Black Affairs, Africa and Development
Philanthropist Nigerian $millionaire single-handedly built and donated a tarmacked road to his village area
“Rich people in Africa want to show off their wealth. But others want to share it with their people” Koffi Anan
Echoes of joy were heard in four communities in Enugu State after a businessman handed them an uncommon gift. Their illustrious sons, Emperor Chris Baywood Ibe, Chief Executive Officer, Baywood Continental Ltd, single-handedly built and handed them an 8.5km-asphalted road. The road traverses Agbogugu, Isu-Awaa, Agbudu and Ihie town, all in Agwu Local Government Area of the state. The communities are still in a celebratory mood days after the facility was commissioned by the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA).
Emperor Baywood Ibe, who maintained that the gesture was strictly a philanthropic one, had, on same day, handed over a one-storey classroom block and a remodelled church building he built for his native Isu-Awa community. The ceremonies were part of the activities he lined up to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his union with his wife, Empress Pat Baywood Ibe who was also marking her 50th birthday.
During the road commissioning ceremony, FERMA assured that it would take over the maintenance of the facility if the Enugu State government failed to do so. FERMA Chairman, Mr. Ezekiel Olajide Adeniji, an engineer, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan on the occasion, made the disclosure while cutting the tape to declare the road open. He commended Emperor Baywood Ibe for his magnanimity, maintaining that if one individual each in every state of the federation could do what the donor had done, the country would soon be blessed with an intricate road network.
“This is simply marvellous,” Mr. Adeniji noted. “It is amazing to note that one person could do this much for the good of his people. If we have one person each from every state and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja building about 8.5km road, we will soon have about 340km road network. In the whole country, we have 34, 120km of roads under the maintenance of FERMA. If everybody could emulate what Emperor Baywood Ibe has just done, it means that private individuals would be contributing one per cent to the road network under the care of the Federal government. For this reason, I wish to call on people like him to replicate his philanthropic example.
“The Enugu State government is expected to take over this facility because it is a state road. But if there is need for us in future to help, we will not hesitate to do that.”
And speaking about the quality of the road, Mr. Adeniji said: “I have been a civil engineer for more than 30 years. So, I can tell you that the quality of the road I’m seeing here is quite high. I’m particularly excited by the line drainage on the road, the bridges and the culverts. These features will help to elongate the road’s life span because there won’t be percolation of flood water anytime it rains. What that means is that the contractor did an excellent job and the technical quality is simply high.”
The commissioning ceremony took place on a hot, humid day. The visitors were literally grilling in the afternoon sun which continued to blaze with unusual intensity. But everyone in attendance was unfazed. While the ceremony was being awaited, some members of the benefiting communities engaged in singing and dancing as an appreciative crowd gathered at the Isu-Awa junction on the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway where two canopies had been erected at a corner to shelter the dignitaries from the fury of the sun.
Among those present were former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Odein Ajumogobia; Director General, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Dr Joseph Odumodu, Senator Annie Okonkwo; Mr. Nnanna Nze, Chairman, Agwu Local Government Area, who represented Enugu State governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime, Barrister Cletus Anene who stood in for the Speaker, Enugu State House of Assembly, Air Vice Marshal Christian Chukwu of the Nigerian Air force and Ambassador Jerry Ugokwe from the presidency among others. There was also the strong presence of traditional rulers from Agwu Local Government Area and the clergy of the Anglican Communion within Enugu State and beyond. In the crowd also were visitors from South Africa, Italy, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
As the FERMA boss marched out to perform the tape cutting ceremony, the flutes began to sing from the corner, signalling that the event was approaching its climax. The moment came when the FERMA boss told the crowd that “one of the greatest ministries of God is the Ministry of Help. Before us today is clear evidence that Emperor Baywood Ibe is a man born of fire. As an engineer with more than 30 years experience, I testify that this road is of high quality. It will last long and the donor will never lack. This is part of the transformation that our dear president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, is talking about. Now, this man has shown us that transformation is of the heart and he is not limiting it to his Isu-Awa community.”
Then he declared as he cut the tape: “I commission this road in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When people use it, they will not be involved in any form of accident and no blood-sucking demons will encounter them.”
Earlier, a church service was held at The Cathedral Church of St Mark, Isu-Awaa as part of the chain of events of the day which also included a party at the donor’s Camp David home in Isu-Awaa. Present at the church service that afternoon were the Anglican Archbishop of the Province of Enugu, the Most Reverend Dr Amos Madu, the host bishop, Rt. Revd Dr Emmanuel Ugwu, Bishop of Awgu/Aninri Diocese among Anglican clergymen.
Bishop Ugwu, during his sermon, described the day as unique.
“It is a day of ambition realised, a day set apart in history. It is special because we are celebrating Emperor Chris Baywood Ibe and his wife, Empress Pat Baywood Ibe. Here is a man who took over our road and single-handedly built it. You need to see this road during the rainy season. Anytime it rained, it used to be indescribably muddy. No matter how much I tried to keep my car clean, it always got smeared in the mud, and everywhere I went, people easily noticed that I was a bush man. Then in the dry season, it is particularly dusty. But today, God has done it for us through this man. Besides, today we are also dedicating the church auditorium and the school he built for us – just one man, one family.”
And then, before the congregation, the church crowned Emperor Ibe and his wife as Father and Mother of Eminence. The church noted that “no one in this diocese has been given such honour.”
Similarly, all the traditional rulers in the Agwu area, one of them Igwe of Isu-Awaa Kingdom, Igwe Udegaba Madu, praised their son for his efforts.
“We thank God for the honour done to him and his wife in far away Ethiopia where we were told they were recently crowned emperor and empress respectively. We have heard about it and henceforth, we recognise him as so. We will support him in all things good because he has proved that he is a good man,” said a representative of the royal fathers.
The couple was then presented with a plaque and certificate of honour.
In his speech at the occasion, Ibe expressed appreciation for the encomium lavished on him and his family. He noted: “These facilities we are commissioning today are our humble contribution to the economic, social and infrastructural development of our beloved community and neighbouring towns. I could have asked the contractor to terminate the road at Isu-Awaa. But our neighbours too use this same road. When they are happy, we too will be happy; if they are at peace with us, they will not make war against us.
“What we have done is not an expression of abundance or an ego trip, but a sacrifice of love for the good of all. When we support our widows through our widows’ empowerment programme, we find happiness; when out medical outreach programme saves the lives of the downtrodden and the elderly in our rural communities, we find happiness.”
Spotting a rare jacket, like that of an ancient Roman legionary, with a ceremonial sword tucked to his left and ox-blood trousers tucked into his boots, Emperor Baywood Ibe complimented his dressing with a blue oval headdress with white lining. His motorcade amid drumming and dancing snaked its way to church led by an all women-life band whose members dressed like members of the Boys Scout. Members of the military and para-military organisations provided security.
“This is one very great gift God gave Isu Awaa community,” an old woman Madam Nwakaego Aniekwe noted.
President General, Isu-Awaa Town Union, Mr. Godwin Ugochukwu Ude, said the day was one filled with great joy.
“For years, the idea of getting this road tarred had remained a pipe dream. But now it is difficult for us to believe that the dream has been realised. We are joyous; we are overwhelmed. Just see for yourself that Isu-Awaa is agog and rightly so,” he said.
By COSMAS OMEGOH
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