By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba
Obeledu in Anaocha LGA of Anambra State on July 24 and 25, 2021, played host to many church leaders, captains of industry, politicians, professionals and other dignitaries from various parts of Nigeria and beyond. It was on the occasion of the grand 80th birthday celebration of the Obeledu-born renowned philanthropist and MD/CEO of Water and Dam Services Company (WADSCO), Dr Josephat Kanayo Okoye, KSS, KSM, FNSE, fondly known as Dr JK Okoye.
Fides gathered that the celebrant who is also known as Ezeani Onwanetiliora Obeledu, Akaoma Jide Aku Obeledu and Dike Eji Eje Mba Anaocha due to his numerous contributions to human, community and church development, is a major benefactor of the Old Catholic Diocese of Awka.
He has contributed majorly to the building of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Awka; Uzondu Microfinance Bank; Archbishop A.K. Obiefuna Retreat Pastoral and Conference Centre, Okpuno; Bishop’s Retirement Home, Awka; St Paul’s Catholic Church Obeledu; the ongoing Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Obeledu and the ongoing Peter University project, where he is said to be a great motivator.
It was also gathered that the octogenarian was a first class student throughout his primary, secondary and university levels, as well as the first person that bagged a degree and a PhD in Water Resources Engineering Services in Nigeria.
People at the event celebrated the octogenarian as a man of integrity and character, a man of many parts, a kind and compassionate father and philanthropist, who has value for his family, humanity and society.
The celebrant was said to have empowered many needy people and many youths through his four Non-Governmental Organisations which included Okwuanyionu Scholarship Programme (OSP), Okwuanyionu Poverty Alleviation Programme (OPAP) and Okwuanyionu Skill Acquisition Programme (OSAP).
The visibly joyous octogenarian, Dr J.K. Okoye, at the celebration, said the event was in thanksgiving to God for the gift of life and the many blessings he (God) blessed him with at 80. He thanked God for the gift of his wife, Dorothy; his two sons, Chieze and Uchenna; his daughters-in-law; five grandchildren and many relations.
Ezeani Onwanetiliora said, ‘I do not want the many people who filled the church to the brim to come and eat food and kill cows when I will be six feet down. I want to be part of eating of the food.
He continued, ‘I organized the event in celebration of life and thanksgiving to God. Let us kill the cows and goats, eat and drink together. You can still come and eat when I will be gone. But it is important we celebrate life together. Thank you very much for gracing the occasion to eat and drink with me.
If I call you again, please come. I thank God for the blessed life he gave me at 80. By God’s grace I will celebrate 90, 100 years and above.’
On the choice of his home town, Obeledu, for the celebration, Okoye, who is also Board Chairman, Uzondu Microfinance Bank of Awka Diocese, said it was because he liked to think home. According to him, he had every reason to give back to Obeledu for making him what he was.
The concelebrated thanksgiving Mass to mark the birthday celebration at St Paul’s Catholic Church, Obeledu, on Saturday, July 24, was led by the Emeritus Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan.
The concelebrants were the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor; the Catholic Bishop of Okigwe Diocese, Most Rev Solomon Amanchukwu Amatu; the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Most Rev Godfrey Onah; the Catholic Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese, Most Rev Peter Ebere Okpaleke; the Auxiliary Bishop of Abuja Diocese, Most Rev Anselm Umorem, MSPN (who also represented the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Archdiocese, Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama) and the Auxiliary Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Jonas Benson Okoye, alongside over 200 reverend fathers.
In his homily, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, thanked God for the healthy life he blessed the celebrant with.
He described the celebration as worthwhile, noting that it was necessary for people to appreciate God for the gift of life and the blessings they received.
Pointing out that the celebrant lost his father when he was two weeks old, and grew from grass to grace due to hard work, Bishop Ezeokafor described the event as a celebration of tenacity, hard work and commitment.
The Catholic prelate commended Dr Okoye for what he described as his impressive think home philosophy, saying that such was why he had maintained a good connection with his home town, irrespective of the fact that he was based in USA and Abuja. He appreciated him for his commitment to the growth of the Church, describing it as unquantifiable.
Bishop Ezeokafor, who reaffirmed his advocacy for befitting living, charged all to make use of what they had for the good of the living.
He prayed God to continue to bless and sustain the celebrant in good health, and through him, bless others; especially those who depended on him, and when he must have concluded his mission on earth, to reward him with eternal life in heaven.
Leading in the thanksgiving Mass at Holy Trinity Parish, Obeledu, on Sunday, July 25, the Auxiliary Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev Ernest Obodo, noted that it was better to celebrate life than death. He applauded the octogenarian for the event, which, he said, was worthwhile and prayed God to sustain him and his family with long life and good health.
In his homily of the Sunday Mass, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia (CADEK), Most Rev Peter Ebere Okpaleke, described Dr Okoye as God’s gracious gift to humanity, the Church, Obeledu Town, Anambra State and Nigeria.
Bishop Okpaleke, who is a former Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Awka, explained that it was Dr Okoye that God used and made the completion and dedication of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Awka. According to him, the celebrant was the Chairman of the Dedication Committee and a major contributor to the project.
He urged all to learn from the celebrant and contribute for the good of humanity and the Church, saying that the more generous one was, the more he would be blessed by God.
Speaking at the event, the Governor of Anambra State, Dr Willie Obiano, who was represented by the Head of Service of the State, Barr Harold Udu, noted that the mammoth crowd that graced the event was due to the recognition of the qualities of a human being which Dr Okoye had. He congratulated the celebrant and prayed God to continue to preserve and protect him so as to continue with his good works for the people.
Other activities that marked the one week 80th birthday celebration event included free medical outreach in Obeledu, orphanage visits, book presentation, as well as tennis tournament and gala night, at Peter University, Achina/Onneh.