Anambra Central and Umeh’s Senate sojourn


By Michael Jegede

After the 2015 Anambra Central Senatorial Election, Senator Victor Umeh went to the tribunal to challenge the declaration of Senator Uche Ekwunife of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner. Six months after Ekwunife was inaugurated as the Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District in the 8th Senate, Umeh succeeded in dislodging her.

However, it was after two years, one month of further legal warfare that the former National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, eventually assumed office to replace Ekwunife, leaving him with just one year, five months to spend in the Red Chamber of the eighth National Assembly.

Many never thought the Red Cap Chief would do anything impressive with the little time he had to spend in the 8th Senate. But the APGA chieftain known for his firmness of purpose, conscientiously worked round the clock to fulfill the promise that his late entry into the Upper Legislative House would not be used as an excuse for non-performance. He did all he could to positively affect the lives of his people and got actively involved in the lawmaking process.

Umeh went into the 8th Senate with all the zeal and determination of a man fully prepared for the task ahead. It didn’t take him much time to acquaint himself with the workings of the legislature. Almost immediately after he was sworn in on January 18, 2018, he began to contribute robustly to debates on the floor of the Senate to the admiration of his people and many Nigerians. In his determined effort to make a difference in the representation of Anambra Central, Umeh, within his short period in the Senate, sponsored and co-sponsored a number of bills and motions, aimed at  advancing the cause of the Nigerian masses and enhancing the growth and sustenance of the nation’s emerging democracy.

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Even Umeh’s colleagues were marveled at the speed with which he caught up with activities in the 8th Senate, despite his late arrival. His motion on the ‘Illegal Confinement of Underage Offenders and Infants in the same Prison with Adult Prisoners’, which was overwhelmingly adopted by the eighth Senate and well celebrated by Nigerians, was a stunning success that earned him an award as the ‘Best Senator of Year 2018’ in overall motion by the Senate Press Corps.

The APGA stalwart was a potent voice for his people and the entire Ndigbo in the 8th Senate. It was he who brought a motion before the 8th Senate for an “Urgent Need to Include The Eastern Rail Lines In the Nigerian Development Project” on March 28, 2018. He was likewise the Senator that raised objection to the confirmation of the nominees for Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Board appointments in December last year, on account of the exclusion of Southeast and South-South. Umeh had insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari did not adhere to the principle of Federal Character as enshrined in section 14 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) in making the appointments. The confirmation of the nominees as recommended by the then Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes was stood down consequent upon Umeh’s protest.

Considering how critical the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu State is to the economic lives of the Southeasterners, the Estate Surveyor turned politician vehemently opposed the plan to downgrade the airport. Sequel to his motion captioned: “Threat to downgrade Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu”, the eighth Senate warned the Federal Government not to downgrade the airport. Instead, it urged that the airport should be fixed. The former lawmaker sponsored the bill for the creation of the Theatre Art Professional Practitioners’ Council of Nigeria and co-sponsored the bill seeking to establish the Federal University of Education, Aguleri, in Anambra State with Senator Stella Oduah.

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Umeh’s achievements within the short period he spent in the 8th Senate as Senator representing Anambra Central, in the estimation of some observers, surpassed that of his predecessors since 1999. His loyalists maintained that Anambra Central had never enjoyed such quality and effective representation under any senator before Umeh’s sojourn in the Senate. The Anambra politician is believed to have brought succour to the people through the attraction of federal projects to his constituency and helped a lot of youths to secure federal and state jobs.

The erstwhile APGA national chairman also empowered the people of his senatorial district via his laudable youth and women skill acquisition programmes. He has projects in most communities of Anambra Central to show for his representation of the senatorial district. Umeh reportedly pushed for the insertion of several projects in the 2019 budget, spread across the seven Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Anambra Central.

Also to his credit in his representation of Anambra Central were: the training of 151 youths through the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) in various skills; distribution of 34 tricycles to youths; award of scholarship to seventy indigent students as well as empowerment of about 400 rural women from the different communities of Anambra Central with cash to boost their small-scale businesses. When Umeh recently visited one of the beneficiaries of his women empowerment initiative, she was quoted as saying “I thank Senator Victor Umeh for his kindness especially towards women. With such empowerment, suffering and hunger have been reduced significantly. May Almighty God bless and reward him bountifully.”

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According to Sheryl Sandberg, an American technology executive, activist and author, “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” As the political leader of Anambra Central, Umeh, in the seventeen months of his sojourn in the Upper Chamber, showed true leadership. He appears to understand what a privilege it is to be a leader. And so, he made a mark that had direct impact on the lives of his people.

Though, he lost to his political arch-rival, Ekwunife of PDP, in the 2019 senatorial election, followers of the ex-APGA helmsman are so confident that he will win at the tribunal and join the ninth Senate to continue with his good work for Ndi Anambra Central.

Just like in 2015, Umeh is currently at the Anambra State Election Petition Tribunal, challenging Ekwunife’s victory on the grounds that she was not legitimately sponsored by any political party and for alleged irregularities in some polling units during the senatorial poll.

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