Oduah, Ekwunife, Onyejocha and Ikpeazu: Southeast amazons without godfathers
There is a developing political trend that is fast changing the narrative and challenging the dominance of the godfathers in the politics of the Southeast.
This is the political influence being wielded by some women in the zone, which has enabled them continue to win elections, especially at the National Assembly.
Investigations by The Guardian revealed that these women, including the Senator, representing Anambra north, Stella Oduah; Senator representing Anambra Central, Uche Ekwunife; House of Reps member for Umunneochi/Isikwuato federal constituency, Nkiru Onyejocha and House of Reps member for Onitsha north and South federal constituency, Linda Ikpeazu may have defied bookmakers’ predications that politics is only suitable for men, as they have continued to win elections in their parties.
Perhaps, what has continued to surprise political watchers is their electoral victories that has never been affected by their movement from one party to another in the quest for nomination, a development that has placed them on vantage position over their male counterparts.
This is happening in the Southeast, where certain individuals pride themselves as political godfathers, who supposedly call the shots.
Surprisingly, the acceptability and reach of these women in their various zones have dwarfed the influence of godfathers and their godsons in Southeast politics.
One question that probably has not been answered is the secret behind their winning streak that has endeared them to the National Assembly and their political parties. They are said to have become strong voices that are rarely undermined at party meetings.
Only recently, Onyejocha lost out in the power play that saw the emergence of Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker of the House of
Representatives. She had vigorously campaigned to be made Speaker, despite having migrated to the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the 2019 elections.
Similarly, Ikpeazu had defied her party’s calculation to second the nomination that eventually gave Gbajabiamila victory in the House leadership election. Presently, the duo is shoulders above their contemporaries in the lower house.
It was, however, gathered that making their constituents primary focus, accessibility and effective representation are some of the qualities and the secret behind their winning streak.
Coming to limelight with her nomination and appointed as Minister for Aviation from 2011 to 2014, Oduah has made steady rise in Anambra North’s politics. The last senatorial election held in February this year, and which she won on PDP platform in an All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) controlled state government, is her second since joining active politics in 2015.
The zone produced the former Senate President, the late Chuba Okadigbo and other political bigwigs that include former Senators Emma Anosike, Joy Emordi, Margery Okadigbo and Alphonsus Igbeke.
There are also the likes of former Secretary to State government, Henry Obaze; Dubem Obaze; former running mate to Chris Ngige, Ralph Okeke and former Reps member, Gabriel Onyewuihe, among others. But their presence has not in any way downplayed the determination and desire of Odua in the area.
She contested for the senatorial seat of Anambra North constituency in the 2015 election and scored a total 143, 478 to defeat her main rival, Chief Dubem Obaze of APGA, who got 70,900. In 2019, she again won the seat, a rare feat, even by those who represented the zone in the past in the senate.
In that election, she polled 113, 989 votes to defeat 20 other candidates that included APGA’s Emmanuel Chinedu, who came second with 59, 937 votes, while Mr. Nelson Onubogu of APC emerged third with 11, 995 votes.
Oduah is said to be one of the most resourceful politicians out of Anambra State. She is said to have contributed immensely to her
constituency – Anambra north, and to the state.
“It is on record that she has trained more than 1,000 Anambra young men and women in various skills and trades. She is one of the few senators from the Southeast that have sponsored bills targeted at the region’s development.
These include the Southeast Development Commission bill, Establishment of Federal University of Aquatic Studies in Anambra State bill, and the Onitsha Dry Port motion,” a source said.
It was gathered that her strength lies in the grassroots, as she has subsumed herself into the Catholic Church, with the establishment of a foundation headed by a Catholic priest. Her foundation is said to be used to reach out to the indigent and poor widows in the zone.
Speaking recently after a thanksgiving service in honour of her late son in Onitsha, Oduah said she has so far attracted 43 projects, which have positively and meaningfully impacted her constituency, especially in the area of human capital development.
Some of her projects include provision and installation of solar street lights and ICT centres, primary healthcare centres; graduate employment, skills acquisition programmes, construction of roads, sport centres, police stations, research centres, provision of farm implements and training of youths on various agricultural programmes, among others.
“We have provided and installed transformers, hand pump solar power boreholes, as well as provided empowerment materials and equipment to women and youths in the area.
“This year, we shall again and more intensely embark on empowerment programmes to further enhance human capital development of our people, in a bid to create an economically viable Anambra North,” Oduah added.
On her activities at the Senate, Oduah noted that she had sponsored bills and moved certain motions totalling 28 on the floor of the House within the period.
She said she had equally provided succour to Anambra North people and Nigerians through Maxwell Chinedu Omabowa Oduah Etoromi (Maxlife) Foundation, which was initiated a year ago in memory of her late son.
According to her, the Foundation remains “the noblest means to give life to the deepest dreams of my late son, through the provision of scholarship awards and empowerment of women, mostly widows and other indigents in society.”
Uche Ekwunife was a former House of Reps member. She represented Anaocha/ Njikoka/Dunukofia Federal Constituency before attempting the Senate in 2015, which she lost shortly after, following a court pronouncement.
The court, which entertained a petition filed against her by an opponent, Chief Victor Umeh, quashed that election and barred her party, PDP, from nominating and presenting any candidate in a rerun election. For three years, the zone was without a Senate representative until 2018, when Umeh emerged.
Ekwunife has become a strong voice, not only in her Anambra Central constituency, which parades the likes of former Governor Peter Obi, former Senator Annie Okonkwo, former Senator Chris Ngige, Obiora Okonkwo and billionaire businessman, Arthur Eze, but is also strong in her party.
Sources said she had, at a time, moved from PDP to APGA and back to PDP in the bid to acquire political power, adding that her male counterparts have often fretted to challenge her in an election.
Uche is said to have laid a strong foundation in the politics of her state and commands a large following that spans her current party, PDP and former APGA. She is said to be at home with her people and is the darling of the womenfolk.
A PDP stalwart, Chukwujim Orji said: “She is accessible and has made empowerment of indigent members of society the centre of her politics. She touches families with gifts, provides scholarships, empowerment programmes and attracted various road projects, among others. She has almost become synonymous with politics in Anambra State.”
Born in Igboukwu of Aguata Council of Anambra State, she had a career in banking and rose to become an Area Manager. One thing going her way, they said, is her ability to dare in her constituency filled with many political heavyweights.
She is said to have made her entrance into politics with classical swag, courage, carriage and message of hope.
An analyst said of her, “I have watched her, studied her and waited for her to fizzle out, as expected in such hostile environment. But instead of fizzling out, she has kept going higher. It seems the Senate is just her starting point.
“Senator Ekwunife is not new to controversy. Many people have tried to rubbish her or tell derogatory tales. But the more they try to smear pelican with charcoal, the whiter the pelican after washing out the charcoal, according to an Igbo adage.
“This is one woman that has been smeared, tainted and ridiculed like no other, but she always stayed focused and poised in the course of delivering democratic dividend to the fortunate constituency she is serving.”
Linda Ikpeazu has been winning elections since 2007 to represent Onitsha north/south Federal Constituency. Sources said like other women doing well in politics, she is also at home with her Onitsha people and enjoys grassroots support. Her major strength lies in her accessibility and attraction of democratic dividends to her people.
Linda is bold and has garnered much influence in her party, the PDP. Recently, Onitsha was agog with the event to mark eight roads and erosion/flood control project worth over N1bn, which she attracted.
The projects were said to have come through requests for urgent Intervention, sent to the Ecological Fund Office by the lawmaker to arrest the unending erosion menace and improve access roads, to ease the people’s suffering.
Immediate past Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah, who inaugurated and handed over the projects, stated that they were among 13 ecological intervention projects approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for the fourth quarter of 2017, with the contract awarded by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on May 4, 2018.
Although some party stalwarts in the area appear uncomfortable that she had held unto power and defied zoning arrangement between north and south, there is also a suggestion that the party should leverage her experience and acceptability to recover the state from APGA in the next governorship election.
A source hinted that party leaders in the state have gone back to work with a view to galvanise the party towards 2022 governorship election.
The source said Ikpeazu’s name is being thrown up as a possible running mate to any candidate the party may choose.
“This is because she has been winning elections, and we want to leverage her strength to rebuild this party. Her likes have defied the notion that certain godfathers must endorse your election. Her likes have lent credence to the belief that the people hold power and give it to whomever pleases them,” the source added.
But her opposition also comes from her continued stay in power. Her opponents insist that nobody would support a politician, who does not respect zoning or power shift, stressing that she has not allowed opportunity for upcoming politicians in the area.
Nkiru Onyejocha is doing her fourth term in the House of Reps. The lawmaker, who had plied her trade in the PDP since joining politics, beat self-appointed party leaders in the state to their game in the build up to 2019 elections, when she switched over to APC to contest and won her election.
PDP leaders in the state had plotted and retrieved the party ticket from her in the guise that she had occupied the seat for too long. But Onyejocha quickly moved to APC, obtained the party ticket and won.
Leveraging the victory, she was among the frontrunners for the seat of Speaker of House of Representatives. Her people said she has provided qualitative and effective representation in her constituency.
They said she has attracted projects that include design of Mmam/Achi Bridge in Mbala Isuochi, design of Erosion Control Drainage/Environmental impact assessment for (a) Abia University Afikpo-Uturu Road (b) Isuikwuato-Uturu Road, construction of classroom blocks/supply of school furniture at Eluama Isuikwuato Secondary School, Methodist College Obilagu Ngodo, Nneato High School, Ngodo Girls Secondary School, Achara Uturu Secondary School, Isuochi Secondary School, Mbala Secondary School, Comprehensive Secondary School Umuchieze, Hopeville Rehabilitation Centre Uturu, Ngodo Town Primary School Obinulo.
She also made a supply of library books to Mbala Primary School, Nneato Primary School and Leru Primary School, among others.
No comments yet