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By Fidel Ozugha

Among Ndigbo, especially those from Anambra State, the norm has been that each community is identified, at least, with a particular profession or skill or trade. It has been so even before the advent of the missionaries who brought christianity, education and colonialism to Africa which spread to Igbo land.

During the precolonial era, there were some communities identified with cleansing of the land when and where an abomination like killing of self, killing of another, etc had occurred. Some communities also specialized in wine tapping such that they sojourned to places where opportunities to apply their trade abound. Even today, if palm wine from Awgbu or Ifitedunu does not feature in your ceremony, then it is a poor event, You ought to repeat the ceremony with this item featured. Adagbe village, Abagana, by neglect and misplacement of priority, lost this rich profession years back.

Some trade like woodcarving, making of clay pots and plates, etc were ascribed to some Igbo communities. Most of them were identified with farming, fishing, hunting, etc depending on the topography. Abagana indigenes were great farmers such that outstanding ones sojourned to distant communities with vast lands that were fertile and settled there as farmers of repute.

Dr. F. C. Ogbalu, Father of Igbo Language and Literature

People like late HM, Angus Obike Ilonze, Igwe Abagana, late Chief Nwankwo Okafor Utosi, among others, went far distance to establish their farms away from Abagana. There was Angus Farms Ltd in those days. Utosi became popularly called Nwankwo Dodge because of his unparalleled strength and dexterity in handling farm implements. His farm produce used to be a cynosure in those days. His strength was equaled to that of the Dodge vehicle of then.

However, with the coming of the white man to Africa to spread the gospel, educate and colonize the indigenes, most of these practices were looked down upon, condemned and abandoned as the trend changed to following the colonial masters way of life and living. Christian religion and white man education, and even government, were introduced and accepted, though with sweat and blood. Thus becoming a Christian, going to school, working in government, etc became new ways of life. Communities embraced them at different rates and in different degrees.

Abagana embraced education and Christian religion very early. Education and Christian religion went pari passu. Once you had one, the other followed. As at 1934, St. Mark’s Catholic Church had been established. The St, Peter’s Anglican Church Abagana, was the only Anglican church people of communities in the environ extending to the present day Anaocha LGA of Anambra State would attend. Their weddings were done there as well. And it would take them almost a quarter of a day to get there. The elite then would do that with their bicycles.

Prof. Gordian Ezekwe, Founder of PRODA, fmr Minister of Science and Technology

The first Abagana Anglican priest, Daniel Obiakor Okechukwu, was ordained as one in 1938. He was also the first Igbo Archdeacon of Northern Anglican Province of then entire Northern Nigeria. Rev. Fr. Chuma Anyaka became an ordained first Abagana Catholic priest in1966.

In line with the submission that communities in Anambra State identified themselves with one trade or another, Onitsha people who, being on the bank of the Niger River, received western education and Christian religion earlier than most other towns. As early 1900s, evidence of these things were already manifesting – churches, schools, etc were already springing up in the city. People were receiving English and Christian names against or in addition to their local ones.

Thus no other communities in the State, even in Igbo land as a whole, could challenge Onitsha in producing early and more lawyers, priests and missionaries. Nnewi triumphs in motor spare parts selling and production. The number of professors in Nanka community is uncountable. One could fence the entire with them if they were to be used for such. Abagana, as at my last research in 2019/2020, had over 50 professors. Count Nando in when it comes to native doctor, patent medicine business, and you can’t stand Enugwu Agidi if timber and wood business is object of competition.. Every town has comparative advantage over one another.

A cross-section of parents (sitting) and recipients () of the AUBA Grants 2023 Edition

In Abagana, the headquarters of the defunct Njikoka Division and now the headquartes of Njikoka LGA of Anambra State, education cum teaching has been their trade mark because of early settlement of the missionaries. Thus they embraced education early as well Christianity. In the late seventies, most of the leading secondary schools in the old Aguata LGAhad Abagana sons as their principals. These were the grade one principals.

Notable educated and Christian families like Ezekwesili, Ekunno, Ogbalu, Nzeako, Nwako, Ogbuagu, Okechukwu etc had already been influencing other families towards the trend. Late Chief Austin Okaka Ezenwa (Agbalanze Abagana) was already the principal of St. Patrick’s Secondary School, Asaba before the Biafra-Nigeria civil war. He was a prime figure east of Niger as the principal of Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS), Onitsha. He later became the Deputy Governor of the old Anambra State.

Abagana has been outstanding when it comes to education. Prof. Nwankwo Chukwuemeka was among the early professors in Igbo land. Educated personalities like Tagbo Nzeako, Dr. F. C. Ogbalu, father of Igbo Language and literature, Prof Gaius Igboeli, Prof Gordian Ezekwe, E. C. Ezekwesili, Prof. Cyril Nwako (UNIZIK Pioneer V.C.), Osita Okeke, Amb. Uche Okeke, Vincent Aniago, etc were the pride of the town in education and civil service sectors. Thus in government, be it federal, state and local government, Abagana did not lag behind. Prof. Gordian Ezekwe, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili were all federal ministers at different times and regimes.

Today, with a campus of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), about eight secondary and fifteen primary schools, Abagana has been been richly blessed with education as a tree that produces sweet fruits the town and neighbours have been harvesting and consuming for ages.

It is in maintenance of this value that last December, a group of the indigenes based in the United State of America, working under the auspieces of Abagana United Brothers Association (AUBA), repeated a tradition they established over a decade ago – in 2014, to be precise. They always come home every Christmas period, no matter the cost of air ticket, to fulfil their vow.

History repeated itself in December 27, 2023 when they gathered in the compound of the Agwagoms to empower some indigent undergraduates of Abagana. Unlike other years, the 2023 edition was the biggest number ever attained in sponsoring the students – seventeen of them.

The number that applied was much but many were dropped during the serious but simple interviews. Usually, some awareness was created months before the Christmas festival. Announcements were repeated in churches, some concerned social media, village meetings for those interested to pick the forms at designated places. They had to fill the forms and submit same to the clergy, notable personalities with integrity. Interviews, based on their guidelines and set standard were the yardstick used by the body’s representatives to qualify candidates.

That evening on that day, the qualified and lucky but indigent students, beaming with smiles and unspoken joy in their hearts, gathered at the venue with their parents. Thus the crowd that gathered for the solemn event was a blend of ancient and modern. Passion for education charged and ignited the environment. One could feel it, smell it and even breathe it. It was contagious such that even educationally crippled became hungry for a walk.

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Apart from some members of the patriotic team that arrived for the event, some prominent Abagana sons and daughters and wives also graced the occasion including Professor Ifeoma Enweani-Nwokelo of UNIZIK whose passion for education is as large as life, and even deeper than Mississippi River. Some media houses including The NationGuardNews, Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), etc were around to catch and record the event and stitch them together.

The evening was not that of long speech but of action – walk the talk. Seventeen of the chosen indigent indigenes of the community were waiting on wings with their parents. After due protocol of opening prayer, traditional breaking of kolanut, a brief opening remarks by leader of the patriotic team, names of winners of this edition’s grant were called. They stood out with their parents. It was a pregnant and auspicious moment expected.

Each person was handed over a flat belly envelope pregnant with a cheque of N150,000.00 (one hundred and fifty thousand Naira). It was a surprise package for the indigent students whose ways of how the session’s tuition fee would come were in limbo. Thus the package was a great panacea to the recipients.

2 comments
  1. God bless our Patrons!
    God bless Abagana Philanthropists!
    God bless AUBA!!!

    Happy to be among the beneficiaries of the great scholarship award ☺️

    Abagana shall be great!

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