By; BALA B. BITRUS, Minna.
Reverend Father O’Connell had arrived Nigeria late 50s as an Irish Catholic Missionary to work in Calabar but was few years afterwards posted to Niger State where he took up teaching to mold young Nigerians.
A recipient of the national honour of the Order of the Niger, (OON), Reverend Father O’Connell had worked in Niger State for upward of fifty years as school teacher/Principal. He also applied for citizenship and was granted a full status as citizen of Nigeria.
A quintessential educationist, a Catholic Priest and Clergy, teacher, Reverend Father O’Connell is personable household name in education and amongst the Catholic faithfuls in and around states in the North Central areas of Nigeria.
A huge indefatigable towering image in secondary schools education in Niger state, the retiring school Principal is reputed for his personal touch on his students whom he knows by their first names as well as their other personal data.
Governor Abubakar Sani Bello spoke in glowing terms Wednesday while receiving the retiring school Principal at the Government House, Minna where the Rev. Father had gone to pay his parting visit and homage to the Governor.
The Governor noted that Rev. Father O’Connell’s contributions to humanity in Nigeria were too plenty to be listed. He described him as a living legend whose contributions in the education sector particularly would not be allowed to die.
Governor Bello said no gift or prize is worth the unquantifiable efforts of the legendary educationist, school Principal and religious leader.
But as a mark of honour, the state government according to Governor Bello has approved the renaming of the Government Secondary School, (GSS) Minna, as O’Connell Secondary School to immortalize the iconic Irishman.
Reverend Father Jeremiah O’Connell is bowing out of the school and service of the state government at the age of 85. He has served as the Principal of the school since 1967
Reverend Father O’Connell is quitting public service after serving humanity for more than 50 years where he nurtured students to greatness.
Many of his erstwhile students are top notched technocrats, public office holders, Military , Police and paramilitary men, business men and women, academics, educationists, ambassadors and envoys in countries.
“We would try our best to see that what you have built overtime remains with us for posterity sake” the Governor assured.
“Father, you would surely be missed. I wish we could all fly to Ireland to escort you and make sure you get home safe. But I believe you are in God’s hand and you’ll be well by His grace. On behalf of Niger state and Nigeria at large, let me thank you for your efforts, for your sacrifices and commitments”
“There is nothing better that we can do than to pray for you for God to grant you good health. I wish you well sir”.
The Governor also approved the request by FOSA to sponsor a grand reception to be held later this month in honor of the retiring school Principal.
He assured that the state government would not only support the Father O’Connell Foundation, but also assist in redeeming the pledges made by people at the launching of the foundation.
Earlier, the President of FOSA, Mr. Godwin Ashituabe who escorted the retiring school principal to the Government House, said they were in the Government House to present Father O’Connell, who is bowing out to take a well deserved rest after 50 meritorious years of services to humanity as a school Principal.
He applauded Governor Sani Bello’s Whole School Development Initiatives and the establishment of the Institute of Teacher Professional Development adding that the innovative strategies, if sustained, would revive the teaching profession and raise the quality of teachers in the state.
Mr. Ashituabe, an academic with the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, (IBBU), expressed optimism that the initiatives in the education sector by present administration in the state would bring about the solution to the rot and decay in the educational system.
The Government Secondary School, (GSS) Minna, was established in 1965 as Fatima Co-educational Secondary School before it was taken over and renamed by government in 1973.
Rev. Father J.D. O’Connell became the school’s Principal in 1967 and has served in that capacity until his retirement this year.