Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As we embrace 2024, my heart resonates with deep-seated gratitude. Indeed, the past year has been challenging, with moments of profound disappointment, particularly in the context of our national progress in Nigeria. We witnessed the stifling grip of entrenched forces hindering the strides we so earnestly yearn to make.

Yet, in the face of these adversities, I am reminded that things could have been more daunting. This realisation fortifies my belief in the philosophy of continuous improvement – a guiding principle that shapes my outlook towards life. Extrapolating on this tenet – In every situation, no matter how dire, there exists a silver lining, a reason for gratitude, and a lesson to propel us forward.

On the 28th of December, a day etched in my memory, a rather extraordinary event unfolded for my family and me. Our journey that day took us from the bustling city of Owerri, Imo State, where we had joyfully participated in a wedding celebration. En route back to my hometown, we paused for a chieftaincy coronation ceremony in Nnewi. As we neared Uga Junction, a significant landmark on our route, an unexpected encounter awaited us.

A convoy of vehicles, seemingly in a hurry, was quickly gaining on us. Their security detail signalled to mine, requesting the right of way. Such moments often escalate into tense standoffs, with neither convoy willing to yield. However, in that instant, my core philosophy of non-confrontation and mutual respect – the ethos of ‘live and let live’ – guided my actions. I instructed my security detail to pull our convoy to the side of the road, making way for the rushing convoy to pass.

Though taken in the spirit of peace and accommodation, this decision to allow them to overtake us was met with a mix of anger and reluctance from some of my team. I insisted we allow them because I believe our journey is not a race but a path to reach home safely and peacefully. Moreover, aggressive driving by us or anyone poses a risk not just to us but to all sharing this road.

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With this in mind, we courteously stepped aside, letting the hurried convoy pass. As the convoy swiftly moved ahead, we consciously decided to avoid following too closely but to maintain a considerable distance, ensuring a safe space between our convoy and theirs. This wasn’t just a strategic move for safety but also a choice reflecting patience and prudence – virtues that often lead us through life’s unpredictable journeys.

Resuming our journey, the atmosphere within our convoy was one of calm and tranquillity. Accompanying me were my beloved family – my wife, son, and daughter – along with my two brothers, some of their spouses, their children, and a few other friends.

However, as we neared Uga Junction in Aguata, my local government area, the unexpected happened. A sudden barrage of gunshots rang out from ahead, piercing the calm like a bolt from the blue. Instinctively, we pulled over, our hearts heavy with concern. In these tense moments, we immediately alerted the police authorities, detailing our location and the situation, and then we waited, our thoughts a whirlwind of apprehension and hope.

When the echoes of gunshots finally ceased and a blanket of silence fell over the area, we carefully resumed our journey. Our progress was cautious, every sense heightened, as we navigated the uncertainty ahead.

It was later revealed that the convoy which had hurriedly overtaken us had encountered a dire situation at the junction. They had stumbled upon a kidnapping operation, a confrontation that tragically resulted in the loss of two police officers assigned to protect the principal of the convoy.

Reflecting on this, one can’t help but ponder the implications had we not chosen to pause and let them pass, thus inadvertently delaying our own journey. The gravity of what might have been is a thought too harrowing to dwell on.

The tragedy didn’t end at Uga Junction, as the gunmen made their escape, they fled through my hometown, gunning down a community vigilante, Chigbo Onuegbu (Akawo), on their way. In the wake of this incident, our hearts go out in prayer for the souls of the brave officers who perished in that horrific encounter. We pray for solace and strength for their grieving families and loved ones in this time of unimaginable loss.

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At the same time, we are enveloped in a profound sense of gratitude for the divine providence that shielded me, my family, and our friends and colleagues from being caught amid such peril. This incident serves as a poignant reminder of the delicate dance of fate and grace in our lives.

Gratitude is more than a mere sentiment. Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic Pontiff, teaches that gratitude is the melody that invites grace to dance in the light of our souls, revealing the harmony of our true essence. I practice gratitude consciously every day and for every situation, and God has been merciful.

As we embrace the dawn of 2024, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment of introspection on our collective journey through adversities to achievements, from challenges faced to victories celebrated. This new year transcends the mere flipping of calendar pages; it’s a moment that beckons us to deeply ponder and redefine what truly holds value in our lives.

On the 29th of December, at the prestigious Anambra Man of the Year Awards in Awka, I was privileged to participate in a ceremony that celebrated remarkable achievements and genuine contributions to society.

As the recipient of the Anambra Man of the Year Award in 2021, I had the honour of presenting the 2023 award to some award recipients. His Eminence, Peter Ebele Cardinal Okpaleke, a distinguished man of God and my townsman, received the Anambra Man of the Year 2023, while the Anambra Woman of the Year 2022 Award was deservedly bestowed upon Mrs Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, the CEO of Fidelity Bank, a paragon of leadership in the Nigerian corporate world.

The accolades received by Cardinal Okpaleke, Mrs Onyeali-Ikpe, and other remarkable awardees from various sections ranging from education, healthcare, agriculture, philanthropy, infrastructure and several more serve as a guidepost, leading us towards a more meaningful definition of success. Their achievements remind us that true legacy lies not in material wealth or ostentatious displays but in the positive impact we create within our society, the lives we touch, and the spiritual connections we nurture.

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During my address at the awards, I seized the opportunity to share my vision for the year ahead. As we venture into the expansive promise of 2024, it’s an opportune moment to reflect on what defines true achievement. While professional success, career milestones, and business accomplishments are commendable and worthy of pursuit, the essence of a truly meaningful life lies deeper.

It’s a time to critically reassess our priorities, to redefine what is genuinely important, and to set a course that values contribution over consumption, purpose over pomp, and spiritual fulfillment over superficial gains.

In this New Year, let’s aspire to cultivate legacies that are cherished not merely for material success but for the depth of our humanity. Legacies that echo the kindness, compassion, and consideration we showed to our fellow beings. Our true measure should be in the warmth of our empathy, the strength of our service, and the genuineness of our connections.

I, therefore, extend a heartfelt challenge to each one of us. Let’s embrace this shift with open hearts and minds, forging a path that not only enriches our lives but also elevates those around us. Let us become beacons of positive transformation. Let us champion lives that are underpinned by kindness, marked by an unwavering commitment to service, and enriched by deep compassion.

The year ahead is replete with possibilities for personal growth, opportunities for learning, and avenues for making a significant impact. Let’s embrace this year with an unshakeable sense of hope, the fortitude of determination, and a rejuvenated commitment to values that transcend the ordinary.

This year, let every action we undertake be guided by an enlightened sense of purpose, and a steadfast dedication to making a meaningful contribution to our world.

Happy New Year to all! May 2024 be a year where every stride we take moves us closer to a future we can all be proud of.

Warm regards,

Valentine Ozigbo

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