Jubilation as Archbishop Valerian Okeke fetes Onitsha Prison inmates at 63rd birthday

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MOKWUGWO SOLOMON reports that as he does yearly during his birthday celebrations, the Archbishop of Onitsha, His Grace, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke, visited the Onitsha Prisons on Thursday, October 20, 2016, where he celebrated his 2016 birthday with inmates of the prison.

There was great jubila­tion among the inmates and management of the Onitsha Federal Prison as the Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha and the Met­ropolitan of Onitsha Ec­clesiastical Province, His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Va­lerian Maduka Okeke cel­ebrated his 63rd birthday anniversary with the in­mates on Thursday, Octo­ber 20, where he splashed gift items on the inmates, celebrated Holy Mass and admonished them on life after prison terms.

It has been the prelate’s tradition to celebrate his birthdays with destitute, but this year’s event was ex­ceptional as he came with packages that was aimed at transforming the prison and its inmates.

In his homily during the Eucharistic celebration to mark the event, Archbishop Okeke tasked the inmates and the entire faithful gath­ered at the St. Maximilian Lole Chaplaincy, Onitsha Federal Prison, to imbibe the culture of gratitude and thanksgiving; stating that thanksgiving moves God into action. He added that praises and thanksgiv­ing worked wonders in the Bible times, and said that with gratitude, Christians today can equally replicate such feats.

He told the inmates that “prison room is not your fi­nal destination” but that af­ter their prison terms, they could as well, fulfill their destinies to the fullest.

“Don’t be bitter because you are here today. We have cases of prisoners who later became presidents of their countries. Nelson Man­dela became the first black president of South Africa after serving prison term of 27 years. Obasanjo became a civilian president in Ni­geria after he was released from prison; therefore, the next president could be you!

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“Thank God that you are in the prison. Here, you have the opportunity to or­ganize yourself and become better citizens”, the prelate told the inmates; adding that before his 64th birth­day, by the grace of God, he would make sure that the inmates start classes for WAEC and NECO exami­nations within the prison.

“I will also set up skills acquisition centre here very soon. Come November this year, those of you who are ready to sit for their GCE will have the opportunity to do so, because, you can­not afford not to be fully transformed while learning this place” he added.

Prof. Joe Asike, the Chief of Staff, Government House, Awka, who repre­sented Gov. Willie Obi­ano at the occasion, com­mented the Archbishop for numerous good works he has been doing, especially in assisting the state gov­ernment. He recalled that recently, the state govern­ment gave N1 million to each of the prisoners grant­ed pardon in Anambra as a way of helping them start good life; and added that the state government would do everything constitution­ally possible to transform inmates of prisons within the state.

In her own remark during the occasion, the Anambra First Lady, Mrs. Ebelechuk­wu Obiano, represented by the Hon. Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Dr. (Mrs.) Victoria Chikwelu, thanked Archbishop Va­lerian Okeke as well as the state government for their strides in developing the human person; especially what they have been do­ing to transform prisons in the state as well as their inmates.

She said that, to support the Archbishop’s birthday and assist the inmates, Mrs. Obiano sent her and her team to bring 50 tubers of yam, over 500 slippers, ten bags of rice, 30 cartons of malt drinks, several cartons of laundry and bathing soaps, 200 bags of sachet water, cartons of noodles and condiments, toilet tis­sues, etc.

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She said that the dona­tion was in line with the mission and vision of CAFÉ, the First Lady’s pet project geared towards en­suring better life for Ndi Anambra.

In his vote of thanks, Mr. Alex Odita, Deputy Con­troller of Prisons (DCP) in charge of Onitsha Prisons, said, “Archbishop Okeke is a visitor worth having in the prison because, each time he comes, he brings gifts and blessings. You come here every year for your birthday celebration.

“I thank you for your good advice to the inmates and I want to inform you that your pieces of advice had helped to transform a lot of them.

“Most of these inmates here have taken their WAEC and NECO exami­nations. Some of them are students of the National Open University. We thank God for their lives, and also thank God for you who God uses to impart posi­tively in their lives”.

The birthday celebration attracted notable clergy­men, government func­tionaries, politicians and who is who in Anambra.

– Authority

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