The team of Journalists and Civil society leaders putting together the Imo at 40 Commemorative Lecture dinner and awards events, have shortlisted the foremost statesmen for one of the most prestigious recognition at the event, the Imo legend Awards.
The team delivered letter of award conferment to Dr. Sam Mbakwe's eldest daughter Ms Patience Mbakwe who is serving currently as TC Chairman in Obowo recently and explained to her the goals and target of the coming event, which features lecture and discussion on a theme geared towards informing South east Youths on the need to instill positivism in their daily activity and renew their faith in their glorious future in the nation, which they should not sit and wait for to happen but rather stand up to contribute their quota in shaping their future via admirable actions and purposeful contribution in giving the nation a facelift.
recounting the history of Imo from the last four decades will remain an incomplete exercise without inclination on the time and achievements of Dr. Sam Mbakwe and the resolute drive of Oputa in the judicial records of Nigeria.
'Dee' Sam Mbakwe was an Igbo politician and governor of Imo State, southern Nigeria from 1 October 1979 until 31 December 1983. The Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, which is located in Owerri, the state capital, was renamed after him. In 1981, Sam Mbakwe set up Imo State University. The campus was located in a territory that was ceded to Abia State in 1991 and was re-christened Abia State University. However, Imo State University acquired a new campus in Owerri and still exist.
He studied at the Teachers Training College, Oleh, Isoko, from 1946 to 1947, and at Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone in 1952. He moved on to the University of Manchester (1953–56), the University of Hull (1956–58), and finally the school run by the Inns of Court (1958–59), all in England, before returning to Nigeria to practice law in Port Harcourt, Eastern Region. Mbakwe served as an Administrator of Okigwe Province in the Republic of Biafra, an Igbo secessionist state in southeastern Nigeria, during the 1967–70 Civil War.
Mbakwe joined the Constituent Assembly in 1978 and became governor on 1 October of the following year. One of the main priorities of his administration was to improve Imo State's roads.
He was re-elected, but his second term was interrupted by General Muhammadu Buhari's military coup of 31 December 1983, which brought about the end of the Second Republic. Described as "controversial," he said the following about politicians in September 1995: "If you have not been in prison before, that will be your baptism and qualification. You will learn from the prison yard that not all those in detention are criminals."
Mbakwe earned the nickname "the weeping governor" for crying while trying to convince the federal government to pay more attention to his state; the first occasion of his famed tears was the Ndiegoro flood in Aba, which was then a part of Imo State. He had invited President Shehu Shagari to witness the destruction done by the floods, and it was said that he was moved to tears while conducting the president around the disaster area. His 6 January 2004 death in Avutu, Obowo Local Government Area, came after a sickness that had set on in February 2002 and occurred shortly after a state-sponsored trip to Germany for treatment. he is unarguably the best Governor to have led Imo State when it comes to positive strides and records on road infrastructure that he executed during his time in office.
JUSTICE CHUKWUDIFU AKUNNE OPUTAJustice Oputa is a man whose life remains a veritable source of inspiration to many generations yet unborn. It will be recalled that the eminent jurist called it a day on the 11th of May 2014, after a protracted illness at a ripe age of 96, what many in eastern part of Nigeria, regard as a full age to be met with celebration. Chukwudifu, a renowned legal colossus, Economist, Historian, public Servant, administrator extraordinaire, Visionary statesman and the Socrates of Nigerian legal history thanks to his knack for Logic and Philosophy in adjudications.
His death, predictably elicited eulogies from Many Nigerians, especially for his honesty, wit and uncommon probity in the discharge of his duties as a legal officer both during the days of private practice and upon call to National service. Small wonder than why many in the legal circles referred to him as an “Incorruptible Judge”.
Born on the 22nd of september, 1918 in Oguta, Imo State( the reason why he was fondly called by some, ‘Oputa from Oguta’) to the late Chief Izukwu Oputa and Madamme Nwanetu Oputa whom unknown to him at his birth would all transcend to another dimension before he celebrates his one year birthday, as his parents all died within a year of his birth. After that sad episode of his life, the little Oputa would be brought up by his grandmother, Nee Ogonim Enesha, a trader with the then Royal Niger Company. He had his early education at Sacred Hearts school, Oguta from 1930-1936 and later on at the famous Christ the King College (CKC) Onitsha from 1937-1940. After that, the young Oputa. Went to Yaba Higher College, but due to the exigencies of World War (II), he was sent along with others to the then Achimota College, Ghana, then Gold Coast, where he bagged a degree in Economics in 1945.
He later proceeded to the University of London where he would later graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in History. The young Chukwudifu, obviously not satisfied with his academic expedition, later moved on to study Law in England and by June, 1953, that humble effort was crowned with success as he was conferred with an LL.B Hons. Degree.
Having bagged a degree in Law, it appeared the stage was set for him to take his generation by the storm. He did. He was called to the English Bar-Garys Inn London on the 26th of Nov. 1953. With his basket of academic degrees literally filled, the saturated Oputa travelled back home-Nigeria to apparently lend his quota to the development of mother land with all he has been able to garner in Education and experiences from near and wide.
He went into a brilliant and successful practice that saw him travel across the country and even to Cameroon but with the exception of the North, which at that time, had quite a peculiar legal system. His practising years, had him handle high profile cases such as the controversial Oguta Chieftaincy Title dispute in 1958/1959, the Amayenabo dispute of 1960 to mention but a few.
In 1966, Justice Oputa was appointed a judge of the then High Court of Eastern Nigeria in a dramatic circumstance from where he moved on to become the first Chief Judge of the Imo State High Court a decade later. Despite all the accolades that came his way after what thus far appeared to be a successful practice, little did Oputa know that the best was yet to come.
In 1984, the great elevation came-The exalted position of the Honorable Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Like in all of his previous assignments, it did not take long before he put a stamp on the S.C as a man moved by Classical Literature, History, divinity and Philosophy. All of which he brought to bear sitting in Chambers at the apex court.
No wonder why all his judgments were draped in philosophical robes that is the exclusive preserve of a genius and hence the reason why the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Bello nicknamed him Cicero, after the great Roman philosopher, Lawyer and thinker. He bagged a sea of awards both at home and abroad as a result of his stellar performance and outstanding personality.
He later went on to head the panel that probed Human Rights Violations during 15 years of Military era in 1999 at the instance of former president Olusegun Obasanjo. An exercise which was popularised by the media as the ‘Oputa Panel’ and also one in which he believed was a success. In an interview granted to news men, he said, “……
The Human Rights commission was like an exercise to bare ourselves out and see how deficient and unclad we are. To more or less, appeal from the inside to our soul. It was set up to enable us to evaluate our ugly past and to create a purposeful future. I think it worked for us….”.
This elder statesmen legacy remains a source of inspiration for many today and this recognition to be accorded to them on the day is another gesture of our appreciation of their sacrifice and selfless service to the people of Imo and Nigeria at large.