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SAM EGWU: The governor who forgot his birthday

Posted by By Onyekachi Eni on 2005/07/07 | Views: 607 |

SAM EGWU: The governor who forgot his birthday

When the ageless English Literary sage William Shakespeare told the world in his play, As You Like It, that the world is a stage and that all men and women are mere actors who have their exits and entrances, it marked not only a profound understanding of the complex impulses that inform human conduct, it also embodied an eternal explanation for individual differences.

When the ageless English Literary sage William Shakespeare told the world in his play, As You Like It, that the world is a stage and that all men and women are mere actors who have their exits and entrances, it marked not only a profound understanding of the complex impulses that inform human conduct, it also embodied an eternal explanation for individual differences.

If men and women are mere actors in the drama of life, then we do not need to look too far to understand why a particular thing may be of great importance to one person and yet seem utterly trivial to another. And so it is with human desires and inclinations. A good example is the issue of birthday celebrations. A few days ago, the Governor of Ebonyi State Dr. Sam Egwu added one more year to his total age count. He turned 51.

As has become the norm in Nigeria’s socio-cultural scene, the birthday of a “big man” is usually a fitting occasion for merry making and loud celebrations. It was not surprising therefore that as Egwu’s 51st birthday drew nearer, many people were on the lookout for some kind of national convocation of the low and the mighty to celebrate the life of one of Nigeria’s most distinguished leaders. Many waited for Egwu to give the signal for the big celebration to begin.

In keeping with the Egwu administration’s policy of observing a special prayer session at the beginning of every working week in all government establishments in Ebonyi State, the Governor headed for the Government House Chapel Abakaliki that Monday morning to lead the prayers. Remarkably, that particular Monday coincided with Egwu’s 51st birthday anniversary proper. As most top government functionaries were present at the event, many thought that the Governor will use the occasion to say when his birthday party will hold. At the end of the prayer session, the entire congregation took up a special birthday song in honour of Governor Egwu. At the rendition of the final stanza of the birthday song, Egwu was finally moved to say something. And he surprised his audience.

He said he was touched by the thoughtfulness and good wishes of the congregation and the entire people of Ebonyi State. He then proceeded to reveal that he actually forgot that the day was his birthday. As it turned out, since Egwu forgot that the day was his birthday anniversary, nobody needed to be told that no special birthday arrangements had been made and that the day will simply pass like any other day in the life of this 51-year- old. Hear Egwu: “I want to thank you and all Ebonyi people for your love, good wishes and kind prayers. I would like to confess that until you sang the birthday song, I did not remember that today is my birthday. I want to give God the glory for what He has done in my life and for the little we have done in the service of our people”.

As if to underscore the fact that his life and birthday only have meaning if devoted to rendering service to God and man, Egwu proceeded to give the congregation an outline of his busy schedule for the day and thanked everybody for attending the morning prayer. That was vintage Egwu! His disarming humility, commitment to service delivery and compassionate spirit have become a cumulative challenge to public office holders. Apart from Ebonyi people who adore their Governor for his candour and exemplary leadership, Egwu has also won himself numerous admirers all over the country.

In Nigeria, those in Egwu’s clan who refuse to be engrossed in birthday convivia and ostentation are rather few. In this tiny clan belong the inimitable Senior Advocate of the Masses Gani Fawehinmi and the literary juggernaut Prof. Wole Soyinka, among others. While it is important to point out that there is nothing patently wrong in the celebration of one’s birthday, what is of great concern to many sober minds is the volume of waste and material vulgarity, which frequently attend the birthday celebrations of many top government functionaries. Within the current democratic dispensation for instance, many highly placed public officers across the country, have been seized by the popular “Owambe psychology” to the extent that President Olusegun Obasanjo has had cause to decry their insensitivity in the face of the hunger and poverty in the land.

At this juncture, it is essential to point out that the significance of Sam Egwu’s confession about forgetting his birthday lies not merely in the unwillingness to celebrate but in his recognition that there are more pressing matters of public welfare to which state resources are better applied. To the numerous people who have constantly asked the question as to the secret behind the Ebonyi success story, Egwu’s attitude to wasteful celebrations provides part of the answer. Given that Ebonyi State receives the lowest statutory allocation from the Federation Account, the on-going transformation of the state would not have been possible without Egwu’s personal low profile, genuine passion for development and commitment to prudence in resource application.

Although Egwu prefers to celebrate his 51st birthday in contemplative meditation, his admirers can still make the anniversary memorable. For Ebonyi people, their special birthday gift to their Governor is to remain steadfast in their support to his administration, and to fully embrace his philosophy of reform and ethical re-engineering. In the past few weeks, Egwu has agonized over the fact that some unpatriotic elements have tended to devalue the gains of his agro-industrial initiatives.

For instance, he has decried the large scale stealing of fertilizers from the recently established State Fertilizer Blending Plant at Onuebonyi as well as the recent stealing of money from the ultra-modern Nkaliki Poultry Farm, which went into production not too long ago. Egwu has vowed to fish out and punish such enemies of progress. The negative attitude of some civil and public servants in the state has also remained a source of worry to Egwu. Only last week, he undertook an unscheduled visit to Ishielu East Local Government Area where he ordered the suspension of all the absentee heads of departments who constitute bad examples to their subordinates. He has always insisted that it is both immoral and criminal for anybody to collect salary without working for it. At this season of Egwu’s 51st birthday anniversary, attitude change will be a good gift to the man.

On the part of other Nigerian leaders, the birthday gift they can give Egwu is to emulate his sense of mission, exemplary character and unimpeachable integrity so that the concept of leadership as service will become a national creed. Above all, those who love Egwu must support him with prayers. Happy birthday Dr. Sam Ominyi Egwu. May your days be long!

• Onyekachi Eni wrote from Abakaliki

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Comments (3)

Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown