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Josephine Ugwu is honoured here by President Muhammadu Buhari

Some are making money, some are making history

In today’s special edition…

This woman picked and returned N3 billion 

Integrity is one value all humans should endeavour to inculcate in themselves. It makes one outstanding! Although it’s been a while, today we revisit the story of a woman who made not only the President but the entire Nigeria proud in the face of the international community. Mrs. Josephine Ugwu was orphaned at eight months.

At twelve, she was sent off to Onitsha to work as a housemaid. She struggled to get a National Diploma at Our Saviour Institute of Science in Enugu State. In a bid to survive, she moved from Enugu to Lagos where she began serving as a nanny before she got a job as a staff of a cleaning company at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, where she earned 7,500 in a month. 

Alongside her cleaning job, she cooked local delicacies, abacha (African salad) and pepper soup, which she sold to Custom and Immigration officials. 

In January 2015, while cleaning the toilets of the airport, she found a pile of cash in dollars. Amazingly, Mrs. Ugwu demonstrated an act of integrity and honesty by taking the money to the Airport Security officials. The amount discovered was $28,000 and other currencies, which at that time was equivalent to N12, 000,000. 

Josephine Ugwu                                           

 

One cannot help but imagine how someone who was struggling to make ends meet and earned less than N10, 000 a month would still return such a huge amount of money. To also think that her husband was a security personnel who earned as little as N15, 000 per month…wow! 

More intriguing to note was that even before leaving Enugu, Mrs. Ugwu had returned a sum of N10, 000, 000 in 2006. She brought this act of integrity with her to Lagos.  

The sum of N12, 000, 000 she found and returned was not the first time. It is difficult to believe but that is the truth.  On 23 December, 2014, Mrs. Ugwu found the sum of N8, 000,000 and returned it. Few days later, on 27 of the same month she found and returned the sum of N7, 000,000. 

Sadly, it was reported that the owners of the first two monies she recovered rarely appreciated her. While the owner of the N12, 000, 000 gave the security the sum of N15, 000, only the sum of N5, 000 got to Mrs. Ugwu.  

Of course, she was mocked by her colleagues who believed she should have kept the monies to herself to make her life better. To them she threw away the opportunity of becoming rich and instead chose to wallow in abject poverty! 

Anyway, we like to believe that honesty pays, no matter how long it takes! 

Various Awards received by Mrs Ugwu

 

Mrs. Ugwu received several gifts and awards after her last display of good character in 2015. She received awards from Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Alimosho LGA, Sun Newspaper and many others. She was also honoured by the Members of the Lagos State House of Assembly. The Deputy Speaker of the House, Taiwo Kolawole, who presided over the plenary session, presented a letter of commendation and an undisclosed sum of money to Mrs. Ugwu.

Her salary was increased by 94.8%. Subsequently, she was offered a job at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), in one of its departments. The General Manager, Corporate Commissions, FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu commented: “Ugwu has been subsequently given automatic employment by the authority in recognition of her honesty and exemplary conduct.” 

In 2018, she was interviewed by Legit.tv.ng, where she revealed that despite the monies she returned, the Nigerian government had not recognized her. Through Legit.tv.ng, Nigerians were able to donate a sum of 800,000 to Mrs Ugwu who lived in a one room apartment, surviving with her husband on their meagre salary. When asked what she would do with the money, she replied that she would love her husband to start up a new business, help her brother who was out of job and get a better apartment.

However, in November 2019, at the opening of the two-day National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in Public Sector held at the State House Banquet hall in Abuja, Mrs. Ugwu was recognized and honoured by the President, Muhammadu Buhari. She was given an Independent Corrupt Practices Commission Integrity Award for her unwavering honesty and integrity displayed while carrying out her job as a former cleaner at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos. This award came with a home ownership, as she once expressed a desire to own a new home. The federal government made this a reality. She said she never regretted returning those monies, as she can never take what belongs to another no matter the degree of suffering. This is really a rare kind in Nigeria.

Mrs. Josephine Ugwu is in her early forties. She is from Obonkpa in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State, Nigeria. She is an outstanding Nigerian and has made the nation proud in the face of the international community! What about those colleagues who were mocking her? Who knows where they are today?

….And inside Obama’s groundbreaking Centre

By Alice Yin

As former President Barrack Obama took the podium during his presidential centre’s long-delayed groundbreaking, he looked back on his first taste of the city that would forever shape him: driving up the Chicago Skyway in a rickety car, slowing to a cruise upon entering the marvel that he considered Jackson Park. Then came the important milestones that unfolded nearby over the next two decades — cutting his teeth in politics through community organizing, meeting and courting his future wife and building a coalition that would eventually help elect the nation’s first black President. On Tuesday afternoon, standing before four shovels and a mound of dirt in Jackson Park, Obama said the next chapter will be inspiring today’s young leaders through the future Obama Presidential Centre. “Chicago is where I found the purpose I’d been seeking,” he said. “Chicago is where everything most precious to me began. It’s where I found a home.”

In his reflections, Obama said one lesson he learned in Chicago — that progress begins from the ground up — remains true today despite the potential for such community engagement to get “contentious.” It is in fact that push-and-pull that remains the chief building block of democracy, as well the backbone for his presidential campus, he said.

That is why he ultimately chose the South Side for its location, he said. “It feels natural for Michelle and me to want to give back to Chicago and to the South Side in particular, the place where she grew up and I came into my own,” Obama said. “And the Obama Presidential Centre is our way of repaying some of what this amazing city has given us.” His wife, Michelle Obama, a South Shore native said Tuesday’s groundbreaking was one step toward equalizing her childhood neighborhood’s access to world-class institutions and resources with that of the North Side’s. “Even as a child, I understood this disparity,” said Michelle Obama, who like her husband was introduced at the event by a Chicago high school student. “I continued to ask myself, why didn’t we have more places to gather and connect in our neighborhood? Why didn’t our part of town draw people from around the world just like Grant Park or Navy Pier, or the Art Institute? Why wasn’t there more investment in us?”

She also declared, “One of my greatest honors is being a proud Chicagoan, a daughter of the South Side. I still lead with that descriptor. I wear it boldly and proudly like a crown. See, to my mind, this city, this neighborhood, it courses through my veins.”

Before the couple addressed the public, Obama’s former vice president and current Commander in Chief Joe Biden gave a shout-out to Chicago through a videotaped message.

Recalling Obama’s first presidential election victory party in Grant Park in 2008, Biden said, “Hope and change are not just slogans and expectations. Hope and change is an ethos, a conviction. And that’s what today represents: It’s not just breaking ground on a new building. It’s breaking ground on the very idea of America as a place of possibility.” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot kicked off the in-person remarks, celebrating what she said was the “transformative investment” of the Presidential Centre. “This groundbreaking marks the next chapter and a journey that began several years ago,” Lightfoot said. “It took many twists and turns, but due to the perseverance, dedication and hard work of many, we’ve arrived at this momentous day.” And Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker joked that the secretary of state will have to consider changing the state’s license plates to include Obama’s namesake. “What a thrill it is to be here in Jackson Park to mark this historic groundbreaking,” Pritzker said. “Thank you to all who have worked together to bring this second Presidential Centre to Illinois — which means, we are proudly now known as the Land of Lincoln and Obama.”

The ceremony went on despite an enduring legal battle against the Obama Foundation’s use of parkland and as local activists planned a protest outside the future site of the Presidential Centre to call for more affordable housing protections.

Former President Barrack Obama speaks during the ceremony for the official groundbreaking of the Obama Presidential Centre in Chicago’s Jackson Park on 28 Sept. 2021. At left is Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

 

Barrack and Michelle Obama’s return to Chicago caps off a five-year journey to a groundbreaking that was expected to happen far earlier, with the centre originally slated to open this year. Instead, shovels only hit the ground last month after a legal bid to halt construction failed in the U.S. Supreme Court. Opening day is now scheduled for 2025, but the park preservationists determined to get the Obama Foundation to relocate the campus remain confident in their latest pending lawsuit. At the same time, the Obama Community Benefits Agreement Coalition, a group of activists demanding more protections for residents they fear will be displaced by the project, said they haven’t given up their fight either. The coalition held a protest next to the Jackson Park site at noon Tuesday in support of affordable housing measures for South Shore, similar to the City Hall ordinance for Woodlawn renters and homeowners passed last year.

Nonetheless, the 44th President said his excitement prevails in the face of the local pushback, insisting that the complex, despite fierce opposition to its location from park preservationists, will “preserve and enhance Jackson Park.” “It will reunify parkland, plant new trees, provide new habitat for birds and wildlife,” Obama said. “As Michelle noted, we are also going to open this park up to the community.” And Chicago Ald. Leslie Hairston, whose 5th Ward covers part of South Shore, said “it’s a different approach” when asked whether her neighborhood requires a community benefits agreement modeled after the Woodlawn ordinance, as protesters demanded. Hairston said Lightfoot’s administration will be releasing a more detailed plan on housing in South Shore within weeks. “The demographics of South Shore are different from the demographics of Woodlawn, meaning there is no land to build anything in parts of South Shore, at least from 67th to 71st, from South Shore Drive to Stony Island (Avenue),” Hairston said in an interview ahead of the ceremony. “All of that land is full so we don’t have the same issues.”

Demonstrators with the Community Benefits Agreement Coalition rally in favor of affordable housing protection for Woodlawn, South Shore and other nearby communities on 28 Sept, 2021, outside the groundbreaking ceremony for the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago’s Jackson Park.

 

Before the start of Tuesday’s ceremony, a small aircraft carried a banner reading, “Stop cutting down trees. Move OPC” in the sky above the small gathering of Obama Foundation and city officials. Hours later, Protect Our Parks, the group that is suing to stop the project, tweeted that the Obama Centre would bring “devastation” to the park and the community.

“The homecoming of the former President and the first lady should be a moment of pride for Chicagoans. On this visit, though, we hope they will mourn the devastation of the initial clear-cutting of the mature trees and the destruction of the Women’s Garden in Jackson Park, in addition to the long-term environmental and public health dangers that will ensue,” the group wrote. The 19.3-acre, $700 million Obama Presidential Centre will contain a 235-foot-tall tower housing the museum with artifacts from the former president’s upbringing, presidential campaigns and eight-year tenure in the White House. A public forum and plaza, athletic and recreation center, new branch of the Chicago Public Library, play area and sledding hill will also be built.

Obama departed from traditional presidential libraries by opting out of the National Archives and Records Administration’s network and its funds. Instead, the official records from his time in the Oval Office will be digitized.

An economic study commissioned by the Obama Foundation projected a $3.1 billion impact and roughly 700,000 annual visitors. Up to 5,000 “direct and indirect” jobs will also be created throughout the centre’s construction, with a focus on workers hailing from the South and West sides, according to the foundation.

At the ceremony’s conclusion, Obama nodded to young activists across the world “rolling up their sleeves” for issues from climate change to racial equality, saying he has great faith in the promise of the next generation. Then he declared, “Now, we’re going to grab some shovels and break some ground,” leading his wife, Lightfoot and Pritzker as the four picked up shovels, and dirt was at last turned.

Construction workers are on site in advance of the groundbreaking event for the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park on 28 Sept. 2021.

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