It was a very elating and memorable moment for Pharm. (Sir) Ifeanyi Atueyi, publisher and managing director, Pharmanews, at the hall of the Dolly Hills Hotels, Onitsha, venue of the 2023 DOBA Convention Banquet, when he was announced as the winner of the prestigious Chike Okonyia Award 2022, for his dedicated and meritorious service towards the advancement of the Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, Old Boys Association.
The banquet, which was well attended by many distinguished Dengramites and their guests, had in attendance, Anambra State Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo; President General, DOBA Worldwide, Dr (Sir) Eric Anazodo; DOBA Trustee, Rt. Revd. Prof. Emmanuel Uchechukwu Iheagwam; Chairman, DMGS Management Board, Prof.(Sir) Ilochi Okafor (SAN); Principal, DMGS, Ven. Chigozie Emeka Anieto; 1st Vice-President, Prof. Nnamdi Onuora-Oguno, among others.
Expressing his profound gratitude to the Dennis Old Boys Association (DOBA) for the award, Atueyi, who was represented at the banquet by the Executive Editor, Pharmanews, Mr Dozie Atueyi, said DMGS holds a very special position in their family, because his father received all the exceptional trainings and knowledge that contributed to whom he is today.
Atueyi’s son, who narrated how he desired to also have his own secondary education at the DMGS, said though his ambition didn’t materialise as he ended up attending Federal Government College Enugu, but he was still privileged to benefit from the special training given to DMGS students, from the Principal of the school, Mr S. Abia, also a Dengramite.
He remarked, “Today, we are so grateful for this award. We have over 30 goodwill messages in the convention programme booklet as support from our friends; my father has also donated 210 copies of his books to the school, as well as his personal contribution of N500, 000, to support the convention. This is just to say thank you to DMGS, for being an inspiration, thank you for blessing our family, and thank you for instilling values in the leaders of tomorrow”.
Speaking on the theme of the convention, “DOBA in the political landscape: infinite possibilities”, the keynote speaker, Professor Ikenna M. Alumona, challenged the old boys on their dwindling passion and care for one another, as he frowned at the current gap in relationship among them.
Although he agreed that times have changed, notwithstanding, he charged the old boys to strive to maintain the cherished norms, values and traditions they are known for, as those are the essence of their identity as Dengramites.
“Why does it appear that DOBA has not been able to leave its footprint in the realms of politics just as we have done excellently in other areas of human endeavour such as law, medicine, history, theology, engineering, education, political science, etc.? What are the forces behind this development and how can we remedy the situation?
“In the other areas of public life, it appears that our fortunes and achievements as a group are declining. There used to be an aura, prestige and graceful carriage associated with Dengramites. This is why we are envied by the rest of the society. Some persons out of envy have even claimed that we are members of a secret cult. The bond and love that characterise relations between old boys appears to be disappearing fast. The desire to be our brother’s keeper is no longer alive as it used to be. The DMGS affinity and bond is no longer strong and a thing of joy.
“Gone are the days when having the DMGS sticker on your car will attract help and sympathy if you encounter any difficulty while travelling? We heard stories of how old boys helped to secure employment for the younger ones who were in search of employment. This was our glorious past. It was the past in which the likes of late Justice Anomnachi, willed part of his estate to our association, just to ensure that old boys who were on transit around Owerri could find a place to stay. It was also in the past in which the likes of Chike Okonyia and Dr Walter Eze, of blessed memory laboured so much to contribute to the rebuilding of our alma mater after the Nigerian Civil War. That was the DMGS spirit. Some of us benefitted from it and in our own little way are trying to replicate the same gesture to the younger generation.
“Agreed that times have changed as a result of the forces of modernisation, globalisation and increasing insecurity, but we still need to hold unto our cherished norms, values and traditions. These things define the essence of our identity as Dengramites” he urged.
Established in 1974, with Pharm.(Sir) Chris U. Efobi, as the first recipient, Chike Okonyia Award was instituted after Michael Chike Okonyia, a member of the Class of 1939, of DMGS, who was a colonial officer in the 50s. It is an annual award for the most illustrious old boy of DMGS.
Okonyia was a district/divisional officer in the Eastern Nigeria. He was also a teacher, author, music composer, artist, and a civil servant. He died in November, 1969.