Heroes Remembered

The people of Lejja, an ancient town in Nsukka LGA of Enugu State, have inducted four of the town’s sons into the Lejja Hall of Fame instituted this year. At a grand ceremony held on Saturday, October 23, at Lejja, Chief Dr Paschal Okolie, former state accountant-general/ permanent secretary and now special adviser to Enugu State governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on financial matters, who was also chairman of the occasion, laid the foundation of the Hall of Fame Secretariat Complex.

In his address of welcome, the chairman, Central Planning Committee, Professor Athansius C Eze, named the pioneer recipients of the town’s “Distinguished Awards” whom he described as “iconic sons”.

He stated: “The story of modern Lejja began in 1956 when our first Catholic priest was ordained: Rev. Monsignor Raphael U. Eze. The first graduate from a conventional university followed in 1964: Sylvester Chikezie Madubuattah. The first successful partisan politician brought Lejja to the limelight in the 1970s: Chief Hon. Cletus U. Opata, who also attracted the first secondary school to Lejja in 1977, and its upgrade to Federal Government Girls’ College in 1993. And in 1990, the first Bishop of Nsukka Catholic Diocese was a Lejja son: Most Rev. Dr Francis Okobo.”

The quartet, he said amidst applause, represents Lejja’s heroes and great minds, living or dead. 

Prof. Eze, who spoke for all Lejja people, home and abroad, requested the chief guest on the occasion, Governor Ugwuanyi, to assist Lejja in development projects. He reminded the governor of a promise he made when a delegation of the town visited him in Government House, Enugu: “Your Excellency, in August 2020, Lejja led by our Bishop Emeritus paid you a courtesy visit. On the occasion, you promised to ashphalt Nsukka–Lejja–Aku road before the year ended. Sir, even as a part of that road has been built by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, we pray you to at least build this road from Nguru to FGGC, Lejja.”

Lejja also appealed to Governor Ugwuanyi to immortalize the name of one of the awardees, Chief Hon. Cletus Opata, a dogged fighter for the Nsukka cause and who as education commissioner opened and approved 68 secondary schools across Wawa land. “It is the wish of Lejja that a relic be left in Lejja in the name of C. U. Opata to immortalize his name,” Prof. Eze stated. “In particular, we request that you complete and equip a technical college now being built at Uwani Lejja and name the school after this selfless and detribalized  leader, a trailblazer and a father to all.” 

A tourism site at Lejja, which the state government had promised to develop since 2018, also appeared on the town’s list of felt needs.

“Your Excellency, our distinguished guests, Lejja is facing serious developmental challenges,” Prof. Eze said, as the crowd cheered. “The Lejja Hall of Fame Secretariat Project was conceived to serve several purposes for the community. The secretariat is sited contiguous to Otobo Ugwu, which for over 40 years has been a tourist site, as foreigners and dons have been visiting to excavate and examine the stones/minerals therein for research. A tourism site has been envisaged even by the state government.

“This multi-million-naira project when completed will serve visitors to Otobo Ugwu: they will relax and compile their reports in comfort, for there will be a conference hall. The guest rooms and indoor games that will be provided will create a conducive environment for a little holidaying by visitors. Furthermore, as the name implies, it will be used to preserve the relics of our honoured eminent personalities and other friends of Lejja who have contributed significantly to the development of Lejja. More importantly, the 2,000-seat capacity hall will serve as a hub of activities for great events in Lejja. We therefore call on His Excellency, our distinguished guests and all lovers of our community to show their goodwill towards this project.”

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