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The earthly journey and travails of a Saint among us

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The earthly journey and travails of a Saint among us

By Rev. Fr. Anthony Agbali

Today, a great man, and an awesome priest was laid to his final rest. I have found it very difficult in the last two weeks to write and pay a tribute to a genius and pastor, a man who lived energetically and robustly the gospel values, and tried to be priest in virtue and in deed.

In these days when the church is once again beleaguered with the issues of sexual abuses of minors and the accusations of how badly it was handled by senior church officials, even touching upon Pope Francis, lived a priest of great aura and personal discipline, robust spiritual energies, and infectious charm.

He was a living exemplar of a priest of courage and a model attesting to the possibility of priestly holiness in a decadent world, ever growing distant and severed from its divine roots and religious legacies.

He was a man of great respect and immense humility. A man who passionately gave his all in building the Kingdom, and who now has been called home to rest eternally in the immensity of the Love and Power of the God he so enormously proclaimed and served.

It is now two weeks that Rev. Fr. Fidelis Eleojo Egbunu left this world. Fr. Fide’s earthly journey had come to an end, as all of ours will each one day.

Fr. Fidelis is popularly iconic in the areas of Kogi East and the Diocese of Idah, but yet that is not all. He is known across Nigeria as a humble and good priest, and a celebrated Charismatic priest.

Fr. Fide was always known to be disciplined, cerebral, people-minded, diligent and pursued, as best as possibly can, true holiness and tried to live a sanctimonious life.

Readily, he tried to live a true and authentic human life filled with faith and humanity, and a vision for a better world here on earth and ultimately in the hereafter in heaven.

Fr. Fide’s entire life was lived in the promotion of the Kingdom. Fr. Fide was a true Marian priest, who prayed his rosary fervently. His love for the Blessed Virgin Mary knew no bounds.

The combination of his profound Marian devotion and praying the rosary and his Charismatic spirituality thoroughly anchored and grounded Fr. Fide through many adversities and life’s challenges.

Fr. Fide is a genius in many respect and a man that I have profound admirations for, even if I disagree with certain of his theological and spiritual insights, and digress on certain outlook to life and human existence.

Fr. Fide was a gift to humanity and the faith of God, and specifically to the Roman Catholic Community of Idah diocese. Fr. Fidelis, to my mind and according to my observations, he energized, revitalized and reinvigorated the Catholic and Christian faith in Igalaland and across Nigeria.

He was a highly sought after spiritual speaker, teacher, healing and deliverance minister, traveling thousands of miles between spaces, and effecting great things for the God he served without pretence- earnestly and honestly.

He was a spiritual icon, accessed by all looking for spiritual and pastoral counseling of every religion or non-religious persuasions. He was always available and compassionately ever present to all who sought his counsels.

Fr. Fide was also a solid intellectual and profoundly invested in academic scholarship, a cultural broker and a bricoleur of socio-cultural phenomena, and an ethnographic observer and ethnological savant.

Fr. Fide, both as a seminarian and as a priest, engaged the faith and wholeheartedly started a glowing spiritual movement, a rejuvenating revolution of faith that would luridly validate the core faith practices and liturgical potency inherent within the Catholic faith expression.

He vitally renewed the face and faith of the Catholic Church in Igalaland through his preaching, First Fridays and Saturdays’ devotions, Liturgical celebrations of the Eucharist, Healing and deliverance services and ministrations among others.

As a seminarian, Fr. Fide would go on apostolic work in different parishes and outstations and would awake and reawaken faith in these settings through his energetic preaching and robust apostolic zeal, that hinge upon prayers, healing and deliverance, and burning of charms, amulets, and ritual effigies.

In the aftermath of one of those apostolic work, the late Bishop Ephraim Silas Obot, once received a letter from one of the outstations Fr. Fide then as a Major Seminarian had visited and worked.

In that letter, which Bishop Obot read to us as seminarians during one of our annual seminarian reunion/seminar, the people had requested the Bishop to ordain Fide immediately as a priest. Fr. Fide was still some years away from finishing his theological education.

The late Bishop Obot wanted us to be aware of the effectiveness of a seminarian’s pastoral outreach and evangelization fervor and appreciable efforts,

Later, Fr. Fide would be ordained to the diaconate and then later the priesthood. I was at both ordinations. And I actually was the liturgical commentator and seminarian Master of Ceremonies on both occasions in Idah and Egume respectively.

From there, Fr. Fide’s public priestly ministry began following his posting to Ankpa assisting Fr. Duchene, the Canadian Spiritan priest then the pastor. It began and blossomed tremendously bearing great and much spiritual fruits that began to alter the spiritual understanding and universe of many.

Many spiritual and real changes began to unveil and occur in the lives of many parishioners and there was a tremendous transhumance of adherents from across diverse parts of Nigeria into Ankpa for his ministrations.

Not being an enthusiast and very critical I watched and analyzed these events closely without rushing to any easy and suave judgement. However, I gradually became very convinced about the real spiritual outcomes as it was evidently expressed in the palpable positive and effective transformation of lives, enriching and empowering persons to become better in every spheres of their diurnal lives.

At the time, while I was still a seminarian I had ventured into Ankpa on a Friday. Going to the parish, during the First Friday devotions, I saw a sea of humans at the church, with loads of Jerry-cans of water that they had brought there for blessings.

These events were held as vigils during which time they prayed the rosary and exposed the Blessed Sacrament for public visitation and prayers.

At these events, healing and deliverance prayers and ministrations were also conducted.

It is instructive to note that prior to this period in 1990/91 many Catholics from the Igala area, mostly Igbos, were traveling with water loads of containers to Elele to the Catholic Prayer Ministry of the Spiritan priest, Fr. Emmanuel Edeh. With Fr. Fide around many turned to him thus for blessing of water for their daily spiritual utility.

I first met Fr. Fide around 1981. This was during the annual reunion and seminar for Minor and Major Seminarians and the Aspirants to the Priesthood.

Fr. Fide was then a student about to finish his secondary education from the Government Secondary School, Dekina. I was then a second year minor seminarian, from Saint James’ Minor Seminary, Kanshio, Makurdi (now relocated to Yandev, Gboko diocese).

At the time, Fr. Fide was aspiring to the priesthood. My first observation was that he was very fervent and spiritually in-depth. Initially, cavalierly most of us from the seminary took it to be a ‘bug of the enthusiast unfamiliar;’ in variance with the routine prayers –and at times taken for granted and even considered boring to quickly get over with! But Fide always barked at such ideations and vehemently opposed it!

Later, around August 1982 at the First Mass of Rev. Fr. Simeon Alih Adejoh in Awo Akpali—Fr. Simeon had been ordained by the late St. Pope John Paul II during his February 1982 visit to Kaduna, Nigeria, while Fr. Simeon and his mate were yet to round off their seminary formation months later—five candidates about to enter their seminary formation were introduced to applause.

The five candidates were: John Attai Abuh (Egume), Reuben Ahmodu [Obia] (Awo-Akpali/Ogbagbala), Martin Amadi (Idah/Owerri), Fidelis Eleojo Egbunu (Egume), and Simon-Peter Ojidu (Imane). This was the first time in the history of the diocese that such number would be entering en mass in a single entry class into the seminary.

Awo-Akpali people were so elated and shared that it was no surprise given that alongside the celebration of the day, that the two Egume candidates were equally their kin as the descendants of Awo-Akpali were hunters and farmers that emigrated from Egume! All admitted five entered the St. Augustine’s Major Seminary Jos weeks later in late August 1982.

Fr. Fidelis and the late Fr. Reuben Ahmodu, out of the five in 1984 went on one pastoral year in the diocese, leaving the remaining three—John Abuh, Martin Amadi, and Simon Peter Ojidu– to continue their priestly formation in the seminary.

The pastoral year was considered a vital process for priestly formation and so Fr. Fide was assigned to the Saint Boniface Cathedral, Idah to work with the Rev. Frs. Blondin Beaulieu, CSSp, and Joseph Ali Abah.

Fide worked hard and diligently. He was beloved for his personal and spiritual discipline, enriching prayer life, home visitations and interactions with parishioners, and organized many spiritual programmes at the Cathedral. He supervised and coached us then as Altar Servers.

My parents adopted him as their son. I got very close to him as I was discerning yet with enormous distractions a vocation to the priestly life. This was a critical point in my discernment process and as a youth with multiple aspirations and draw, I needed cogent insights.

I gravitated toward “The Seminarian”—Fr. Fide. He was gentle, supportive and urged me to engage in praying, especially to the Blessed Virgin Mary. One occasion, one evening he invited me to join him in praying the rosary. We prayed the rosary around the Cathedral Church. It was beautiful, yet there was a problem.

After the first five decades, I thought the rosary would come to an end. Fide started another five decades, then another five decades. For the first time in my life, I’ve prayed the fifteen decades of the Most Holy Rosary. Fide had brought me to a new spiritual height. Yes! Lovely, but I was in violation of my curfew!

Dad had a 7:00pm latest time curfew, it was well after 7pm. On my mind was: what would dad say or do? At the time, I didn’t even want to hear him get on my case. But I was also growing much horns too at the time, very stubborn and troublesome!

Surprisingly, on this same evening I came back home, and with trepidation and palpitations as dad was siting outside reclining, but never asked or said a word! It was a refreshing evening of prayers and no disturbance!

Yes, me! As a High School Senior in Saint Peter’s College, Idah, I was becoming too naughty, I craved it and wanted to be so recognized! The folly of youth! Sometimes now, I laugh at those stupendous stupidity that characterized and marked my life.

But about this I was open to The Seminarian, who guided and prodded me accordingly. Without been overbearing, he normally guided me and reminded me of certain vital truths, and I always respected his perspectives. Fide was young but maturely grounded.

At the end of the pastoral year, we the Altar Servers raised funds and had a send-fortb for Fide, our hardworking and ardent Seminarian that had inspired us all.

Sadly, during the 1985 annual seminarian reunion/seminar–which I had also attended for the selfish reasons of reconnecting with my former classmates from St. James because at the time I was focused upon joining the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) if I selected going for the priesthood—Fide was informed by the late Bishop that he wouldn’t be returning to the Major Seminary, but would be repeating another year of pastoral year at the St. Kizito Minor Seminary, Iyegwu, Idah.

The assumed reason was that he “prays too much”—and of course, it was then observed that excess of everything without a balance was not good! Many years later, following upon a discussion, while the late Bishop was visiting me in 2006 in Saint Louis, Missouri, he offered a much clearer reason warranting this decision.

Of course, certain concerns were raised regarding Fide’s spiritual orthodoxy from multiple sources that demanded the bishop to exercise diligent caution and be more evaluative observant.

Normally, this was devastating to Fide, and even more to many parishioners, including my parents who have somewhat adopted Fide as their son! The question raged: “Why should being prayerful become a problem, are priests not supposed to be prayerful?” Others attributed this to jealousy as Fide’s spiritual lifestyle may be at variance with some of his detractors.

Yet, Fide took all of these in his strides and pointed to a quote that he long had hanging over his bed: “ A Man’s destiny can only be delayed, it can never be destroyed.”
(To be continued)/

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Opinion

Sule Lamido and the International Day for PLWD

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Sule Lamido and the International Day for PLWD

By: Adamu Muhd Usman

December 3rd, was set aside every year as International Day of People Living With Disabilities (PLWD). The annual observance of the International Day for PLWD was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

Wow!!! Sule Lamido is a blessed person, he is also an institution because of his wisdom, passion and uprightness to putting everything in place for the PLWDs in his state when he was the governor of Jigawa state. While this is a package for a country or nation to adopt, but a state governor implemented it and was successful because it yielded fruitful results. Sule Lamido a man of wisdom.

Lamido’s attitude of showing appreciation, concern, encouragement, emparthy and care for the physically challenged persons has been part and parcel of him because when he (Lamido) was the governor of Jigawa state he initiated a special package whereby 100 physically challenged persons were selected from each of the 27 Local government areas in the state and were given monthly security allowance (stipend) which improve their standards of living and also the scheme reduced unemployment and halted begging on the streets across the state.

Because of the importance of the PLWDs Lamido gave them the opportunity to aspire and contest for elective positions in the state. There was even a time when a state assembly seat (Dutse constituency) was won by a cripple during his administration.

During his tenure, Lamido appointed as Special Assistants (S.A) Physically challenged persons to give them sense of belonging in the state .

There were also laws enacted during his administration that mandated free medical care and free education from primary school to all levels of education (university) for the People Living With Disability in the state.
The PLWD were entitled to all opportunities given to any state indigene. They were even given priority or special attention in so many respects than the normal persons.

Thank you Lamido. May God Almighty reward you abundantly. I wish you well, I wish you all the best. A true democrat, a reliable politician, nation-political-bridge-bulider and a liberal, dedicated and committed leader per excellence.

Adamu writes from Kafin-Hausa Jigawa state.

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Opinion

RAMP and Nigeria rural roads

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RAMP and Nigeria rural roads

By Ahmed Mohammed

The Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP 2) is a six-year World Bank project focused on the rehabilitation of rural roads and associated capacity building of institutions mandated to provide and maintain rural transport infrastructure. The project commenced in February 2014 and operates in six states: Adamawa, Enugu, Niger, Osun, Imo and Cross-River.

The objectives of the project include increasing the share of the population with access to an all-season road, increasing the share of the total classified roads in good and fair condition and increasing the number of roads receiving adequate levels of maintenance. There is no doubt that the programme has greatly assisted in transforming the rural settings, creating access and expanding frontiers in areas hitherto inaccessible.

In Niger State which has the highest landmass in Nigeria and equally higher number of hard to reach communities, the programme has become the fulkrum that drives the state government’s rural transformation policies aimed at creating economic and social equality among the urban, semi-urban and their most rural counterparts.

The past two phases of the tripartite programme focused on rehabilitation of rural roads , community based road maintenance and annual mechanized maintenance and project management and strengthening of state and federal road sector institutional , policy, and regulatory framework.

Through the RAMP activities coordinated by Hassan Etsu 391 communities across the state have benefited. The efforts show that 519kilometers of roads have been constructed with about 230 km targeted for surface dressing on going.

The breakdown shows that 117 kilometers were constructed in the first phase, while 402 kilometers including 30 river crossing bridges were put in place in the ongoing effort to improve movement of people and goods within and outside the rural communities especially in the hard to reach areas.

Some of the roads to include Wuya Suma – Lemu , Mokwa – Jaagi, -Kudu, Sabon Wuse-Ijah Gbagyi, Sullu –Tafa, Suleja-Abuchi-IzomAuna –Tungajika-Shafini, Wawa-Malali, in the first phase with the projects were completed and handed over to the state project implementation unit.

Key bridges such as Maza Kuka, Adogon Mallam, Ibeto-Gyengi, Gganran sagi, Ragadawa-Baban dogo, Kutriko-Salawu Cikan, Mukugi- Ajitupa, Eyangi-Liman , Wuya- Kanti, Emi egimazi, Dabban, Sabon Daga, NAkpankuchi river, Maikera- Beji Labude among others were constructed.

According to the coordinating office a total of N9 billion have been spent cumulatively within the first and second phases of the programme. This is aside the N6 billion approved by the state government for surface dressing of 230 kilometres of the rural roads earlier constructed under RAMP .

At the flag off of the surface dressing of the Izom-Abuchi-Suleja road recently, he Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, who was represented by Commissioner of Agriculture Hon Zakeri Jikantoro at the event, spoke on the reasons why the state government has to go out of its way to release extra funds to aid the programme, saying the move was to ensure that the quality of the rural roads were upgraded to withstand the volume of traffic.

According to the governor, the traffic on the roads become unprecedented beyond what the earthen roads can withstand, necessitating urgent steps to upgrade the roads. ” This has prompted the state government to engage surface dressing of these roads to increase their durability in serving the people. We have to do this to ensure that the huge investment in constructing the earthen roads does not go down the drains,” he had opined.

This intervention was in addition to 169km of rural roads that were also rehabilitated under the Spot Improvement and Annual Mechanized Maintenance Intervention of the World Bank (WB) and French Development Agency (AFD) co-financed initiative to improve transportation in the Rural areas.

It must be noted that six roads earmarked for surface dressing have the potential for high volume of traffic and are spread across the three-geo-political zones of the state.

The affected roads were Suleja – Abuchi- Izom road , Wuya Suman – Lemu road, Old Gawu – Farindoki road, Kampanin Bobi- Bangi road, Kutigi- Tashan Hajiya road and Wuya Kanti – EtsuTasha road

These efforts are estimated to cost the state government the sum N6,067,554,358.34 and the cumulative result of the government’s back up initiative is that the implementation of Rural Access Mobility Projects II (RAMP2) programmes has reduced rural mortality by 60 percent.

Jikantoro himself confirmed the feat at forum, stating that the mortality rate has been reduced by 60 percent in intervention areas because many communities can now access secondary and tertiary health facilities due to availability of roads constructed by RAMP 2.

According to him , the benefits of the programme included the construction and rehabilitation of 176km roads in the first phase and 403 km roads in the second phase of the project, adding that the programme has greatly assisted in the economic empowerment of the rural dwellers by enhancing movement of farm produce to markets.

It is really gratifying that governor Bello has continued to meet the state’s counterpart obligations through realy releases of funds for the project and also assured of the state government’s commitment towards punctual release of the same as the project enters the third phase.

The National Coordinator of RAMP, Engineer Ubandoma Ularamu had always commended the state for taking the best position in the successful implementation of RAMP projects in the country, acknowledging that there has been unprecedented growth in agriculture in the state. I therefore urge the state government to continue to support the programme to enable more communities to benefit from it.

It is because of this feat that he assures that the state will be enlisted to again participate in the New RAMP that will commence soon.

Overall, the project has so far constructed over 600km rural roads and has empowered the local capacities through the community based rural roads maintenance model which entails the engagement of the rural people along the corridors of rural roads rehabilitated by the project thereby creating employment opportunities in the state.

The project also intends to institutionalize rural roads maintenance activities, management and funding as part of its deliverables and making it last beyond the implementation period of 2020 .

With Participating States of Niger, Osun, Enugu, Adamawa and Imo states and Donor fund: USD60million(IDA:45M, AFD:15M Niger state has indeed trail the blaze to open the rural areas.

The Special Adviser political and strategy Alhaji Mohammed Nma Kolo whose office has been monitoring the progress in the implementation of the project noted that the success story has indeed changed the political dynamics in the Rural areas.

To him, the success has further increased the confidence of the people in the government and the desire of the government to change their lives for better.

Mohammed is of the office of Special Adviser Political to Niger State Governor.

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Opinion

TRUMP WASN’T BAD AFTER ALL

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TRUMP WASN’T BAD AFTER ALL
By Frank Tietie
Preceding the American Presidential elections, in October, 2020, I was invited to join a Zoom Meeting hosted by Nigerian-Americans who had the right to vote in the US elections.

Listening to both sides of the argument between the supporters of incumbent President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, I became persuaded that Trump would be better for the USA as a second term President. He probably earned it.

I got to know how much Trump revived the American economy and subsequently created an unprecedented number of jobs for people of African descent in pre-COVID times.

In that Zoom Meeting, Trump was said to have stood up against bare faced official hypocrisy and corruption in Washington. Also, he ensured funding for Black colleges and did many more revolutionary yet, positive things for the Black American community.

I was impressed with reasons given why Black celebrities like Ice Cube, Lil Wayne, 50 Cents, Kanye West and many others support Trump. They do acknowledge that he talks ‘trash’ but they claim that he is sincere, makes things happen and does exactly what he promises. Ice Cube said that Trump represents the American spirit of freedom and success.

Later that week, I was privileged to be interviewed by a correspondent of the Voice of America (VOA) on why Nigerians took interest in the US Presidential elections. I was not allowed to mention a preferred candidate. So I told the VOA that Nigerians somehow believe that the USA is a very powerful country and that whoever became its president would determine interests in such matters as Nigerian immigration to the USA and regional security in Africa.

Also, I got to know that Joe Biden, in his 47 year career in government has done more harm to the Black people in America by enacting a law that has put a large number of black men in prison compares to any other people of different racial backgrounds.

Many Nigerians hated the Trump presidency because of its tough stance on preventing immigration to the US, from certain countries in the Middle East and Africa. But you can’t take it from Trump that he minded American interests and didn’t care what the world thought about him. He said after all, that “America First!”. Who can really say: Nigeria First?

Really, how can a Nigerian hate Trump for building a wall to prevent illegal migration when South Africa whose liberation from Aparthied, that was literally paid for by Nigeria, yet it chose as a people to systematically chase away Nigerian immigrants from South Africa? That country has exhibited the worst yet, most undeserving form of xenophobia against Nigerians. We shall never forget so quickly.

How can Nigerians blame Trump for building a wall? Everyday, many Nigerians, especially from Southern Nigeria cry on both the social media and traditional media that the government of President Buhari is allowing Fulanis from all over Africa to easily move into Nigeria in order to cause mayhem, carry out land grabs and change the demographics of native Nigerian communities with the plan to dominate and take over Nigeria. What then do you have against a president who wants to define the citizenship of his country by preventing illegal migration?

On LGBT. I don’t have anything against gay, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgender (LGBT) persons. So I don’t have any apologies for defending their rights whether in court or in public because they are human. But I sincerely believe that there is something is wrong with them!

Firstly, humbly, as a liberal-conservative, with values that are shaped by African trado-cultural beliefs and Judeo-Christian indoctrination, I will never promote LGBT lifestyles. Also, I do not support abortion and same sex marriage. Very many Nigerians share this same position with me yet they support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris who are staunch promoters of LGBT culture.

Both Biden and Harris have officially conducted same sex marriages in America. The Catholic church once rebuked Biden for his support for same sex marriages. How would Nigerians want those kind of leaders over themselves?

The Democrat led US government of Barrack Obama and Joe Biden scolded Nigeria for enacting the Same Sex Prohibition Act. They so hated former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan and refused to sell arms to him, to fight boko haram. They mobilized resources against Jonathan’s re-election and sent John Kerry to execute their plan. It is not that they love Buhari, they just hated Jonathan. They didn’t know that their hate for Jonathan was akin to hate for Nigeria. These were the same people who had always wished that Nigeria gets into a political conflict. They even went ahead to predict that Nigeria would break up in 2015. Frankly, I don’t like US democrats!

Alas! Trump became US president and invited Buhari to the United States and unconditionally agreed to sell arms to Nigeria, to fight boko haram. Against political correctness, he inquired of the Nigerian President why he was allowing the killing and persecution of Christians in his country. Yet someone wonders why some Nigerian Christians hold street processions for Trump in Nigeria?

Many Nigerians do not understand the issues in US politics and like I told the VOA correspondent, many Nigerians take interest in American politics, particularly with regards to who becomes the US president, wishing their own country could have such powerful and influential persons running things in Nigeria at the highest level of governance.

Really, who would Nigerians prefer to be President of Nigeria? A Trump or a Biden?

Frank Tietie,
Human Rights Lawyer
writes from Abuja

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