Nneka is a 4-year-old jovial kid born in a remote but calm town, Obodoukwu in Ideato-North Local Government Area of Imo State. She has not been playing with her friends because she is very ill. Her mother wrapped her on her back and trekked long distance to a neighbouring community because the health centre in her village was not functional. Meanwhile Nneka’s house is located opposite the health centre. When her mother returned with her in the evening, Nneka’s eyes were filled with tears because she saw how tired her mother was after carrying her to another community to see a doctor.
The next morning Nneka felt okay. She ran out of their house that early morning to a particular spot outside their compound as she always did every morning, where she had a very good view of activities taking place opposite her house, right inside the health centre. She smiled as usual and felt happy that very soon her mother will not have to carry her to a neighbouring town for medical attention. What was happening in the health centre premises? A new state-of-the-art Doctors’ quarters was about being completed. The building had every facility that will make the Doctors want to stay extra days whenever they arrived the community for duties. There was also a functional generator to keep the facility constantly illuminated. A water borehole was also installed in the compound with a neatly refurbished overhead tank to ensure water supply was never scarce inside the quarters. The hospital is being renovated and soon, medial challenges will be a thing of the past in the village because the community health centre will now be fully functional again. Who are those behind the revival of the health centre and other facilities in Obodoukwu town? Ofu Obi age grade. This is a unique age grade in Obodoukwu, Ideato-North Local Government Area of Imo State, Nigeria.
It began about 12 months ago as a soft discussion among five young men in Abuja who felt that there was need to begin a process that will meaningfully develop the community from the inside, without waiting for government handout. These people agreed that an age grade should be formed to serve as a platform that will bring philanthropic minds together with a mission to build the community. The number of interested persons grew from five to nine and the first meeting was held. The membership started growing gradually; it got to over 200 within a few weeks. The Ofu Obi age grade gradually became a reality. Ofu Obi means ‘One Heart’. It could also mean togetherness, unity, or oneness. This means that with about 200 members, Ofu Obi simply means about 200 hearts beating as one, all in a bid to transform Obodoukwu town.
Ofu Obi can be described as ‘a moving ship full of generals with a mission to transform a community into a mini city’. For our Spanish audience reading this, Ofu Obi is ‘un barco móvil lleno de generales con una misión de transformar una comunidad en una ciudad mini’. For the French audience reading this article, Ofu Obi is ‘un navire en mouvement rempli de généraux avec pour mission de transformer une communauté en mini-ville’. For the audience reading this in parts of Africa that speak Swahili, Ofu Obi is ‘meli inayohamia iliyojaa wajumbe na ujumbe wa kubadilisha jumuiya katika mji wa mini’. Ofu Obi is indeed, a global brand.
Even without official inauguration, which will be coming up on the 3rd of January, 2018, the Ofu Obi age grade embarked on sensitive projects to immediately bring meaningful life back to the community. The group also began sensitization tours by rotating venue of her meetings across cities in Nigeria. The meetings which were described as Sensitization Meetings have been held in Abuja, Owerri, Obodoukwu, Benin, Onitsha/Asaba, Enugu, Absolutely, Port-Harcourt, Abakaliki and Lagos. This led to an explosion in membership. With time, the general meetings of Ofu Obi age grade will also be held in major cities in Africa, Europe, America and Asia where membership is also strong.
It was gathered that Ofu Obi age grade has become so attractive that some people, especially those in an older age grade in the village, even attempt to falsify their age to become qualified to join Ofu Obi. It was gathered that some people even claim to have two birth days so as to join Ofu Obi – the first birth day was when they were born biologically by their parents which is way off the Ofu Obi age bracket, and the second birthday was when they were born again spiritually which probably falls within the Ofu Obi age bracket, yet they were denied membership.
On a more serious note, membership of Ofu Obi age grade has gone beyond people residing in Nigeria to include indigenes of Obodoukwu residing abroad. Today, apart from Nigeria, there are members residing in the US, UK, and China. The only country where we are sure there is no member of Ofu Obi age grade is North Korea. Every other part of the world where indigenes of Obodoukwu community reside, there is at least one young man there that is a registered member of Ofu Obi. This is the first of its kind in the entire zone.
Ofu Obi has a long-term goal that could be described as mission impossible for other age grades; and that goal is to transform Obodoukwu town into a modern community with features of a mega city. The plan is to make the community a place where people from every part of the state and environs would want to come and reside to do business. This is a mission the age grade has put strong plans together to accomplish.
Ofu Obi is naturally wired to develop Obodoukwu town. In fact, the interim Chairman of this age grade – Emeka Obi – is popularly known by his nick name ‘Gwongworo’ which he has been answering since his childhood. ‘Gwongworo’ means lorry, a ferocious lorry at that. With ‘Gwongworo’ as leader, Ofu Obi plans to bulldoze underdevelopment out of the community and usher in a new dawn which comes with comfort for everyone who resides in Oboukwu.
Ofu Obi is not just an age grade. It is a philosophy. In Spanish, Ofu Obi es una filosofía. In Swahili, Ofu Obi ni falsafa. In case you want to travel to Asia just to do a quick business and your plane makes emergency landing in Vietnam, don’t be bothered. Tell them Ofu Obi là một triết lý. That’s what it means in Vietnamese. This age grade is truly a global brand.
It is against this backdrop that Ofu Obi has mapped out a special event to hold on the 3rd of January, 2018. This is triple-barreled event – official inauguration of the age grade, Fund-raising event for the projects lined up by the age grade, and Ofu Obi Day which includes official presentation of the age grade’s newspaper. Not that members of the age grade cannot fund the project by themselves; they can. But in order to make the development process an all-encompassing and participatory affair, the age grade wants every philanthropist in the community to be a part of the spirit of revival and wind of change. That is the spirit behind the fund-raising ceremony. All eyes are on Ofu Obi to lead Obodoukwu community to the promised land as this age grade is seen by the entire community as a truly development-oriented organization with a sincere and realistic plan to transform the community.