By Nwachukwu Livinus
The Imo state Network of Professionals (INP) on Friday last week hearkened to the age-long maxim: ‘Give honour to whom honour is due‘ as they honoured the immediate past Minister of State, Foreign Affairs and Education, Prof. Viola Adaku Onwuliri in grand style.
The event held at the Immaculate Royal Hotel Owerri and was well attended by dignitaries across the Southeast, the academia, women and student groups.
In her opening remark, the Chairman of the planning committee, Dr Pat Nwamuo, remarked that the body (INP) which is a component of South East Network of Professionals, is a body of professionals of different works of life whose objectives is, among other things, identifying men, women, organizations and groups who have made use of their God-given talents and resources for the benefit of mankind and development of the society. She said that Prof Onwuliri had; within four years as Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, and Education respectively; demonstrated superlative performance by making tangible and verifiable impact under the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, attaining long, national and global heigths in major areas of diplomatic communications. She also hinted how her application of diplomatic niceties as Minister of State in Education helped to reduce the tension in that ministry including the resolution of the six-month-long ASUU strike and that of the Polytechnic which virtually became intractable and a nightmare for the Federal Government.
She remarked that the Professor also contributed largely to the establishment of the first Private University in Imo State- Hezekiah University- and capped it all by ensuring that the 52 year old Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education was upgraded to a University with all its countless benefits accruable to the people of South East; hence the award of meritorious service to her.
In his remark, the Chairman of the event, Prof. Joe Ahaneku, Vice Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, represented by Prof. Polycap Chigbu, Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, congratulated Professor Onwuliri on the well deserved honour and thanked all who came to celebrate her.
Also speaking, the erstwhile Speaker of the National Assembly, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, represented by Hon. Chuma Nnaji, said that the PDP is very proud of the celebrant for her achievements.
The immediate past Deputy Governor of Enugu State, who represented the Governors of the South East, Pastor Ifeanyi Nwoye, described the celebrant as noble, virtuous, industrious, and kind. He asked God to guide her to do more exploits.
Those in the academia were not left out as several personalities, staff and students of Federal University of Technology, Owerri and Alvan Ikoku Federal University of Education took turns to pour encomiums on her. Speaking, the Vice Chancellor of Alvan Ikoku Federal University of Education, Prof Sadiq Abubakar praised Professor Onwuliri for her role in upgrading the institution to a University and her personal encouragement to him to assume duty as the new Vice Chancellor of the University. He pledged to nurture the institution to greater heights. The Students Union President of the institution, Comrade Okafor Solomon, felicitated with the Professor and thanked her for ensuring that ALVAN is made a University, stating that the feat has made him the pioneer SUG President of the University. He described her as role model, mother in a million, and great achiever.
While praying for the celebrant, Bishop Stanford Nwogu, of Praise Center, and the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), asked God to continue to guide and use the celebrant to do more exploits, declaring that she is yet to reach her zenith.
Professional groups from the academia included: ASUU, SSANU, NAT and NASU graced the occasion. Security agencies were not left behind as Col. MT Duruwaiye, Chief of Staff, 34 Artillery Brigade, Obinze led his men to the occasion.
Different women groups including the Anioma Women, Amuzi Women Association, Imo Women Alliance, the Moslem Women, FUTO Women Association, Imo Widows Association, etc took turns to sing and dance with the celebrant, while some gave her presents.
In her speech, the visibly elated Viola, thanked all present and the organizers of the event especially Dr. Chuks Osuji for his ingenuity in putting up such elaborate ceremony to honour her. She enjoined the Igbo to always be proud to speak their language in order not to shortchange themselves, as Igbo language is the only language among the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria that is going down. The eloquent Professor admitted that though her party was no longer in power, she will continue to identify with her great party. She stated, however that President Buhari means well for Nigeria, otherwise President Goodluck will not concede defeat. She thanked the PDP, President Goodluck Jonathan, her family and her late husband, Prof Celestine Onwuliri for making great impact in her life and observed a minute silence for her late husband who died in the ill-fated DANA Air crash in June 2012.
In a vote of thanks, the Special Coordinator of the event, Dr. Chuks Osuji congratulated the celebrant and thanked her for accepting and honoruing the invitation.
High point of the event was the presentation of Award of Excellent and Meritorious Service to Prof Viola Onwuliri and her thrilling dance to native songs and drum beats.
See pictures from the event below