The flag-off of the Centenary Birthday Anniversary for Rt. Hon. Michael Iheonukara Okpara, a powerful politician, nationalist and Premier of former Eastern Region of Nigeria, from 1959 to 1966, will hold on September 30 in Umuahia, Abia State.
The event will officially flag-off series of other activities lined up to immortalise the great administrator, who was born on December 25, 1920 and died on December 17, 1984.
The flag-off programme will feature three key events: a leadership award presentation to the Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu; a public presentation of the authorised biography of Michael Okpara; and the unveiling of prototype design of Michael Okpara Leadership Centre in Umuahia.
Organisers of the event, Michael Okpara Foundation and Verbatim News Network Limited, said on Wednesday in a statement jointly signed by Chief Uzodinma Okpara (Omekannaya), son of Dr. Okpara, on behalf of Michael Okpara Foundation, and Tobs Agbaegbu, Chief Executive Officer of Verbatim News Network Limited, that the Okpara Centenary programme and activities are meant to immortalise the patriot, elder statesman of repute and uncommon administrator, under whose tenure as Premier the Eastern Region of Nigeria was quoted as being one of the fastest growing economies in the world between November 1959 and January 1966.
The Committee explained that the Governor of Abia State was elated that Umuahia, Abia State capital, was chosen for the project flag off ceremony out of many towns and state capitals in the present South East and South South geopolitical zones that fall under the Eastern Region at the time.
The Committee pointed out that the Centenary Programme will climax in a very big and historic event before the end of the year 2020, when a Centenary Anniversary lecture will take place and a cross section of notable Nigerian leaders and institutions will be honoured and decorated with the Okpara Leadership award.
Among those that will receive the Okpara Leadership Award (posthumous heroes’ award) include former Military Governor of the Eastern Region, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu; and first Civilian Governor of old Imo State, Chief Sam Mbakwe.
In addition, one of Nigeria’s few surviving nationalists, a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi; Engr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, founder and publisher of Champion Newspapers; and Dr. Peter Odili, former Governor of Rivers State, are listed to receive Lifetime Achievement Award.
Others who will also receive Okpara Leadership Awards are: Nigeria’s former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan; and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, for Gold Medal Award.
Also 10 Governors from various parts of the country as well as Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra State; Chief Timipre Silva, Minister of State, Petroleum; Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; and President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo: for Exemplary Leadership award.
Highly distinguished legislators and political actors were also listed to receive awards.
These include Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, former Senate President; Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, former Senate Leader; Dr. Godwin Maduka, founder of Las Vegas Institute of Pain and Medical Research; High Chief Obiora Okonkwo, Chairman of the Dome Entertainment Centre, Abuja; and Engr. Chidi Izuwah, the Director General, Infrastructural Concession and Regulatory Commission.
Dr. Okpara was a medical doctor and former member of Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly on the ticket of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons.
Okpara was credited with running one of the world’s fasted growing economies based on agriculture and industrialisation.
He was known to be a courageous leader who led by example and no probe ever found fault with his administration.
He replaced Rt. Hon. Nnamdi Azikiwe as Premier of the region and served in that capacity from November 1959 to January 1966.
While alive, he received the award of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, one of Nigeria’s highest honours, in 1964.
A native of Umuegwu-Okpuola, Afugiri, Umuahia North Local Government Area, in present day Abia State, Okpara died in December 1984.