PASSAGE | CHIEF THE HON. CLETUS UGWUTIKIRI OPATA, KSM (1926-2021): Bishop Onah urges public servants to follow late Opata’s example

The bishop of Nsukka Catholic Diocese, Reverend Professor Godfrey Igwebuike Onah, has enjoined those who steal public funds when they find themselves in office to pick vital lessons from the life of Chief Hon. Cletus Opata.

The bishop spoke at the funeral Mass of Chief Opata whose body was buried Saturday in his ancestral home at Umuoda Lejja, Nsukka LGA of Enugu State.

Chief Opata, who died on May 18 at age 95, has received praises from the low and mighty across Nigeria and abroad for his selflessness during his active life.

Bishop Onah said corrupt politicians who build mansions in four cities after their tenure as just local government chairmen are bad examples, unlike Opata who remained incorruptible and selfless as a public servant.

In a homily preached by Rev. Fr. Dr Emeka Ngwoke during the Funeral Mass held at Federal Government Girls’ College, Lejja, the cleric said Opata’s life teaches us that the purpose of privilege is responsibility, since nobody lives or dies for himself.

He thanked Bishop Onah for being there to lead the funeral liturgy in honour of the late Chief Opata who, he said, was “one of the finest public servants this land has ever known”.

The bishop’s endorsement, he noted, “bears a message and lesson which I pray that all might hear and heed”.

“If we live, we live for the Lord; if we die, we die for the Lord. Alive or dead, we belong to the Lord, the Holy Writ reminds us. If we truly belong to the Lord, and live for him, we belong to and live for our brothers and sisters,” Father Ngwoke said.

Opata, the priest continued, did not gloat or ask for special recognition and deference but deployed every privilege and opportunity which his education and associations afforded him to the task of human promotion and service of God and neighbour.

Said Fr. Ngwoke: “Another important lesson which he teaches us is that contentment is not a function of the size of one’s pocket. Thus, the secret of a fulfilled life is gratitude which enables us to value what we have (however little) rather than whining over what we have not. And when we value what we have, we are less fearful of losing them and we can joyfully share them with others, and, in so sharing them, we become happy and fulfilled.

“On the contrary, the ungrateful heart is fearful and insecure and remains unfulfilled. The void gnawing at the heart of the ungrateful drains them of energy by an endless and insatiable quest for more and more of the goods of the earth. If therefore you find yourself clinging to what you have, unwilling to share and fearful of giving, you haven’t yet become sufficiently grateful for that which God has given you.”

Among the several distinguished personalities who travelled to Lejja for the burial were former Enugu State governor Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, Supreme Court Justice C.C. Nweze, former minister and Ohanaeze president-general Chief John Nwodo, Chief Everest Nnaji (Odengene), Senator Chukwuka Utazi and members of the Adada State Movement.

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