Opata, politician who served flawlessly, dies at 95
â¦. body for burial on November 27
By Chibuike Nwabuko
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – A Second Republic politician who served flawlessly, Chief Hon. Cletus U. Opata is dead.
He died at the age of 95.
News of his death was contained in a statement signed by his son, Obinna Johnpaul Opata on behalf of the family.
The obituary, published jointly on Tuesday by the family and a local organizing committee (LOC) formed for the burial, indicates that the body of the late Chief Hon. Opata will be buried in his hometown of Lejja, Nsukka LGA in Enugu State, on Saturday, November 27.
The Opata family and the LOC urge supporters to join them in paying a final tribute to the beloved icon. Governor Ugwuanyi (pictured), Senator Chuka Utazi, Member of the House of Representatives Dr Pat Asadu, sitting and former commissioners, traditional leaders, legislators and presidents of local government were on the committee for the burial of Opata.
Tributes are pouring in for the political colossus who was a key fighter for the establishment of Enugu state 30 years ago. Political and community leaders speak of a staunch supporter of just causes, including an Adada state project. A mentor to many politicians in the Nsukka region of the state, Opata is variously described as selfless, iconic, humble, honest and peace-loving.
The late politician was both a community leader and a church leader who was widely recognized as a peacemaker. It wasn’t until October 23 that his beloved community honored him and three other “iconic sons” by inducting them into the Lejja Hall of Fame. On this occasion, Lejja implored Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to immortalize the name of Opata by giving his name to an institution.
A graduate in history, Opata attended the University of Ibadan from 1963 to 1966; he had to complete the program at the University of Nigeria in 1967 due to the Nigerian civil war he waged on the Biafra side.
He ventured into politics after resigning from his post as school principal and was elected chairman of the Nsukka urban divisional council in 1974; and, following the 1976 local government reform, Opata was elected the first president of the Nsukka LGA.
For the politics of the Second Republic, he was a founding member of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Although NPN was not popular in then Anambra state, it was one of the few to win a seat in the House of Assembly in the Southeast under the party’s platform in 1979. But the name of the party was to deny him victory in 1983 when he ran for the Senate: he was very popular and yet narrowly lost to the NPP candidate, Engr. Isaiah Ani.
The NPN, however, won the controversial election for governor in Anambra state, and Chief CC Onoh appointed Opata commissioner of education. The military coup of December 31, 1983 truncated the Second Republic.
Nine years later, Opata again became education commissioner in the government of Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo in the unfortunate Third Republic; the Abacha coup of November 1993 again put an end to the government. Like other politicians who have served without blemish, Opata was at different times appointed to the boards of the University of Nigeria and the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, even as he continued to champion the causes of the Nsukka people as the leader of some pressure groups. .
Opata is revered throughout the Nsukka Cultural Zone for her selflessness and hard work. He was not only the first president of Nsukka LGA, but also the best to date. Her administration (1977-1979) built the Government Technical College and Urban Girls’ Secondary School, Nsukka; it has awarded matching grants to 10 communities for the construction of other high schools as well as more than 60 scholarships to students. He attracted the Health Care Center (now School of Public Health Technology, Nsukka), built the Opi Health Center, and expanded the Eha-Ndiagu and Ibagwa-Ani health centers. The LG administration headed by Opata enlarged and modernized the Ogige market and acquired the lumber shed and industrial site in Nsukka. He also built several rural and urban road networks and rehabilitated many primary schools.
As education commissioner, Opata approved 62 secondary schools, including three science schools, in Enugu state.
The chairman of the LOC for Opata’s funeral, attorney Peter Okonkwo, said a state funeral should be scheduled as distinguished figures from all walks of life would be invited on the occasion.
His body will rest as is in the Enugu State Assembly House and LG headquarters in Nsukka or House Adada on Thursday, November 25. There will be a vigil at his residence on Ogurugu Road, Nsukka, on Friday November 26. Funeral Mass to be led by Bishop Prof. Godfrey Onah from the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka at Federal Government Girls’ College in Lejja, will precede the burial of his body at the family compound in the village of Umuoda in Lejja on Saturday 27 November. A reception will follow at FGGC’s sports ground, Lejja.
The date of the burial was scheduled for November 5 – notice boards mounted in Enugu and Nsukka indicated that. However, it was postponed to November 27 for security reasons, as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) ordered a week-long sit-at-home in the South-East, from November 5, if its inmate leader Nnamdi Kanu was not released. before this date.
He is survived by Opata (died May 18, 2021) his wife and six children, eight grandchildren, an older sister and several nieces and nephews.