BY TONY EKE
AS the uncountable nights of our lives unfold and fade away at dawn, some nights are etched on our minds mainly because of certain significant events. Such nights are often defined by a mix of bliss and splendour, fun and razzmatazz that partakers hardly forget in a hurry.
While events of varied import were hosted in state capitals across the country, there was a memorable night penultimate Saturday in the Delta State capital, Asaba, where the local branch of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) held a special dinner in honour of the Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly (DTHA), Rt. Hon. (Engr.) Victor Ochei who attained the status of a Fellow of the NSE in December 2011.
Coming from his professional colleagues who are impressed with the enviable course of his development both as an engineer and a politician imbued with humanitarian virtues, the latest celebration was an icing on the cake of the momentous events that Ochei has savoured since he was elected as the Speaker of the State House of Assembly. In retrospect, he had been hosted by the University of Benin Alumni association of which he is a member, the Saints International Club, Anioma World Congress in Dallas, and quite importantly, in his hometown-Onicha-Olona in Aniocha North local government, all having taken place within the last eight months.
It was apparent that nature herself sanctioned that particular night as the weather was kind in contrast to the previous days of torrential rainfall that created mini-rivers and emergency ponds in many parts of the state. As guests arrived at Orchid Hotels, a hospitality facility which served as venue of the event, they leisurely walked into the hall without the compulsion of rushing out of their cars which was a possible scenario if nature had not heeded the supplication of the organisers for a fair atmosphere.
And the hall was long prepared even before dusk. About seven to eight chairs were arranged to each table in the expansive rectangular-shaped hall. Just on the right hand side beside the daise was a musical band that treated the audience to various songs of established artistes. The female lead singer performed some songs that guests are familiar with and they hummed quietly in their seats while others not only nodded to the beats but also shook their feet in sheer appreciation of the band’s acts.
There was a young man called Friction of the Maltina dancehall fame whose performance was energetic and break taking. He utilized his slim structure to a great advantage. The audience, though impressed by his creative act, was apparently apprehensive of a possible damage being done to his fragile frame as he reached the climax of his performance. Similarly, two comedians also entertained, dishing out jokes which elicited uproarious laughter from the audience. But one of them called Famous who spotted an Afro punk hairdo was relatively better than the other whose jokes were mostly dry probably because he is still a fresher in the Nigerian College of Humour where the likes of Ali Baba, Basket Mouth, Gordon, AY and I go Die, exult in the art of fun-making as visiting professors.
When Ochei arrived in the company of Rt. Hon. Abdullahi, the Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly, he became the cynosure of eyes, which was exactly the same picture he cut at his formal investiture during the NSE’s last Annual General Meeting at Tinapa, Calabar, Cross River State. Midway into the event the Secretary to the State Government and Chief of Staff to the Delta State Governor, Mr. Ovuzuorie Macaulay and Dr. Festus Okubor respectively arrived and joined the Speaker and other eminent personalities on the dais.
Shortly after, Engr. Tonnevsky Anthony Unuafe, the chairman of the organising committee delivered a welcome address which set the tone of the elaborate commendatory speeches that acknowledged the enviable achievements of Ochei not only as an engineer but also as a notable political player that Unuafe referred to as “the pioneer of engineering transformation agenda in Nigeria modern politics”.
In his address, the Asaba branch chairman of the NSE, Engr. Anthony Onyokoko, decalred that the Speaker’s benevolence has manifested in the noticeable assistance that he has rendered to the professional body and commended him for making the engineering profession proud with his professional and political attainment within a very short time. “One thing I know is that he is a man of character who has transcended the engineering profession and the polity. The Rt. Hon. Speaker seats above his contemporaries in understanding the socio-economic system in place”, added the chairman.
The chairman described Ochei’s attainment of the position of a fellow as ‘historic’ because “for the past ten years no fellow was produced by this branch apart from the Rt. Hon. Speaker who took the bull by the horn and courageously embraced the grade of a Fellow, knowing fully well its added responsibilities”. He also observed that “it is only when engineers join this senior cadre that we are guaranteed of mentors who could guide and guard younger engineers to greater heights and to ensure that ethics of the profession is upheld”.
In his expose on the role of Fellow in Engineering, Engr Uzebu, the Chairman of Board of Fellows, said that a fellow has attained long-term excellence in engineering and has shown a demonstrable superior knowledge above his peers in the profession. He praised the Speaker for attaining the position in the NSE which he said has only 1,485 Fellows out of over 45,000 corporate members and other categories.
Responding, Ochei, who expressed appreciation for the honour, stated that the engineering profession would remain his first love no matter the exploits he might make in other fields in future. He spoke about engineering as a noble profession but pointed out that it was not easy combining engineering practice and the art of politicking, which probably made him, divest his interest in Davnotch Nigeria Limited, shortly after his election as Speaker in June last year. He, however, called on engineers to rise up and play more proactive role in the development of the country, since according to him, they cannot stand aside and look while the critical sector of the economy is mired in crisis, a cryptic reference to the construction industry where the incidence of collapsed building and failed projects has almost become a daily occurrence.
As his speech was greeted with applause by the audience I overheard a guest who quipped as he made way for the exit point: ’’ This man truly deserves the fellowship that the engineering body has given to him’’. Just then I enthused in a fit of soliloquy, “What a night to remember!”