which was never acknowledged in Nigeria till date? Which house did they burn, public or private? Who did they kidnap or kill, outside carrying harmless flags, with IPOB inscribed on it?

Yet, there had been many pictures of these youths being asked to swim in mud waters and gutters for non other reason than being found in the wrong places, by operatives, who see it as a sort of sport to subject them to the most excruciating treatment, just to show power and have fun. In fact, many parents have had to warn their children to steer clear of certain areas and be prayerful always, because, nowadays one of the easiest ways of losing a limb or two, denied freedom or even death, is to be designated an IPOB member. Some governors in the South East, who conveniently keyed in to the onslaught, have seen it as a pastime to deal with youths outside their political camps by simply designating them IPOB. Of course, it is an open and short case in such instances.

Till date, which of those arrested supposedly in the name of IPOB or Eastern Security Network (ESN), has been taken to court and proven to be behind the mindless carnage in the South East or elsewhere? Instead, the public is constantly assaulted with a harvest of dead bodies displayed on the floor by security forces, in the name of slain IPOB members.

Why would “Ihejirika,” not advise security operatives to comb the forests said to have been taken over by some terrorists, local and foreign, from where they launch attacks and cause mayhem, ferret them out and expose them by taking them to court, where the full stories would be disclosed, whether IPOB or not?

Or is shouting IPOB the only option? Why would the same supposed IPOB have a field day to attack their targets for hours without any challenge even with a police station or security formation just a shouting distance? shouldn’t these also come into the mix? Instead, what we hear are the puerile narrative that they are being sponsored by Igbo leaders, who have refused to rein them in. Ask who these Igbo leaders are, you’ll hardly get an answer.

Regarding Nnamdi Kanu’s release, Ndigbo have not asked anything out of the ordinary by toeing a familiar line. It has been done before. If he is a criminal or a terrorist as has been designated, let him suffer for his crime. But if he has not attacked anyone with cutlass or gun or arrow, as he once said in his interview, let the laws take its course. It is also important to state that whatever treatment he received should be meted out to others like him in equal measures.

In all, like Ndigbo would say, those with lost items must visit on the day the thief would bury the mother, to see whether they would be found in his house, one day also, the truth would be exposed about who really is the culprit in the mayhem in Igbo land. May be when a Daniel will come to judgement, which might not be too long.

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Opinion

Crashing a Dream: The Genesis of Obi – Soludo war

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I returned to Anambra State in 2008 to meet a state and a people that were excited and upbeat. And they had every reason to be so happy. Anambra had two governors, in fact, those were the exact words of the master of ceremony at the first major function that I attended on my return at the All Saints Cathedral open arena, Onitsha. One was the governor of the state, Peter Obi who was then the rave of the moment having retrieved the mandate the people gave him in the 2003 election; the other was the governor of money, Charles Soludo, who was then the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. The function was a special ceremony organised by the CBN to encourage communities to set up microfinance banks to boost local economies.

Present at the ceremony were the two governors. Obi and Soludo walked side-by-side like twins in their sparkling suits to the admiration of everyone. In their mid-40s, they exuded energy, confidence and brilliance. The alumni of the University of Nigeria were so proud of the duo and they showed it all over venue in their badges and mufflers. The vice-chancellor of UNN then, Prof. Chinedu Nebo was even there.

The two governors spoke eloquently and gave high hopes to the audience. While Soludo spoke on how the banks consolidation he supervised insulated Nigerians from the then global economic meltdown, Obi urged the people to invest wisely in stocks for there would always be a reward, he being a beneficiary of portfolio investments.

A great platform to take off from had already been set by Obi’s predecessor, Chris Ngige, another UNN alumnus, whose solid road infrastructure projects had rekindled faith in Anambra people that something good could still come from government after a long time of the people fending for themselves through self-help projects.

That look of Soludo and Obi at Onitsha that day looked like the look of the future for Anambra State, that seemed to had done away with the politics of godfatherism and its unpleasantness in the state. It seemed the state had been freed from the old brigade and a new post-Independence elite had taken charge. Anambra people from all over the world began to identify with the development at home.

A few months later, the League of Anambra Professionals, LAP, hosted the two great sons of Anambra at Zodiac Hotel in Enugu. Soludo was rounding off his tenure as governor of the CBN and there was so much expectations of him, given his age, energy and success at the CBN. The two clinked glasses, toasted and shared jokes. They looked like a pair that would work for the greatness of Anambra State and chart a future for the state. But that party at Zodiac Hotel seemed to me to be their parting point.

After a few weeks, Soludo’s tenure as CBN governor tenure terminated and was not renewed. Obi, whose first tenure was ending on March 17, 2010 had kicked off his reelection plans. Many had expected Soludo to support Obi to go for a second term and perhaps enjoy a reciprocal gesture from Obi. But lo and behold Soludo, buoyed by the ratings he got from his CBN tenure, was eyeing Obi’s office. This threw bad blood between their camps.

Soludo’s entry into the race created a problem. The race would have been an easy walkover for Obi with other candidates. But with Soludo something had to happen for him to win. Soludo chose PDP, the ruling party at the federal level and indeed the largest party in the country and Anambra State as of then.

That was where the parting started. Nobody could explain how it happened. Obi smartly won the heart of President Goodluck Jonathan, who chose to ignore a crisis that erupted in the Anambra chapter of the PDP where Chris Uba fought Soludo to a standstill. Even though Soludo eventually won the ticket of the PDP, it took a last minute Supreme Court verdict to validate his candidacy.

Obi played a fast one by guaranteeing an APGA support for Jonathan in his reelection bid if Jonathan supported him in Awka. In return, Jonathan tacitly withdrew support for Soludo. It’s on record that Jonathan did not honour or send delegates to the flag-off of the campaigns of Soludo.

But many believed Soludo’s falling out of favour with Jonathan’s government, which had also denied him reappoinment as CBN was the handiwork of Prof Dora Akunyili, Jonathan’s Minister of Information. Akunyili, who was the aunt of Soludo’s wife, had a no love lost relationship with Soludo. She was said to have opposed his marriage to her niece over class differences.

That meant that PDP in Anambra State lost the federal might support a PDP federal government would have given it in the February 6, 2010 election.

Soludo lost in that election, coming third after Obi and Ngige of the Action Congress. He quietly went home without challenging the outcome of the election in court.

Soludo’s loss was celebration in Obi’s camp, which included Akunyili. It wasn’t long after that his mother-in-law, Dora’s elder sister died. When Dora went to the burial at Isuofia, Soludo’s boys destroyed her canopy and chased her away. She had to host her guests in her father’s compo at Nanka.

By the time Obi was rounding off his second tenure, Soludo had sneaked into APGA in the hope that Obi had forgotten the past. Soludo looked like the best candidate for the APGA ticket until the party primaries panel disqualified him and Willie Obiano was brought by Obi as the preferred Candidate. Again Soludo didn’t challenge his questionable disqualification.

He simply hung around until Obiano and Obi fell out, and jumped on the scene as the guardian angel of Obiano. When Obiano was finding it difficult to impress the people about why he deserved a second term, Soludo came up with his famous declaration, “If it is not broken, why mend it?”

Obiano’s second term reelection victory over Obi’s PDP candidate, Oseloka Obaze, was sweet revenge for Soludo, who literally replaced Victor Umeh as Obiano’s godfather. By the time Obiano was leaving in 2021, he literally handed over APGA ticket to Soludo, who defeated Obi’s candidate, Valentine Ozigbo.

After the last election, the two had been pretending to be brothers again until Soludo lashed out in a TV interview against Obi’s legacies in Anambra State. Not done yet with the controversies that interview was generating he came out with his last letter where he accused the Labour Party presidential hopeful as a pretender.

After 14 years, a friendship that had given hope for the transformation of Anambra State has crashed to smithereens.

 

Obe, a journalist lives in Port Harcourt, Rivers State

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Opinion

Bianca Ojukwu: Never judge a book by the cover

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By Bianca Ojukwu

 

Each time I see this picture, the rather funny but sad story of this wedding cake on the left comes to mind.

I was told by a good friend, during my wedding preparations that there was a lady at Enugu that makes great wedding cakes. Infact my friend, though not familiar with the lady, offered to take me to hers.

Dressed rather casually, I decided to park my own Mercedes and I joined my friend in her own car which was a cute looking but modest Volkswagen (known as Beetle in those days) and she drove us to the cake maker’s place.

Upon our arrival, The popular cake maker, (whose name I withhold for obvious reasons) totally oblivious of my identity, took one derisive look at the car we arrived in, and was not impressed. I told her I needed her to make my wedding cake, and she started coming up with all manner of excuses.

First, she told me her cakes were very expensive and I definitely would not be able to afford it ( at 25,000 naira in those days), and offered to direct me to a cheaper cake place, stressing that she only makes cakes for important personalities ( even going ahead to drop names..such as one Union bank manager, one boutique owner, etc who in her estimation were ‘dignitaries’) but I told her that I could manage to afford it.

She then asked where the wedding was taking place and I told her it was at Abuja. She said I would have to pay for her transportation to Abuja to mount the cake and that since she only travels by air, not road, this added cost would be difficult for me to carry, to which I replied that I would pay.

She raised the issue of hotel accommodation, which I assured her, would be taken care of.

My friend kept nudging me and whispering in my ear, ‘ Tell this woman who you are so she can put a stop to these nonsense questions’, to which I replied no. I was secretly amused, albeit perplexed at that moment about human nature and social climbers, which by her attitude, this lady clearly was .

What I found surprising was that the lady herself was definitely not well off, her own car was an old Corolla, her surroundings not plush, and she was merely one of those ‘I must belong by all means’ type of people, yet she had the temerity to look down on others she considered not ‘rich’.

To cut a long story short, still not convinced that I could afford her services ( judging by my casual dressing and the modest ride, which was not even mine, meaning I probably had no vehicle of my own), she briskly discharged us both, telling me to drop my number, and that she would call me.

I dropped my number with her under my Igbo name Odinaka, and we left. I never heard from her again.

I simply took up a generous offer from the Canadian chef at the Nicon Hilton Abuja then, who was a master baker, and my gigantic multi tiered wedding cake was made at no cost at all, simply as PR to market and advertise the Hotel’s services.

The Enugu cake maker one day, just a week to the wedding, saw the television broadcasts of our impending wedding which was a big event at the time, and realised it was me who had come to her place for a wedding cake.

She flew into a panic and quickly managed to find her way to my house, and started begging, with all kinds of bland explanations, asking why I didn’t introduce myself ‘appropriately’ ( by which she meant as a ‘VIP’), and even offering to make the cake free of charge, but it was too late.

On this day, a beautiful breezy day in November 1994, it was a memorable wedding ceremony at the Nicon Noga Hilton ( Today’s Transcorp Hilton), Abuja, the first wedding event ever hosted there. And it was grand…

This life size multi step cake seen in this picture, much bigger and more lavish than any conceivable one the Enugu cake maker could ever have offered, was donated by the management of the Hilton.

The Enugu Cake maker lost a great opportunity to showcase her skills and her product since the event was telecast across the country..TV, radio, Newspapers, Magazines and every conceivable news medium with the Hilton Master Baker taking the cake credits.

This advertisement masterstroke greatly boosted the Hilton Events hosting business and facilitated countless more weddings at the same Congress Hall at Hilton. Last I heard, the Cakemaker’s business has since folded after she faced some difficulties in her business several years ago.

Moral of this true life experience is, NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY IT’S COVER. We are all human beings,created equally before God, if not before man, regardless of our status in life.

We must never relate to others based solely on who or what they are, what they have, what car they ride or how expensively or poorly they are dressed…Everyday people lose opportunities to forge valuable ties and long lasting friendships because of their snobbish outlook.

…..and best of all, when one door closes, another greater one will open by Divine mercies. I lost a molehill but  gained a mountain.

HAPPY WEDDING ANNIVERSARY TO ME AND OGA M, DIM CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU OJUKWU !

Iyom Ojukwu, was for Nigeria’s Ambassador to Switzerland 

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