Dr Doris Ochei received the prestigious Global Icon for Community Development & Humanitarian Services 2023 for her selfless services for humanity, reaching out to communities to improve their welfare and quality of lives.
Her visionary Leadership at Doris Amaka Ochei Foundation (DAOF) and her commitment to sustainable development as exemplified by the rehabilitation and expansion of Onicha Olona Modern market, which has inspired a wide range of income generating and livelihood enhancing activities won the hearts of the Diaspora and the jury. More so, the rebuilding and rehabilitation of the road leading to the market further demonstrated her humanity, acumen and tenacity that eventual created an enabling environment for wealth creation and poverty reduction through DAO Foundation according to the jury. The jury in addition announced the Ochei family as Global Icon of Anioma Culture and Heritage for beautifully presenting Anioma culture with their full Anioma cultural attire at the event.
The Awards was instituted in 2016 by AGIC under the inspiration of the current Mayor of the city of Heubach, His Excellency, Dr. Joy Alemazung and Hon. (Dr) Kenneth Chibuogwu Gbandi, CEO of African German Information Center, and former member of Hamburg Senate Foreigner’s Advisory Council as part of the Africa Day celebration in promotion of the ideals and objectives of the UN International Decade for People of African Descent. Since then, it has been an annual event.
In her acceptance address, she thanked the Chairman of this occasion, the Special Guests of Honour, the Royal Majesties, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Fellow Awardees, Members of the Press and Nigerians in Diaspora for the honour and the warm reception.
Part of her address below:
I welcome you specially, to this occasion. I must say that I am very pleased to be part of this historic event that promises to remind us about who we are, where we are headed and where we should be at a time like this in human history. We are therefore gathered here today, not just to interrelate and celebrate the achievements of our people; we are also here to give due regard to our values and morals.
I must say that nothing would have been more motivating and energizing than this recognition. With your raison d’etre which reads: “Your visionary leadership at Doris Amaka Ochei Foundation (DAO foundation) and your commitment to sustainable development as exemplified by the rehabilitation and expansion of Onicha-Olona Modern Market which has inspired a wide range of income-generating and livelihood enhancing activities, did not go unnoticed by the Award Committee Members”, gladdens our heart as an organization.
This is at the very heart of the work we do. (When a child receives an undeserving gift, instead of acknowledging it, he or she will ask “Who do I give it to” This recognition is so magnificent, that I am beginning to ask questions. In any case am here, so I am sure it is for me).
This is at the very heart of the work we do. (When a child receives an undeserving gift, instead of acknowledging it, he or she will ask “Who do I give it to” This recognition is so magnificent, that I am beginning to ask questions. In any case am here, so I am sure it is for me). I thank you immensely from the bottom of my heart, and this is an indication that whatever you are doing in your little corner, you are visible to the world.
As we all know, Anioma land demonstrates dignity, hard work, accomplishments, compassion, excellence, good behaviour, courage, a positive competitive spirit, brotherhood and innovation. Over the years, we have also proved by our actions that excellence and good citizenship are in our DNA. Irrespective of how conservative anyone may be, an encounter with us (the Anioma indigenes) guarantees a positive impression of our nature and culture.
Without sounding immodest, I am not too sure a Senatorial District exists today in Nigeria that has contributed more to peace and nation-building in terms of patriotism, resilience, integration and honour, than the people of Delta North. We know that these attributes are not easy to come by for reasons that are not far-fetched. We have an enviable heritage that is worthy of preservation and we are very proud of it.
Before I proceed, let me remind us that our trailblazing roles and accomplishments as a people, resonate beyond our different communities and even our country, Nigeria. So, we must remain grateful and appreciative to God Almighty for this, and many other blessings that are inherent in us. For instance, we gave the world, Professor ‘Zulu Sofola, Nee Okwumabua, who hailed from Issele-Uku in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State. Sofola is Africa’s first female professor of Theatre Arts, a former member of the University of Ilorin’s Senate and also a past head of the Department of Performing Arts, a distinguished scholar, a bridge-builder, a humanist and the popular author of well-known books like King Emene, Wedlock of the Gods and other brilliant literary works and scholarly materials that are widely cited.
I also remember and honour other Anioma iconic female figures like:
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a renowned economist, thinker and Director-General of the World Trade Organization; Buchi Emecheta, the Ibusa-born celebrated novelist and author; Rosemary Anieze-Adams, a television personality from Onicha-Olona and youth advocate who became Nigeria’s Miss Independence in 1960; Her Royal Highness, Dr Obi Martha Dunkwu, the Omu Anioma and a woman of substance whom I am privileged to be speaking in her dignified presence, Your Highness, I do not take this rare privilege for granted (Nne Agu, Omu Igwe!); Dr Theresa Ngozi Elumogo from Onicha-Olona, Aniocha North of Delta State, a Director of Infection Prevention and Control at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, United Kingdom; Professor Tess Onwueme from Ogwashi-Uku, is a prominent Nigerian scholar, playwright and gender activist; Patty Ebigwei Boulaye from Okpanam in Oshimili North Local Government Area. Boulaye, a consummate entertainer, model and actor bestrode the world’s performing arena for many years, and numerous others like them; The list is inexhaustible.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, shall we toast in honour of these amazons who have continuously illuminated our values and morals with their outstanding accomplishments.
May we continuously be blessed with the most amazing people!
I must say that I am inspired daily, by their pacesetting exploits, uncommon leadership, courage and contributions to the world. And it is always reassuring anytime we remember that they have all left their marks on the world as global technocrats, public intellectuals, playwrights, scholars, international entertainers, activists and citizens of the world.
Therefore, the question is: where are the suckers that will grow when the old banana trees are gone? What are we doing individually and collectively to engender and sustain our nobility and tradition of excellence? When I think of the decadence confronting our traditional institutions and culture, it breaks my heart. For instance, our language, craft, fashion, delicious cuisine, music and dance steps are going into extinction. We must do something deliberate, drastic and strategic to mitigate further damage to our cultural values.
Today, we all are gathered here representing, the present and the future. This gathering also reminds us of the debt we must pay for the growth and survival of the Anioma nation. For me, the good news is that being together in one hall from different countries under a progressive agenda with a common purpose is a step in the right direction. I congratulate and thank you, my dear Parents, brothers and sisters, for this initiative. But we must increase the momentum. There could not have been a better time than now.
This undoubtedly, is a time to show great courage despite the challenges we face as a people in today’s volatile world. I am not in any way surprised at the work you do here as ambassadors and at home. As people in the diaspora, you have an edge over your homeland counterparts who are also not leaving any stone unturned in their collective quest to better our area and their lot.
As I commend you for all your giant strides, let me also use this opportunity to advise on two key concerns.
Firstly, there should be a reduction in our ostentatious lifestyle that adds little or nothing to our legacy as a people. If we do, we can afford savings that could be channelled towards positive ventures that can affect the lives of our people at the grassroots. Luxury is fleeting vanity that vanishes just as it sounds; while building in the land of humanity is an everlasting legacy that outlives you, leaving your generation the joy of a prestigious and everlasting goodwill.
Secondly, we must ‘think home’ more regularly. As they say, there is no place like home. You need a serene community to retire to after the hustle and bustle. There is an adage that states “As you make your bed so you lie on it. “If you live your home unattended so shall you meet it”.
You don’t need to do too much, just do what you can afford no matter how small it is. If you do small, Mr A does his small, Mrs B contributes her small, and Miss C and Master E collaborate to contribute their quota, these little drops of water will make a mighty ocean. Do not despise your little contributions with the wrong notion that it is too little to count. Do whatever you can to create a positive impact in your community in any way, be it financial or non-financial, as long as it is an effort. I believe it will make a positive impact on humanity and our communities at large.
But let me shock you! Do you know you can do so much with so little? Recently, a colleague and friend who now runs a big business read about how we assisted some indigent students with their WAEC and NECO fees, reached out to me and said: “I never knew many parents could not pay the school fees of their children and wards. I have some lose cash, and I will look in that direction”. In the following session, he brought some disadvantaged students closer to their dreams by paying their fees. Since then, he has continued to intervene in the lives of many students and other people in need.
Be that as it may, it is satisfying to note that the organizers of this ceremony are already in touch with the changing times. So, I thank you for recognizing my modest contributions, but I believe that recognition is not an end in itself. We must work continually to justify the confidence we carry when people remember and honour us for our good deeds. After all, the reward for hard work, as they say, is more work.
As a matter of urgency, I urge you to come home and invest. You must also think seriously about how to address poverty, inequality, exclusion, hopelessness and other challenges confronting us today at home. Again, we must put to use, the education, exposure, maturity and all the opportunities we have acquired from living abroad and interfacing with people from diverse cultures. However, I understand that we in Nigeria are not easy nuts to crack but you must understand that we are passing through hardships and uncertainties. As such, do not expect too much from us in these changing times. This is the huddle you have to overcome to make the positive change you are obliged to make given your advantageous position. In other words, do not expect your task of changing the narrative to be a walk in the park. It will be tasking but achievable with resilience and commitment.
This desire to touch and turn around lives has remained a critical part of my engagements and interventions as a woman from Anioma. And I have pledged to continue to live a life of impact even with the limited resources at my disposal.
Let me remind you, my dear brothers and sisters, that we must hold hands as we travel this long and winding road for our collective good and posterity. Holding hands in this context, I must say, connotes cooperation and togetherness. Doris Amaka Ochei (DAO) Foundation is also concerned about our children’s learning environment, empowerment issues and poverty alleviation. At Ezemu Girls’ Grammar School, my alma mater in Ubulu-Uku, I have repeatedly challenged myself and others. Recently, we constructed an assembly hall with modern facilities for students. I am also part of a group of old girls’ who are renovating classrooms and providing basic amenities to aid learning.
To say that our people are in dire straits is an understatement. We need help. That is why we must work together for results. For those who want to work alone, please feel free to make the difference that we all desire.
What is important at the end of the day is the destination, and we must work either as individuals or collectively to finish strong and reach our journey’s end. I am one of such solo travellers that sometimes travel alone. But whichever road we choose to travel, whether together or alone as I hinted earlier, let us remember that we must not falter, derail or abandon our people and community. This consciousness and single-mindedness drove my reconstruction of the Onicha-Olona Market after over 23 years of neglect.
Again, this sense of purpose inspired my other projects both in Onicha-Olona and Ubulu-Uku where I hail from.
I am happy to announce that we are now spreading our tentacles to other communities in Anioma land because we believe that the progress we seek, must be expanded and replicated. After all, when we help people, we help ourselves and inspire others to do good, and whatever we do for humanity is an investment for today and the future.
As a firm believer in the truth that home is everything, I implore you to reflect again on the circumstances under which you left Nigeria. So, it is incumbent on all of you, our dear parents, brothers and sisters in the diaspora, to work towards a better Anioma nation. If we fail to fix the home, I am afraid we may one day return and meet it in a more deplorable state. Therefore, we must agree that the rot, despondency and inertia of the moment, must not continue.
As we continue to encourage those in the diaspora to think and invest at home, we mean every bit of that phrase, knowing the benefits that would naturally come home when there is unity and synergy between the people in the diaspora and those at home. However, we at home must refrain from discouraging them with our undue sense of entitlement and unruly behaviour that sends the wrong vibes to the diasporans.
As I round off, I wish to commend all of us here, particularly the unsung heroes working behind the scenes for our common good to keep up. We shall overcome!
Thank you all and may God bless us all.
Doris Ochei, PhD.