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In the bleak, humid “wintry” night of December filled with myriad stars shinning in the dark African sky, we had followed the brightest star of them all, just like the Three Wise Men of old, looking for where the anniversary of the Messiah’s birth was being celebrated. Our star chase landed us at the Civic Center, Ozumba Mbadiwe Road, Victoria Island, Lagos, where all the faithful had come, “joyful and triumphant” in the words of the Christmas carol, O Come All Ye Faithful.
Everybody was there. It was an unforgettable night of songs, dance, merriment, Bible readings, exhortation, prayers and thanksgiving to the Almighty God for another Christmas coming our way. Thanks to the Ekeomas—Elder E.E. Ekeoma and his wife Ngozi of Nepal Oil and Gas Services who have taken husband and wife business partnership to a whole new dimension.
The Nepal Choral night was tagged: “CAROL OF NINE LESSONS 2016”. It was borrowed from the “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” started at King’s College, Cambridge University in 1918 in an attempt to find a “more imaginative approach to worship” in Christmas time. Ten years later, in 1928, it was broadcast around the world to millions who listened to it on radio.
At the Nepal Choral 2016 night in Lagos, the guests arrived resplendent, walking on a red carpet. From ex-governors to barons of oil business, they all came. Welcoming them all was Barrister Ngozi Ekeoma, the Managing Director and CEO of Nepal Oil and Gas who traced the origins of the Nepal Carol night to its humble beginning “in December 2011 at our office court yard at Plot 2B Oyinkan Abayomi Drive, Ikoyi, Lagos and has continued to grow in popularity and awareness till today.”
“It is our desire to grow and nurture this event till it becomes the most populous and famous carol gathering in the country,” she added.
Carols in the pagan past
A tall ambition from a tall, elegant woman who has an encyclopedic insight into carols and its history! She takes her audience into the origins of carols as they listened in rapt attention.
“Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols,” she declares. “They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced round stone circles. The word carol originally meant: to dance to something. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, usually taking place around the 22nd December. The word carol actually means dance or song of praise and joy! Carols used to be written and sung during all four seasons, but only the tradition of singing them at Christmas has really survived.
“Early Christians took over the pagan solstice celebration for Christmas and gave people songs to sing instead of pagan ones. When Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came to power in England in 1647, the celebration of Christmas and singing carols was stopped.
“However, the carols survived as people still sang them in secret. Carols remained mainly unsung until Victorian times, when two men called William Sandys and Davis Gilbert collected lots of old Christmas music from villages in England and put them together and gradually, Christians all over the world started going back to Christmas Carol.
“Wherever the service is held and however it is adapted, whether the music is provided by choir or congregation, the pattern and strength of the service, as Dean Milner-White pointed out, derive from the lessons and not the music. ‘The main theme is the development of the loving purposes of God—seen through the windows and the words of the Scriptures.’”
“To us at Nepal Group,” she continues, “this Carol doubles as our annual thanksgiving—a time when the entire management, staff and friends of the company gather to reflect on all God’s goodness, mercies, faithfulness and grace over our lives, business endeavours and in such spontaneous, concerted consciousness, we raise Him an offering of praise, declaring that we are nothing without Him.”
Among the dignitaries present, some of whom read the nine Bible lessons were the former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Segun Osoba, Prof Pat Utomi and his wife, Mr. Aj Michaels, Mr. Alex Ekeoma (Director, Nepal Oil), Mrs. Nkechi Obi (GMD, Techno Oil), Mrs. Ada Ugo Ngonadi (MD Ontario), Mr. Uche Oga (President Master Energy), Chief and Mrs. Joke Okeowo, Mr. Gabriel Ogbechie (GMD Rain Oil), Mr. Chima Anyaso and Pastor Itua Ighodalo who gave the exhortation.
Elder Ekeoma, 56, the chairman of Nepal Group who in his closing remarks expressed gratitude to God for being the pillar of support to Nigeria and to his businesses in spite of the harsh times. He prayed for God to give President Muhammadu Buhari the wisdom to be able to steer Nigeria through the path of peace, progress and prosperity.
On the key to the success of his business, he attributes it to the grace of God and being blessed with a loving with wife who is an astute business leader and a good manager of men, money and resources. With her in charge, he can go to sleep with both eyes closed, he says.
From Central Bank to Nepal
A former employee of Central Bank and a native of Igbere in Abia State (same town with my late brother Dimgba Igwe), Ekeoma decided to become his own employer. He followed the path of entrepreneurship, and the Lord was with him all the way. Today, he is a success story by all parameters. In addition to Nepal Oil, he is the Chairman of Emline Nigeria Limited, Quest Drilling Limited and NCL Private Investment Company Limited. And he is aiming for more successes at the very top.
“Our vision and mission,” he states, “is to be the undisputed leading company in the oil and gas industry in Africa. To be the number one reference point in the downstream oil and gas sector across the African continent imbued with efficient delivery of quality products and services, capacity building, synergy, professionalism and enviable and dynamic corporate ethics, reaching the unreached and making a paradigm shift in recreating our world.”
Asked if this is not a tall order, Ekeoma, an ordained Elder in the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria replies: “With God on your side, nothing is impossible.”
One of the highlights of the night was when the “Carol Queen” Ngozi Ekeoma mounted the stage to sing a beautiful song in a beautiful, soaring voice, glorifying God for the joy and the blessings of this season.
Wishing all the readers of this column a Merry Xmas and a fantastic New Year ahead.