I am really honoured to be here today to join friends and families in celebrating a sister and a friend of my family, Nneoma Nkechi Rochas Okorocha.
When Governor Rochas Okorocha complained that I did not attend his own birthday, but I have chosen to attend Nneoma’s birthday, I explained to him that a wife is described as a better half, so one should honour the better more than the good.
But as it is in this case, she is his much, much better half. There are people that you meet officially in the course of duties, in the course of your responsibilities, but somehow you know that even if you had met them in private circumstances or other circumstances, they will still be your friends. That is how Dolly, my wife, and I feel about the Okorochas, including their wonderful children.
I know that even if we had not met officially, in the course of our duties, we would still be great friends indeed, because of who they are and just the way that they carry on. I’m sure that all of us are forever laughing when ‘my Governor, my Governor’ decides to say whatever he wants to say.
I have always been fascinated with the quality of the philanthropy of Nneoma Nkechi Rochas Okorocha. And you will notice that I say the quality of her philanthropy because many of us do some form of philanthropy or the other; most of us want to be kind to others. But then, there are certain qualities to the sort of philanthropy that she does.
We’ll take just two examples; the She Needs a Roof Project (SNARP) – a housing project for widows and their children, and she had built several of those homes. Today, we saw a short video of how the life of one widow, and her seven children, was impacted.
There are many who give to widows, but it is a different level of depth and understanding of the needs of widows to mobilize resources to build decent homes for them. And there is no way you can do that without clearly understanding what is actually required.
The other is the Woddi Wellness and Diagnostic Centre, which we opened today – a centre that focuses on preventive approach to healthcare of especially women and children. And it’s an incredibly well equipped facility, for those of us who saw it, with high calibre staff, including her own daughter.
So, her motivation is not just a kind heart, but an understanding heart. You need a certain depth to understand the shame, deprivations and dehumanization of poverty and what to do about it.
This is a category of philanthropy which some will describe as development philanthropy, because it is philanthropy that focuses on the battered dignity of the poor by permanently empowering them, so that they can conquer not just the disability of poverty, but that they can get out of that cycle of humiliation, that cycle of being degraded, and be able to provide for themselves and make a decent living for themselves and their defendants.
I want to congratulate you, not just because you are kind, but because you are constructive about the kindness and you think about the future; you do it so well, and so easily, and it comes so easily to you.
There are many who will be famous or who are already famous, many will be VIP or VVIPs, but the truth is that not many will be great, because greatness is not by position or circumstances of birth. All of the evidence we see in history is that greatness is only given to those who serve others selflessly and sacrificially.
So, Mother Theresa was great. She held no position, but she is considered great because she served the lepers of Calcutta. Mandela is also great because he gave most of his adult life fighting against the inhuman injustices of apartheid; he served a prison sentence that lasted so many years.
So, greatness is living in the hearts of men and women, especially those who cannot pay back. That’s why I suspect that you, Nneoma, has that special quality and may you live in the hearts of men and women for long.
Just a point on the book, “My Life, His Grace”; the reviewer has just done an excellent job of that. I haven’t had a chance to read it, but I was fascinated by the topic, My Life, His Grace. Grace, as you know, means unmerited favour, an undeserved gift. This is at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is one gospel that rests on two premises; the first being that all men and women are sinners, and that no one can, by themselves, be righteous. The Bible did say it’s not possible for a person to be righteous by any kind of self-effort. The Bible is said to record not just the stories of good men and women, but the stories of bad men and women to whom God was good. I think that is so important in order to understand grace; knowing that the Almighty God, nevertheless, forgives us.
I think it is important that we bear in mind that grace comes from an acceptance of the fact that all of our sins and imperfections were already paid for by Jesus Christ.
I want to just say to you that this is just the beginning of even greater things ahead for you. So, I pray for you that the Lord God Almighty will help you, and you will find support. And as you see your children’s children, you will see them with joy and great health. And you will live with your husband for many, many more years, in joy, in peace and in health, that you will never be forgotten, and that all of your good works will be duly rewarded.