Ask any young Mmaku person, ‘who is the richest person in Mmaku’? He or she will be quick to mention names like Igwe Ogilishi Igbo, Emmanuel Okeke, Bob Andeh and the likes based on their current financial activities and displays in Mmaku. You don’t blame them, afterall, the definition of the term, ‘rich’ is subjective.
Then if you ask again, who is the most educated Mmaku person? You are also likely to get names like Prof Mark Anikpo, Frank Chukwu, Prof Eric Okorie, and names of other young Mmaku sons and daughters who are doing exploits in the academia both in Nigeria and in diaspora.
If you now go further to ask who is the greatest Mmaku son? This is where you are not likely to find a quick answer without a pause or some deep thinking.
But believe it or not, if truly the greatness of a man or the worth of a man is measured by his legacies, then I can boldly say that a Catholic clergy, Rev Fr Innocent Udeafor is so far the greatest Mmaku Son going by his legacies in Mmaku.
I know some persons would disagree or debate this assertion, but let’s leave the debate for another day as that is not the purpose of this article.
Rev Fr Innocent Udeafor is an indigene of Ezioha Mmaku who was ordained a Catholic priest and later sent to study abroad. He finished his studies and with the approval of his Bishop, decided to stay over there for his pastoral works.
Fr Innocent through the help of foreign donors, raised money and decided to bequeath a lasting legacy to Mmaku people by building what is now known as Mmaku Catholic Centre (MCC).
Between 1990s to year 2010 and a little above, MCC was an enviable edifice in the whole of Awgu LGA and beyond. It consists of 5 departments/industries, namely: 1. The Agric Industry consisting of Pigery, Poultry and Farming Departments. 2. The Bakery Industry that produced the then popular ‘Manna Bread’. 3. The Nursery/Primary School Dept managed by Daughters of Divine Love Rev sisters. 4. The Hospital Dept consisting of St Monica’s Memorial Hospital, and 5. The Secondary School Dept, with Students Boarding House and Teachers Quarter.
Those days, Mmaku Catholic Centre was the pride of Mmaku, a beauty to behold and a community of it’s own with beehive of activities. Driving down from Achi in the night through Agu-Ugwu Ezioha, the beautiful lightening system from the center illuminates hope and development to Mmaku as you descend into Ezioha the host community.
Before solar system became popular in Nigeria, Mmaku Catholic Centre had Solar energy that provided electricity at the centre between 7-10pm every night. This is in addition to a Lister generator used in Bakery Industry which also powers the whole centre whenever it is in use. Besides that,the Hospital Section had additional wind energy system that was later installed to provide back up energy soley for the Hospital.
I still recall with nostalgia my days in Mmaku Catholic Centre both as a student and as a staff of the Centre. After the School transmuted from a vocational institute to a regular Secondary School in 2002, I left Community Secondary School Enugu Mmaku and enrolled for my Senior Secondary Certificate Examination at St Theresa’s Secondary School, Mmaku Catholic Centre, and I was lucky to be part of the pioneer set that wrote WAEC and NECO at the Centre in May/June, 2003.
By September of same year, when our SSCE results were released, I made over 5 credits in my WAEC results and was offered employment at the hospital department of the Centre (St Monica’s Memorial Hospital) as a Cashier with the responsibility of preparing hospital bills and collecting payments from patients for onward remitance to the central Accountant.
Few months after my appointment was confirmed as a Cashier, I was offered a room and parlour self contained accomodation at the staff quarters of the hospital. How happy, how proud and how committed I was at my work with all sense of enthusiasm. I was also the General Coordinator of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Prayer Group, Mmaku Parish then. Life was indeed good at the Centre. There were staff quarters for all the departments and healthy competition amongst all departments was encouraged in the areas of performance and income generation.
Mmaku Catholic Centre was full of life and bubbling. And Ezioha, the host community was the primary beneficiary of the Centre as commercial activities at the centre had huge positive impacts on the economic activities of Ezioha people, especially those within the Ajaba area of the community. Until I got admission into Higher Institution, and left Mmaku for Enugu in Jan 2007, I really relished the 3 years (2003-2006) I worked as Cashier at St Monica’s Memorial Hospital, MCC.
Come to think of it, a centre with such super structures and five solid Industries that were self sustaining those days. Fr Udeafor bequeathed to Mmaku, a legacy that directly or indirectly affected the lives of every Mmaku person and also made us the envy of our neigbouring communities.
Talk about the Manna Bread from the bakery industry, it was a household bread for every family in Mmaku and beyond as the bread was being distributed to all parts of Awgu and Oji LGAs and beyond.
The Pigery dept from the Agric Industry attracted buyers from far and near as rearing of pigs wasn’t common then. Even the Hospital department during my days then was also running Outside Clinics at Ugbo and Nkwe/Ezere respectively on weekly basis besides running full time medical services at the main hospital.
Then the most popular amongst all were the school departments both Nursery, Primary and Secondary. With an efficient school bus system that transversed, Awgu, Mgbowo, Mgbidi, Obeagu and parts of Mmaku, and a Boarding House managed with high moral standards by Missionary Sisters, the schools endeared itself to parents within Awgu LGA.
Moreover, if you happen to attend the graduation ceremony of the Nursery/Primary pupils of the school under the tutulage of Daughters of Divine Love sisters, and hear the pupils sing and make presentations in English Language, you will be persuaded to withdraw your children or wards from the public schools and enroll them in the MCC school despite the high cost. Scholarships were also available!
Same is also with the secondary school section. Following its conversation from a vocational institute to a regular Secondary School, it attracted much population both day and boarding students. When other public schools were still using typewriting machines to learn typing, Mmaku Catholic Centre had a well equipped computer class for practical computer training. And with it’s super structures and facilities, WAEC and NECO were quick to approve it as their examination centres, which attracted external students from far and near to the school.
This was the Mmaku Catholic Centre that the greatest son of Mmaku, Rev Fr Innocent Udeafor bequeathed to Mmaku people. An edifice that provided jobs, better education, better heath care, and other ancillary opportunities to Mmaku people. This was the Mmaku Catholic Centre that a few angry fellows led by Ezioha youth went and destroyed under the guise of the impasse between the Catholic Bishop of Awgu, Most Rev Dr John Okoye and another Mmaku Catholic priest, Rev Fr James Ani.
Who would have imagined that Ezioha, the host community and major beneficiaries of Mmaku Catholic Centre would be the one to lead an attack on Mmaku Catholic Centre, an edifice built by its own son of the soil and a clergyman for that matter.
Where was the voice of reason in Ezioha people? Where were the elders of Ezioha when a decision was made to lead an onslaught against an establishment that benefited you and your future generations? What has the youth of Ezioha gained in seeing MCC deserted and in ruins? My heart bleeds! Posterity mourns!
Watch out, in part two of this article, I hope to:a. reveal how on that fateful day, some Ezioha youth led an attack that stopped all activities at the Centre, chased away pupils, students, teachers, nurses, doctors, bakers, farmers and all workers and managers of Mmaku Catholic Centre (MCC), ordered everyone to vacate the centre with immediate effect and then locked up the place. Thereby leaving MCC, a once economic hub of Mmaku now a deserted ghost land. b. Analyse the action of Ezioha youth and its implicationsc. Suggest ways out of this quagmire
Sylvanus Obasi is a Lagos-based Journalist, Content Creator & Social Entrepreneur.