Beauty Orugbe, a 27-year-old widow was walking home with her 4-month-old baby clutched to her back after she closed from Sunday service in Uromi, Esan North East local government area of Edo State. She appeared hopeless a few days to Christmas. Obviously she must have prayed for divine intervention as expected. She never knew a big surprise awaits her as she flagged down a motor bike, popularly called ‘okada’, to take her home.
Before she could board the bike, a truck-load of rice from the blues broke to a halt in front of her bearing the inscription, ‘free rice courtesy of Ken Imansuagbon’. One of the security guards in the truck handed the poor woman a 10kg bag of rice and wished her a merry Christmas.
In a twinkle of an eye, a large crowd in Uromi in Esan North East local government area had gathered as they pushed and shoved one another to grab the free rice. She couldn’t control her emotion as tears of joy rolled down her cheeks.
Christmas celebration comes to many with mixed feelings, especially with the daunting social economic and security challenges faced by Nigerians.
The usual razzmatazz of the season is obviously missing basically due to the cost of goods and service. This is occasioned by the adverse effect of the COVID- 19 pandemic on the economy and the rising inflation in the land further worsened an already bad situation.
Despite the obvious reality of providing and meeting the needs of loved ones, one cannot stop the jingle of bells at Christmas nor the fanfare and excitement that usually come with the birthday of Jesus Christ as celebrated by Christians World over.
Preparations for Christmas in most cities in Nigeria come with heightened economic activities as most businesses and shops display their clothes in a bid to make final sales of their goods and services.
Even though they are confronted with the economic realities of the times and its consequences, Nigerians are determined to celebrate and share in the spirit of the season which is love.
Christmas messages from the pulpits, traditional, political leaders and concerned citizens about the season have been that of love and sharing especially among the downtrodden, homeless and the hungry which constitute the bulk of the nation’s population.
Leaders have been challenged to rise up against selfishness, personal pleasure, primitive greed and sloganeering but to show in reality and practical terms the love for others.
This challenge is one that some persons, groups and organizations in Edo state have taken up with the sole aim to cater and put smiles on the faces of the very poor in Edo state.
For instance, in Edo State, a ray of hope, especially among the poor segment in the society, was rekindled as free rice of train of Edo born philanthropist and Chairman of Abuja highbrow school, Barrister Kenneth Imansuagbon with an alias, ‘rice man’ is leading the crusade against hunger.
He had in the last one week embarked on free rice distribution to the less-privileged in Edo state.
The philanthropist’s passion in feeding the poor and vulnerable started over 17 years ago with the distribution of free tons of rice across the 18 local government areas of the state.
Every year he challenged Nigerians to join in the crusade to defeat hunger as a recipe to guarantee peace, security and development in the society.
Imansuagbon outside being a popular politician with an ambition to become the governor of state is a household name among the masses with his annual rice sharing.
Charity, they say, begins at home as the renowned educationist kick started the 2021 free rice distribution at a local church in his home town of Ewohimi.
After receiving the blessing of the clergyman he moved to the streets of Ewohimi where he distributed rice among Okada riders and passersby alike.
The rice train proceeded Orphanage home in Agenebode, Etsako East Local Government Area of the state. The home which has a population of over 216 less privileged also received food items and cash gifts from the philanthropist.
The proprietor of the Christ Family Orphanage, Mrs Ebohia Rabi, a 77-year-old woman, expressed joy with the gesture of the donor.
“We are indeed grateful for Kenneth Imansuagbon for this kind donation. This is not the first time we are receiving this. May the good Lord grant him his heart desires”.
At New Benin market in Benin City, he also distributed rice to hundreds of traders causing heavy human and vehicular traffic.
An elated Imansuagbon stated: “This is very promising and exciting for me. It shows the kind of people that we are in Edo, we are very grateful people.
“For me, it has fired me up the most. I believe in Edo and proudly Edo. I’m using this occasion to wish all Edo people a merry Christmas to you all. Christmas is all about sharing and giving and we must learn to share both the giver and the receiver. If we want peace, love and development let us give.
“What is to the people, give back to the people, what is to Caesar, give to Caesar. When the giver and the receiver meet there is peace and development because everybody is happy. You ‘chop’ I chop’ there will be peace in the land.
“Only few people cannot just be comfortable, we don’t care about the poor anymore. The poor have always been among us. What the rich must do is to care for the poor. If not we will not sleep”.
As the free rice train traversed the nooks and crannies of the State, the Edo state government in Benin City on it part also urged citizens to show love to one another in the season of the Christmas.
Governor Obaseki, led other top government functionaries to a special Christmas carol of nine lessons organised for students drawn from various schools across the state.
The carol in its maiden edition featured special performances from various musical, dance and choreography groups.
Other top government officials at the event include Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie Esq.; Chief of Staff to the Governor, Osaigbovo Iyoha; Edo State Chief Judge, Joe Acha; Commissioner for Local Government, Monday Osaigbovo, and Chairman of the Edo State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Anthony Aziegbemi, among others.
The event, organized by Edo State Ministry of Education, was held at Imaguero College in Benin City.
Obaseki, who noted that the season was characterized by love and exchange of gifts, urged the children to show love towards one another as they celebrate Christmas.
In his opening remark, a student of Edo College, Osayomore Osayuki, thanked the Obaseki-led state government for the love it has continued to show Edo children.
Ven. Moses Onowhuke, in his teaching titled, ‘Make a Joyful Noise,’ said, “Christmas is a time to share love and happiness, as well as add value to people’s lives. I urge leaders from across the country never to use their positions to oppress the people.”