By Abuchi Onwumelu
The Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, His Lordship Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, has joined millions of Nigerians across the country to congratulate the Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha and the Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace Most Rev. Valerian Maduka Okeke who marked his 65 birthday on Saturday, 20 October, 2018.
Bishop Ezeokafor who gave the congratulatory message at St. Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, Awka, described Archbishop Okeke as a true shepherd of the flock, noting that Archbishop Okeke’s examplary lifestyle had endeared him to the people’s hearts.
The chief shepherd of Awka Catholic Diocese said that Archbishop Okeke had contributed and still contributing towards spreading of Christ’s teachings and message on earth, even as he thanked God for the gift of Archbishop Okeke.
According to Bishop Ezeokafor, Archbishop Okeke had championed prisons reform in Nigeria and had also made it a point of duty to always visit and ameliorate the plights of the Onitsha prisons inmates, especially during Easter and Christmas celebrations as well as on his birthday.
‘Archbishop Okeke kind disposition is indescribable. We thank God for him. He is a gift to the Universal Church and Christianity in general,’ Bishop Ezeokafor said.
The Catholic prelate while congratulating Archbishop Okeke prayed God to continue to guide, sustain and protect him.
For his part, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate for 2019 Anambra South Senatorial Election, Hon. Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu (Ikukuoma), also eulogized the Catholic Archbishop.
In statement signed by Prince Ukachukwu, MFR and made available to newsmen in Awka, Ikukuoma, described the celebrant as a great Soldier of Christ, Moulder of Men and Worker of Benevolence.
His words, ‘I will like to celebrate God’s love and kindness to all of us, evidenced by your creation to serve Him and Humanity at this material time.
‘Your astute belief in the teachings of Christ on Love and Charity as well as your practical commitment to these teachings, presents a worthy model for emulation by men of God, the world over.
‘As you add a new year today, it is my earnest prayer that God who called you will continue to empower you with good health, wisdom and knowledge to continue to shepherd His flock aright.
‘A very Happy Birthday to you His Grace and may your kind increase,’ statement read.
Also congratulating the Archbishop was the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, candidate for the 2019 Idemili North House of Assembly election, Hon. Chiekwu Ifeanyi Arthur.
Addressing newsmen in his country home, Umuoji, in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, the APGA’s standard bearer, described Archbishop Okeke as a selfless pastor, saying that the celebrant’s kind disposition could not be quantified.
The APGA’s candidate expressed gratitude to God for the gift of the Archbishop, emphasizing that the Catholic prelate frequent visit to the Onitsha prisons was a pointer to the fact that he (Archbishop Okeke) actually cared about the well being of the inmates, adding that the Catholic prelate had continued to live for others.
Hon. Chiekwu thanked Archbishop for building and handing over of a multi-million naira skill acquisition centre to the management of Onitsha Prisons, describing the gesture as a noble one.
‘Archbishop Okeke has continued to surprise all of us. I heard he visited Onitsha Prisons today. I also heard he built and handed over to them a multi-million skill acquisition centre for the training of the inmates. He is such a selfless pastor,’ Chiekwu said.
Hon. Chiekwu popularly called Money man by his numerous supporters and admirers, stated that Archbishop Okeke had gone beyond presenting of material and cash gifts to the Onitsha prisons inmates, noting that the Catholic prelate had touched many lives positively through his humanitarian apostolate.
The soft spoken politician while congratulating the Archbishop prayed God to continue to guide and protect him.