Christians use songs to praise God in Onitsha.
By Valentine Amanze
It was an uplifting evening of thanksgiving, praise, and worship as thousands of Christians gathered at the Cathedral Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, Onitsha, on Friday, November 26, 2021, to mark the maiden edition of Unusual Praise in Anambra State.
Launched in 2011, Unusual Praise is now Africa’s largest Catholic gospel event, and Nigerian businessman, Valentine Ozigbo, was the primary sponsor through one of Nigeria’s most visible non-profit organisations, Valentine Chineto Ozigbo (VCO) Foundation.
In his address at the event, Ozigbo, expressed happiness celebrating Unusual Praise in his home state.
Ozigbo, who attended the event with his wife, Mrs Ojiugo Ozigbo, also presented an additional cash grant of N1 million to 10 recipients of this year’s Unusual Entrepreneur, a youth business development initiative aimed at empowering budding business owners.
“Unusual Praise is an avenue for us to praise God in an uncommon manner. To do this, we plan to achieve several other objectives, including the propagation of the gospel of Christ,” Ozigbo said.
“For those of us who are usually busy, Unusual Praise presents an opportunity for us to devote an evening to thank God for all he has done for us and prepare for the coming year.
“It is also an avenue for us to identify those who need help in their businesses and empower them. In 2018 when I chaired this event, we had the privilege of setting up the Unusual Entrepreneur platform, and I am incredibly pleased to be present as it is being held in my home state, Anambra.
“The essence of this is for you to be empowered and make an impact using your chosen business. Significantly, this empowerment is coming from the church because it is crucial to combine hard work and faith to achieve powerful results.
“It is also important that you stay focused and listen to advise from your mentors. The mentorship that comes with the cash grant is key to your progress, and I am offering myself to be one of your mentors,” Ozigbo, a multiple award-winning global CEO, said to rapturous applause from the crowd.
Inhis remarks, the Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha, His Grace, The Most Rev Valerian Okeke, appreciated the organisers, musicians and congregants for coming together to worship God.
“I thank you all for making this night of worship, praise, and thanksgiving possible. Thanksgiving is the best form of prayer. The more you give thanks, the more blessings you receive,” Okeke said.
“My prayer is that God will bless you, and may you surmount every impossibility in your lives,” Archbishop, who is the Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, prayed.
The annual musical showpiece is organised by the Catholic Church of Divine Mercy, Lekki, and Onitsha’s event was the first time it is held outside Lagos. This year is also the first double edition of the event, with the Lagos edition scheduled to hold on Friday, December 10, 2021.
The event witnessed powerful ministrations by top gospel artistes from around the country, including Joe Praise, Chioma Jesus, Steve Crown, Chinyere Udoma, Osinachi Nwachukwu, Prince Gozie Okeke, Avoma Kids, Olamide Baritone, Evang James Arum, Sir Jude Nnam, Nkiru Emmanuel, and many others who took turns to minister to the large crowd.
Ozigbo, who was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the just-concluded Anambra State governorship election, explained that his sponsorship of Unusual Praise had no political undertone as he had been a part of the programme for several years before his foray into politics.
“Unusual Praise is a major spiritual event that has nothing to do with politics. In 2018, I was privileged to be the Chairman of Unusual Praise, and I set up another project called Unusual Entrepreneur for us to empower those who are not so well to do,” Ozigbo, said.
“It is a thing of joy to see that people can come to church to receive spiritual edification, but also get economic upliftment.
“Since 2018, I have been part and parcel of Unusual Praise, and I will continue to contribute my quota to ensure that we continue this uplifting tradition of praise, thanksgiving, and rededication to God.
“We tried to bring Unusual Praise to Anambra last year, but COVID-19 struck, and we couldn’t achieve that plan, but I am grateful to George Agu, the Chairman of Unusual Praise 2021, for making it possible.
“I am a proud sponsor of Unusual Praise, and I will always be a part of this biggest Catholic gospel event in Africa where children of God can come and uplift their souls.
“I will also be providing mentorship to the winners of Unusual Entrepreneur. In business, counsel, advice, and mentorship are more valuable than money. For someone who is running a budding business, I will provide guidelines to help their businesses grow, and if it is an industry I am not familiar with, I will get the right people to give them the mentorship they need.
“We are also here to pray for our leaders and those in authority. We need peace and visionary leadership where nobody is marginalised,” Ozigbo added.
Several dignitaries attended the event, including the immediate past Governor of Anambra State and Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 general election, His Excellency Peter Obi.