By Chuks Ilozue
The traditional ruler of Nawgu, Igwe (Sir) George Okaa-Onwuogu, has said the medium size African Elephant tusk he presented to Pope Francis recently at the Vatican symbolized authority and appreciation of excellence in leadership which the Pope represents.
Igwe Okaa-Onwuogu spoke in an interview after visiting the Pope at the Vatican as part of his pilgrimage to Rome and other states in Europe and Asia.
He said he had nurtured the ambition and had been preparing “to visit the Pope and shake hands with him for a long time but his ambition came to fruition when his first son, Rev. Fr. Everistus Okaa-Onwuogu of Onitsha Archdiocese, was sent to Rome for further studies by the Archbishop, Most Rev. Valerian Maduka Okeke.
Igwe Okaa-Onwuogu said the aim of the pilgrimage was to receive Papal blessings, having reached the highest rank in the Knighthood of the Church, Knight of Saint Mulumba (KSM).
‘I know seeking audience with the Pope, shaking his hands and exchanging gifts with him are the highest honour and blessing in the Catholic Church,’ he said.
‘So, I thought deeply about a gift and as a Traditional Ruler, I went to the market and bought a medium size African Elephant Tusk as a gift to Pope Francis,’ the monarch further explained.
Igwe Okaa-Onwuogu said those who sought audience with Pope Francis were given special seats at the altar, with him and his wife being the only black people there.
‘When it was our turn to shake hands and exchange gifts with the Pope, I gave him African Elephant Tusk and in turn we received blessings and packaged Chaplet each from the Pope.
‘I told him that the Tusk is a symbol of good governance, services to humanity and authority. I also thanked him for praying for Nigeria always and he also asked us to pray for him,’ he said, adding that Pope Francis admired the Tusk for some time before going to another person.
The Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal Onaiyekan; Francis Cardinal Arinze, who resides inside the Vatican; and the Archbishop of Onitsha, Most. Rev. Valerian Maduka Okeke, were among those from home who witnessed the event.