BEING TEXT OF A SPEECH BY EDWARD ONOJA, CHIEF OF STAFF TO THE GOVERNOR OF KOGI STATE ON THE OCCASION OF THE COMMISSIONING OF OLAMABORO CENTRAL MOSQUE, OKPO ON FRIDAY, 23TH NOVEMBER, 2017.
Man cannot build a house for God but God can give mortal man the privilege to build a place where other men can worship Him. Your Excellency, honoured guests, that is what has happened here. The story of the rapid construction and completion of Olamaboro Central Mosque, Okpo is the story of what friendship can accomplish when there is a willing mind to harness available people network and resources.
This mosque has remained under construction for as long as I can remember. I criss-crossed the road in front of it as a teenager. At some point construction even stopped totally. Not too long ago, I and a couple of friends to be specific; Hon Yunusa Gabriel Olofu and Hon Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed of Ankpa 1 were discussing in Lokoja how such a laudable project now looks abandoned with the worshippers at the mercy of the natural elements. I started thinking that there must be something I could do to help.
Your Excellency, in appointing me your Chief of Staff, an action that was aggressively resisted both physically and spiritually by my Kinsmen and yours has put me in a position of sacred trust. It was also a position from which I could do something about this mosque. I shared my passion with you sir, if you remember, and you graciously gave me the go-ahead. Your Excellency know that I did not hesitate after that, especially as you also pledged your own personal support for us and the project.
At the time I was sharing my burden for this mosque to Your Excellency I did not have the type of money that would make any impact here. I still do not have that kind of money. I did however learn from Your Excellency something which will forever help me to accomplish endeavours beyond the scope of my limited resources and capabilities . Your Excellency taught me to use the influence and goodwill of my office for the public good rather than for private ends. You assured me that the returns will always be higher and more fulfilling. I see that clearer as it has manifested here TODAY
That lesson helped me to conceive a plan to raise the resources needed to recommence work on this building and complete it. The plan was simply to call on my friends, both within and outside Kogi State, and invite them to join hands with me to deliver this worthy cause. Once the decision was made, I would spend hours on the phone, calling up one friend after another, explaining what we were doing and soliciting for their support in this blessed project.
I am glad to say that many of them responded generously and eagerly too.No doubt, my position as Chief of Staff to the Governor of Kogi State, rather than an ordinary Edward Onoja, helped a lot in drawing people and attracting support. I thank God for that. And I thank Your Excellency for the privilege to serve you in that capacity. It has indeed become a vantage point from which I can leverage support for several public spirited projects like this one.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am just too excited today. In addition to this mosque, the road construction equipment we passed on the way here testifies to the rapid progress on the 32km Ibana-Okpo-Ogugu-Ete road. This was a road that was neglected for over 2 decades. The road to my town Ogugu was so terrible that even people on foot found it very difficult to use. I used to dread it any time I returned from secondary school to visit my parents in the village.
Today, due to the vision and abundant political will of our Governor, His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and his sagacity as a leader, work on the road is progressing at an unbelievable speed. The same story of accelerated infrastructural and general development is also replicated all over Kogi East and the other Senatorial Districts in Kogi State
By the grace of God, this mosque will not be the last of my contribution to my people. In fact, a few more are alresdy nearing completion.
As a trained Geologist, I know too well that more than enough water lies under every community in rock reservoirs called AQUIFERS. These aquifers may be deep or shallow, but ultimately water is available and can be harvested. Unfortunately, none of the previous administrations or its appointees had the presence of mind all these years to bring the water just under our feet to to the surface for us. Talk about human inhumanity to humans.Today however, Governor Yahaya Bello has made the difference by raising a crop of appointees who are constantly being encouraged to think others rather than self enrichment and have done the needful without recourse to government funds. If we wait only on Government for all our needs, we will wait forever. I urge the many detractors to do something to compliment Government efforts. Talking and criticism can only make matters worse.
May I therefore take the liberty to inform Your Excellency that I will also be commissioning 8 boreholes in about 2 weeks’ time across my native Ogugu District with your Commissioners for Water Resources and Rural Development standing in for you. Those boreholes were sunk by myself and some other appointees from that area. My people now have portable water sir. They will never again be limited to a choice of sharing ancestral streams, ponds and rivers, or shallow wells, for drinking and household uses with animals. This is the New Direction Agenda at work
Your Excellency, by the grace of God, I am also undertaking today to get some friends together and raise the resources to transform the dilapidated Ogugu Community Secondary School (OCSS) into a global standard modern centre of learning for our children. In the school project I will be joining and partnering with some great sons and daughters of Ogugu , namely, the Ogugu Development Initiative (ODI) and Ogugu Youth Development Association (OYDA) ably led by my brothers Gabriel Akoh and Ojonugwa Agada.
We shall hopefully have the redeveloped and revamped Ogugu Community Secondary School ready for commissioning this same time next year, to the glory of God Almighty alone and in memory of my late elder brother, Friday Adejo Onoja aka (Maskela Keke)who passed through it.
Talking about the New Direction Agenda and our culture of equity, let me take many of our distinguished guests by surprise. While we were working on this mosque, His Excellency, a Muslim, motivated us to also renovate and redevelop the United Evangelical Church (UEC), Odo Eto, in this same Okpo, for members of the Christian community. Work is now at an advanced stage. It is another friendship project, with His Excellency as a leading friend and contributor. The church is just a strolling distance away from this mosque, and Your Excellency may wish to drop in there briefly and inspect our progress. With God on our side, we will also have it ready for commissioning by this December.
The church and mosque projects in such close proximity reflect the fairness, equity and justice which Your Excellency has made our watchword under your New Direction Administration. Only a stranger to Kogi will not know how Your Excellency took the lead in zero tolerance for sectionalism or bias of any type in the conduct of official business right from the day you were sworn in.
I am a witness because I was one of your earliest appointments. Today your distribution of appointments and projects across Kogi State are so proportionally balanced that none of your detractors have been able to imagine, let alone vocalise, accusations of partisanship against you. My People, what else can I say but to appreciate my boss, His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the Executive Governor of Kogi State for always galvanising us to maintain balance and equity among our different tribes and religions in Kogi State. A lesson and an exemplary leadership style for our Country Nigeria at this time in our nation’s history. Youthful is useful for the unity of our Nation
Your Excellency, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, today we are here to formally open this Place of Worship and I want it to be known to all and sundry, near and far, that FRIENDSHIP, rather than mere MONEY, built this Mosque. Nigeria, and not just Edward Onoja and his friends from Kogi State, helped to build this mosque.
I want to recognise and appreciate the efforts of those who started and contributed to the building of this mosque from many years ago and brought it to the level we met it. May God bless and reward you.
Many thanks to His Excellency the Governor of Kogi State for the unquantifiable support he gave us. It is not just the money but also the moral support. His Excellency’s presence here today speaks volumes. To leave Abuja early this morning and travel about 5 hours to be here with us should be the best evidence of His Excellency’s love and respect for Olamaboro LGA and all of Kogi East Senatorial District.
We appreciate Your Excellency specially. My people and I thank you for coming today.
I am happy to recognise the following friends who sent us money or materials to put into this worthy cause. Each of them are the true heroes of today and I pray the Almighty God to reward them as only he God Almighty creator of heaven and earth can:
~His Excellency, my friend, my boss, my leader, my seamese twin, my governor Alhaji Yahaya Bello
~ Igho Sanomi and Oghens Sanomi my immediate former bosses at Taleveras Group.
~Engineer Joseph Makoju of Dangote Group
~Alhaji Jibril Isa Echocho
~Arome John Olofu
~Hon. Ahmed Ahmed
~Hon. Gabriel Olofu
~Hon. Ejura Mercy Onoja my beloved wife
~Hon Ibrahim Abdullahi Halims
~ league of Local Government Administrators
~ Dr Folashade Ayoade Arike
~Hon Momoh Jibril
~ Hon Yakubu Okala
~ Hon Ahmed Ododo
~Barrister Moses Okezie
~Hon Yakubu Oseni
~ Engineer Abubakar Ohere
~Hon Oloruntoba Kehinde
The various Laborer’s, Workmen and women who sacrificed day and night to make this happen.
Engineer Enejo Peter Onyido, Architect Nuhu and Alhaji Falala whose experience and expertise came to play on this project.
I deeply appreciate Sheik Shehu Sadiq and all members of the Commissioning Planning Committee for their dedication and Sacrifice.
I appreciate all well wishers, prayer partners and everyone who spared time to be part of today’s history
May Allah bless us all.
I cannot conclude this speech without recognising Mr. and Mrs. David Amodu Onoja, my parents. They modelled hardwork, sacrifice and godly values for me and my siblings despite some very difficult circumstances. They laid the foundation for the person that I have become today. Baba and Oja, may God continue to bless you and reward your good work.
In conclusion, it is my hope that when the Muslim Ummah in Olamaboro pray to God in this Mosque, they will pray for the Peace, Unity and Progress of Nigeria, and of Kogi State.
I pray that as they worship in this Mosque that Friendship built, they will also be motivated to become bridge builders for peace among our people and our religions.
Thank you all, and may the Almighty God guide us safely to our destinations.
To God be the Glory!
Chief of Staff to the Governor of Kogi State.