The Grand Finale of Archbishop Valerian Okeke’s 70th Birthday….
Written by City Radio on November 20, 2023
As the Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha prepares to celebrate his 70th birthday, Sir Victor Ononye,Journalist and Public Affairs Commentator,writes on his life and times.
On Thursday,23rd November 2023,the grand finale of activities marking the 70th birthday of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha,Most Rev Valerian Maduka Okeke will take place at the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity,Onitsha.
People from all walks of life which include respected members of the clergy,the religious and lay faithful will converge on the Basilica Square formerly,the Holy Trinity field,Onitsha for the thanksgiving mass which is expected to commence by 10am.
Already, elaborate arrangements have been made for a hitch free celebration and comfort of the congregation.
Activities heralding Archbishop Valerian Okeke’s 70th anniversary kicked off inside the Onitsha Custodial Centre on October 20, 2023 where he did not only celebrate and pray for the prison inmates but commissioned a multimillion Naira skill acquisition centre which attracted federal and state government officials including the Controller General of Nigeria’s Correctional Centre, Mr Haliru Nababa and the governor of Anambra State Professor Chukwuma Soludo.
Pleased with the Archbishop’s magnanimity and gift of the skill acquisition centre,the federal government conferred an award of Grand Patron of Nigerian Custodial Centres on the Archbishop which was the first of it’s kind conferred on any individual dead or alive in the country. This was followed by the Archbishop’s charity visits to both Anglican,Catholic and public hospitals namely,Iyi-Enu Specialist Hospital,St Charles Specialist Hospital and the Federal Medical Centre Onitsha(formerly,General Hospital Onitsha),where he prayed for the sick and off-setted hospital bills for indigent patients running into several millions.
The third phase of the programme is the feeding of the poor which was scheduled for major Regions of the Archdiocese namely,Onitsha Region,Nnobi Region,Dunukofia Region and Iyiowa Region.
From all indications,the grand finale of Archbishop Valerian Okeke’s 70th birthday celebration slated for Thursday,23rd November 2023,is expected be an epochal event that would define a man of character and excellence. It is the birthday of a great man of faith,whose spiritual, charitable,academic and humanitarian trajectory has changed the lives of many for good.
As the Archbishop attains the Platinum age of 70,it really calls for celebration. Attaining the age of 70 means many things to different people.Some school of thought see attainment of such height as representing fullness and completion in life while others see it as attaining the full age of wisdom.
These enduring attributes are visible and profound in the life of Archbishop Okeke.
The scriptures(Psalm 90:10)allots three score and ten (70 years)for a man’s life,and attributes the age 70, to “strength and wisdom”,which truly the Archbishop has not only attained but will surpass in good health and sound mind by the special grace of God.
The birth of Archbishop Valerian Okeke as it were,came with all the profound expectations and blessings into his family,the community and the people in general.
Having grown up in a humble background and of Umudioka parentage of Anambra State in Dunukofia Local Government Area, Archbishop Okeke attended the prestigious Christ the King College (CKC)Onitsha,before venturing into the Seminary for his journey into priesthood in 1967.
After the Nigeria civil war,he attended All Hallows Seminary,Onitsha from 1970-1973. He completed his post secondary education in Philosophical Studies between 1975-1977,and Theological Studies from 1977-1981 at Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugwu and Ikot Ekpene respectively. He was ordained priest on Saturday July 11,1981 by the then Archbishop of Onitsha,Most Rev (now Cardinal) Francis Arinze.
Archbishop Valerian Okeke has a very impressive academic record and vast pastoral experience. He holds a doctorate degree in Moral Theology and array of qualifications in French and German language and also a diploma in journalism.
From 1991 till his appointment as the Co-adjutor Archbishop on 9th November 2001,he taught Moral Theology and Ethics at Bigard Memorial Seminary,Enugu.He was the Rector of Bigard Memorial Seminary,Enugu from 1996 to 2002.
The Archbishop’s 70th birthday signposts his 42nd priestly anniversary which was celebrated not too long ago.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Archbishop Valerian Okeke whose priesthood is elevated to the exalted and graceful office of an Archbishop and the Metropolitan of Onitsha Province has recorded tremendous achievements in his chosen vocation of priesthood.
He has demonstrated his capability and sagacity on the mission and duties bestowed on him as a priest of God.
Archbishop Okeke has exhibited immense leadership qualities in his ministry and in the priesthood which has indelibly impressed the entire people of God across the length and breath of the Archdiocese,the Ecclesiastical Province and in the diaspora.
Archbishop Valerian Okeke has for 42 years of his priesthood,shared in the anxieties,hopes,aspirations and successes of his flock and also given hope and Succour to many.
His attainments as a priest and achievements as a true shepherd of his large flock are enobling, compellingly admirable and encouraging.
For a man who believes in excellence,hardwork and reward, Archbishop Okeke’s Episcopal philosophy and motto,”That they may have life” (John 10:10),looms large and puts him in an uncommon pedestal in priesthood.
An indomitable and indefatigable pastor, Archbishop Okeke has never wavered in his bid to achieve his dream no matter how difficult.
His doggedness and determination started early in his priesthood before his episcopacy and came to a climax at the realisation of his vision of establishing a University of Science and Technology to underscore his vision of excellence in education and good character among young people and other classes of people.
Today,we can count a number but not all of the Archbishop’s achievements as follows;
He convoked the first and second synod’s of the Archdiocese of Onitsha and chatted a clear way for progress of the Archdiocese.
He elevated the Holy Trinity Cathedral to a Basilica thus raising it to the one and only Basilica in Nigeria.
The Archbishop erected the Holy Family Youth Village where university students lived and studied in conducive environment as many left school with excellent records.
He founded the Radio and TV Sapientia which is arguably the best in South East of Nigeria.
In the health sector, Archbishop Okeke elevated the St Charles Borromeo Hospital to a Teaching Hospital with a first class school of nursing as well as raised the standard of other hospitals in the Archdiocese.
In the education sector,the Archbishop’s strides are novel with the new Shanahan University on board,to crown it all.
On human resources development, Archbishop Valerian Okeke uplifted many through education,employment,scholarships and works of charity.
He erected the Oluchukwu Micro Finance Bank and the Oil and Gas filling stations.
What of other humanitarian aids he rendered to flood victims and Covid-19 pandemic palliatives to the less privileged.
The Archbishop is described widely in the local parlance as “Oje mba enwe ilo” meaning,one who travels beyond boarders without an enemy.
He has been able to make good friends locally and internationally.
With that,he has been able to attract international investors to the Archdiocese as well as philanthropists who contributed generously to development of the Archdiocese.
The Archbishop’s priestly ministry has been anchored on peace and harmony where priests,the religious and faithful happily benefitted spiritually and materially and have cause to cooperate with him,contribute their best and celebrate him whenever it is necessary.
70 hearty cheers to the Archbishop of the people.!!