By Monday Kudevi
The erstwhile acting Managing Director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Chief (Mrs.) Chinwe Florence Onyeagom has marked her 70th birthday in style in Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre, Lagos.
Nothing was spared to celebrate the maritime icon as families, friends and well-wishers joined the entire management and staff of one of her firms, Le Look Nigeria Limited to celebrate her at a well-attended church service which took place recently at Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 1004 Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos.
It is on record that Le Look Nigeria Limited has already carved a niche for itself as an African print-made bag company in the country as not a few have expressed delight at its unique products. They are generally made of eye-catching locally sourced materials.
Accolades for Ezenwa came from far and near. These include the Honourable Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen; pioneer Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mrs. Mfon Ekong Usoro; the Chairman, Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Victoria Haastrup; Director General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and President, World Crafts Council (WCC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe; Chairman, Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (NPCC), Otunba Kunle Folarin; and the President, African Women in Maritime Organisation (WIMAFRICA), Mrs. Jean ChiazorAnishere, SAN.
Others are President, Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA), Nigeria, Mrs. Eunice Ezeoke; Chief Operating Officer, Women Entrepreneurs and Professionals Network, Mrs. Affiang Israel Ibanga; Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Barrister Hassan Bello; National President, National Association of Stevedoring Companies, Mr. Bolaji Sunmola; and the Head of Service, Ekiti State, Peju Babafemi.
The celebration with the theme “Goodness and Mercy” kicked off with a thanksgiving service that lasted for only an hour in line with the COVID 19 protocols prescribed by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The temperature of those who graced the occasion was also checked before they were permitted to enter the church premises.
In order to maintain social distance, an orderly queue was maintained at the point of washing hands in running water, taking of temperature and the use of the rest rooms. These protocols also made the organizers to drastically reduce the number of invitees allowed into the church auditorium just as every attendee was compelled to wash their hands and use sanitizers at the church entrance. The use of facemasks was also made compulsory. The celebrant also made things easy for her invitees. While many other activities were handled by her aides, as a mark of respect for her guests, she personally handed over several souvenirs including customized face masks made in beautifully designed local fabrics to each of them.
The thanksgiving service was conducted by some clergy men including Reverend Father Michael Omughale, Reverend Father Alex Oboh and Reverend Father Jude Oniah who is of Abuja Arch Diocese. To add colour to the occasion, the choir of Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church which has Brother Ifeanyi Nwaiwu as its Music Director; Brother Ogbonna and his team from the celebrant’s home state, Saint Mary Catholic Church Trans-Ekulu, Enugu sang several melodious songs to exhort the name of the almighty Lord who has shown her goodness and mercy over the years.
In his sermon, Omughale enjoined the congregation to always endeavour to serve God even in their old age just as he poured encomiums on the celebrant wondering where she got the energy to do what she was doing at her age.
His words: “I always ask Sister Chinwe how she gets the energy to do the things she do as she hardly gets tired especially doing the things of God. Sister Chinwe has been a source of joy to all the families in this parish. From today, your new name will be Mama 70”.
In her brief testimony, the septugarian who is also founder of Le Look Nigeria Limited stated how God has been faithful to her and how she has been enjoying God’s goodness and mercy on a daily basis. Apparently fulfilled with her 86 years old mother, Mrs. Theresa Ofodu seated by her side in the church auditorium, expressed gratitude for all that the Lord has done for her over the years.
Apparently overwhelmed by the huge attendance and success of the occasion even on a working day, Ezenwa who retired as a Director in the Federal Ministry of Transportation over a decade ago said she was so excited to the extent that she was short of words to express herself.
Her words: “I do not have much to say other than saying thank you to all of you for the love you have always shown to me even on this day. I want to thank Reverend Father Mike for staying with me when I had COVID 19 in December 2020. Thank you so much and God bless you all. Please do well to join us outside for the reception”.
Mrs. Ofodu was so pleased with her daughter’s strides that she took to the floor dancing to the songs being rendered by the church choir. Looking strong and energetic, she danced along with her daughter on the aisle during the thanksgiving offering.
Amidst accolades from friends and relations, stakeholders in the maritime industry and beyond, Ezenwa was celebrated in no small way as she received from praises from her loved ones.
In the reception that took place immediately after the thanksgiving service, food and drinks packed in customized Ankara made lunch bags were given to guests. The tastefully designed lunch bags were made by one of the celebrant’s companies.
The high point of the occasion was the cutting of an elegantly made birthday cake by Ezenwa surrounded by selected guests after the spelling of Jesus.
It was a beauty to behold as they were flashes of camera lights all over her as photographers and some members of her church took turns to have a group photograph with her.
Indeed, Ezenwa’s 70th birthday celebration will remain indelible in hearts of those that attended it as the event was well-organized with security personnel on ground to maintain order and avoid overcrowding.
Not a few had expected Ezenwa to start slowing down since her formal retirement from Federal Civil Service over a decade ago. Nevertheless, Ezenwa who has been variously described by her well-wishers as a “woman of substance, special woman, amazon, easy going, fashionista, brilliant, cheerful giver, and quintessential role model” and so on has proved over the years that she has retired but not tired.
Apart from Le Look Nigeria Limited, Ezenwa still manages Le Look Bags Academy along Airport Road, Abuja; Ocean Serve and Logistics with offices in Abuja and Lagos, among other engagements. Just as one of the officiating ministers asked at the thanksgiving church service, many are wondering where Ezenwa gets the nerves and the energy to carry on with her pet projects over the years.