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Ideato North LGA in Pains, Mourn Chief Christian Okenwa - By Ingram Osigwe

On Thursday 5th May 2017, a pall of gloom descended on Ogbuo, village, Akwu-Akokwa in Ideato North local government area of Imo state. This was followed by wailing and gnashing of teeth in several households. Discerning minds didn’t need to look into crystal ball to conclude that the people had just lost an illustrious indigene, one dear to their hearts. Yes, indeed, Akokwa had just lost one of their best, Chief (Hon), Sir Christian Ifeanyichukwu Felix Okenwa.He lived for 63 years on earth.

Chief Okenwa was man of the people. His communitywide acceptance and influence was not because he was the wealthiest or most educated person in Akokwa but because he was trusted by his people. He loved Akokwa and he made no pretence about it. His forthrightness stood him out.

Those who knew him or were close to him attest to the fact that Chief Christian Okenwa would hold on to the truth no matter whose ox was gored and irrespective of how hurtful, discomforting or bitter it was to his friends and relations.

As he would always say, "I am a Christian born into a Christian family and my name is Christian, why should I then lie or deceive people, what is Christianity all about?"As a business mogul, politician, philanthropist and community leader, truth was his watchword and he wore it like a necklace. Okenwa’s elegant virtues endeared him greatly to the people of Akokwa. It was therefore no surprise that bedlam broke and the entire town thrown into mourning when the news of his demise filtered in.

Chief Hon. Sir Christian Ifeanyichukwu Felix Okenwa (CIFO) was born on the 6thday of June, 1954 to the family of Late Mr. Felix Emeanuru Okenwa and Late Mrs.Keziah Oduagu Okenwa of Umuoleoha family, Umuezeanoruo kindred, Ogbuo village, Akwu-Akokwa Autonomous Community in Ideato North L.G.A, Imo State, Nigeria.

He was the fourth child of the family and the third male child. Felix was born at the popular Iyi Enu Hospital, Ogidi in Idemili North L.G.A Anambra State. At time of his birth; Felix’s parents were residing at Old Market Road, Onitsha.

Chris Okenwa started his primary education at St. Peters Primary School Akokwa in Ideato North Local Government Area, Imo State few years before the Nigerian- Biafran civil war broke out.

Chris was a self-made man and his childhood was exciting. A loyal, diligent and respectful lad, the young Ifeanyichukwu participated in all youth activities in the church and was a member of other pious church groups like the choir, youth fellowship and Boys Brigade among others at St. Peter’s Anglican Church Akokwa

As a teenager, Chris was very hard working and at the age of 13 to 15 years during the civil war, he engaged in what was then known as “Ahia Attack” which earned him good money. Even as a young boy, the plight of the Igbo and survival of the fledgling Republic of Biafra occupied his callow mind hence he later joined the “Boys Company”, an arm of the Biafran Army.

As budding business “boy”, the late Felix had a good number of goats, sheep and his business articles like kerosene, razor blade, bread, matches and other articles made him relatively rich and comfortable at that young age. His proud and grateful mother would admirably refer to him as “DI NNE YA” (the mother’s husband).

At the age of 15, his mother stopped him from those businesses and took him to Chief Christian Igbokwe to learn bigger business (apprentice), at Christian Igbokwe and Brothers Company. While under Igbokwe’s tutelage, Chris Okenwa continued with his hardworking nature in every task he was assigned to, and he was very honest with his master. Because of diligence and honesty his boss later transferred him to Port-Harcourt branch to assist the manager. A year later the manager retired and he became the PH representative of C.E Igbokwe Group of Companies comprising C.E Igbokwe and Brother Trading Company,(P.H. representative) C.E Igbokwe Transport Company, Onitsha Aluminum manufacturing company, Igbokwe Block Industry Ltd etc. He became one of the company directors at the age of 21 representing Port-Harcourt Branch.

In December 1978 his master, Chief C.E Igbokwe settled him. In January the following year, Okenwa opened his own company known as C.I.F Okenwa (CIFO) & Co. and became a mega distributor for companies.

Realizing that education is the main stream and bed rock of modern business, he decided to go back to school, secondary education on part time basis. He registered with a private secondary school at Obosi owned by Chief Ofokansi. He employed a private tutor, Sir G.I Okoye from St. Charles Secondary School Onitsha who came on Saturdays to tutor him. Hungry for higher education, he later enrolled at St. Augustine Grammar School Ibusa, Delta State, where he obtained his SSCE and St. Charles Secondary School Onitsha were he obtained his GCE which qualified him to gain admission to study Mass Communication at Federal Polytechnic Oko in Anambra State. He obtained Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in the exalted institution. He continued his education to the level of High National Diploma, HND at the same Institution.Christian Okenwa was become a graduate of Mass Communication of Federal Polytechnic Oko. Felix was a self-made man and an achiever in all ramifications.

He excelled in business and at the age of 29 years and became the landlord at that age. Chief Hon Sir Christian I. Okenwa was a shrewd business mogul and a captain of industry having founded various companies including the famous Idemili Farms (West African) limited along Nkpor-Umuoji- Obosi Road, Achaputa Layout, Obosi, CIF Okenwa& Co Ltd, CIFO Petroleum Ltd Gas Plant, CIFO Mugs, Forever Chocolate Bread Industry, CIFO Poly etc. He was also a director of Ahiaoma community bank limited later StandexMicro-Finance Bank Ltd for so many years.

Just as he excelled in business, he also did in the political arena .Chief Okenwa’s calculation and permutations were accurate and his readings of political situations impeccable. Hon. Christian Ifeanyichukwu Okenwa joined politics proper when he came in contact with Engr. Dr Ezekiel Izuogu in1991. He work tirelessly with Engr. Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu and later joined the SDP (Social Democratic Party).The presidential candidate of the SDP for the 1993 presidential election, late MKO Abiola was driven in Okenwa’s brand new Toyota 4 Runner Jeep during Abiola’s campaign tour of Aba , the Enyimba city in 1992 and since then Chris Okenwa never relented in politics.

In 1993, Chris Okenwa contested for LGA Chairmanship election under SDP and won the primary and became the flag bearer of the party before late Gen. Sani Abacha took over the government the same year.

In 1996, he contested for the same office under defunct UNCP and won the election; he became the Executive Chairman of Ideato North L.G.A and was sworn in by Gov. Tanko, Zubairo in 1997.

His administration was short lived due to the death of the Head of State General Abacha. It was Chris Okenwa administration that built the Model Primary School Akokwa block now at St. Peter’s Anglican Church premises Akokwa. His administration also ensured a big generating set was bought and installed at Umuokwara- Akokwa to power the Akokwa water project up to the over head tank at Post office, Orie Akokwa. He was a pathfinder and leader of many politicians of repute even till his demise.

In 1998 when General Abacha died and all political parties were disbanded, he returned to his business but at the return of participatory democracy in 1999, Chief Okenwa joined politics once more.

In 2010, he contested for state Assemble for Imo House election to represent Ideato North State Constituency and in 2014 he emerged as an Ad HOC delegate for 2015 primary election of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)

Sir Christian Okenwa was a devoted Christian born into the Anglican Communion. He worshipped at St. Peter’s Anglican Church Akokwa and later St. Paul’s Anglican Church Akwu and Emmanuel Anglican Church Odume Obosi.A lover of the youths, Chief Okenwa organized a Bible study competition for the Orlu Diocese where he gave trophy to the winners; this greatly helped to engage the youths in studying their Bible.Sir Christian Okenwa was knighted in 1996 at Orlu Diocese by Rt. Rev. Bishop S.N Eboh.

Ifeanyi was a silent giver, a noiseless philanthropist. He trained many in the university who are today doing great in various endeavors. He was a great lover of education. Okenwa was committed to the development of various communities including his home town and Onitsha where he lived. He provided employment for over 40 youths in his companies putting food on their table and smiles on their faces. He gave scholarship to the youth to any level of education they were willing to attain and not only did he pay their school fees but also take care of their textbooks, feeding and accommodation.

He was a firm believer in the saying “A friend in need is a friend in deed “and that was why he tried to help almost every person that came to him for help. He also believe that the person came to him because the person believe he can help therefore he must where possible Okenwa was aggressive and ready to fight when things are not going right; he believed in equal right and abhorred injustice.

He will always say “If I want to fight for anyone that is suppressed I will do that not only fighting for  justice but help him home victoriously and hand him over to his mother sound and hearty”. That was why his mother always called him“Ogburu Onye Uwa OnweYa”.

This was also why the Obi of Akokwa crowned him “EBEKUO DIKE NA OGBO OGU”.

As a hardworking and dedicated man, the saying “when the going gets tough, only the tough keep going”, was one of his guiding principles, especially in the business arena.

A dedicated family man, Christian was happily married to Mrs. Mary Uzoamaka Okenwa.The love birds of the love song met through Okenwa’s elder brother and before long the chemistry between the two young lovers struck, culminating in their wedding on 27th of November 1983 at St. John’s Anglican Church Fegge Onitsha by Rev. Cannon M. Echendu.

The beautiful union produced seven children, three males and four females and four grand children. Though his first son Chidiebere died at the age of 22 years a medical student of Imo state University Owerri. Okenwa was a loving and supportive father and husband to the children and his wife.

Chief Okenwa’s demise leaves his admirers and beneficiaries crestfallen. And Akokwa is in tears, Akokwa is in agony, Akokwa mourns a man who led by example, a light in darkness, hope to the hopeless and a legacy personified. Adieu, Christian, sleep well, Felix, good night, Ifeanyichukwu!

Meanwhile, Chief Okenwa’s burial rites will commence on June 21, 2017 with an evening of songs organized by Knights and Ladies of St.Christopher, Ideato Diocese at his country home. Burial follows the next day, Thursday, June 22 after a requiem mass. The requiem mass will be officiated by the Bishop of Ideato Diocese, Rt Revd. Caleb Maduoma and his Okigwe South counterpart, Rt. Revd. David Onuoha.

Ingram Osigwe wrote from Akokwa.

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