By Jude Atupulazi
Senator Chief Mrs Uche Ekwunife is one name that rings a bell across the nooks and crannies of Anambra State, having been associated with some of the most grueling political battles.
She once represented Anaocha, Njikoka, Dunukofia Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives where she deeply etched herself in the minds of the people as a result of her great representation. Now representing Anambra Central in the Senate, Mrs Ekwunife has set her sights on the future. In this interview with Fides’ Editor-in-Chief, Jude Atupulazi, she discusses her present and immediate plans.
How has it been like returning to the senate? What has been your focus?
It has been very gratifying to return to the Senate to represent the good people of ANAMBRA Central. The reception I received from my colleagues, both at the Retreat and at the Swearing in Ceremony was very heart warming. It felt like a family reunion. I got to reunite with a lot of present and former colleagues, from both houses of the National Assembly and it has been very exciting for me.
On the home front, there is this feeling of vindication that comes with my return to the Senate, especially after my unceremonious removal by the Court of Appeal after my hard fought victory in the 2015 election. Therefore, coming back in 2019 to reclaim the mandate in an overwhelming and unprecedented “7 over 7” victory was very amazing, and for which I thank the Almighty God. I am ever grateful to my constituents.
Speaking of focus, my focus has been to continue providing quality representation to the good people of ANAMBRA Central. In going around during the campaign process, we were able to get feelers from the constituents about what they really expect from their Senator. And we condensed these findings into what we later used to formulate our Legislative Agenda for the 9th Senate. The same issues that I have remained passionate about: Insecurity, poverty alleviation, job creation, skills acquisition and training, protection and education of the girl-child, industrialization, empowerment of youth and women, and, most recently, as Chairman Senate Committee on Science and Technology, I am more committed to the advancement of all aspects of our national operations through improvement of our Science and Technology. I am also very committed to improving the road networks in Anambra State to make sure we sustain that status of being the state with the best road network in the country.
What’s your relationship with Sir Victor Umeh after your epic battle with him?
My relationship with him is cordial. I have no problems with him at all. We were on opposing sides in a very hotly contested election, which, thanks to God, I emerged winner. And then, I went through a very rigorous and stressful post-election litigation which he took all the way to the highest court with jurisdiction on the matter. And with the Judgment of the Court of Appeal in my favour, that phase is over too.
One may expect that I have reasons to be resentful, after having been subjected to these unnecessary processes. But I have put all that behind me and I am choosing to focus on what lies ahead. So I have no problems with him. Moreover, he is my brother.
What are your plans for the 2021 guber election? Are you contesting?
I have not made any formal announcement on whether or not I plan to contest the election in 2021. I am still engaged in widespread consultation with my family and necessary stakeholders. I must confess though, that there is a lot of clamouring by people for me to declare for the race. But as you know, it is a very serious decision which I want to give careful evaluation to before deciding. But I can assure you that once I decide, one way or the other, you will get to know.
If eventually you declare, you may be the only woman gunning for the seat in all the major parties. Where will you draw your strength from?
The ”IF” in the first part of the question makes it unnecessary for me to respond, given that I have just indicated to you that I have yet to make a formal declaration.
But I can tell you without equivocation that I draw my strength from the Almighty God who continues to be my stronghold and to whom all glory and honour belongs. I am also strengthened by the massive support I receive from my constituents. It definitely gives me the motivation to work even harder to justify this confidence.
Do you think Anambra is ripe for a woman as governor?
My simple answer to that is a resounding YES! But going even deeper than that, I think it’s actually disingenuous that we will reduce the determination of our gubernatorial leadership to an issue as mundane as mere gender. That is actually not complimentary to the values of the Anambra people. In my interaction with people, I see that the desire of the people is to get an efficient and effective leader who will build upon the successes of past leadership and propel Anambra State to the top of the list of performing states. Anambra State has been blessed with a lot of women who have given a good account of their stewardship in different positions of responsibility. So, having a woman who does well in office is not new to Anambra people.
Thus, it will obviously not be a factor in deciding the leadership. I believe that Anambra is ripe for, and in dire need of, a performing governor; be it a man or woman. I also believe that at this time, more than ever, Anambra State is very ripe, for a female governor.
You are representing the Central Senatorial Zone. How do you see this in relation to the clamour in some quarters for it to be zoned to the South?
Well, it depends on who you speak to. While some people are of the view that Anambra State should be more interested in getting a performing governor, regardless of the zone, others believe that it should go to the South to produce a Governor. Fortunately, as an indigene of Igboukwu, married to Nri, I happen to qualify under both sub-categories. But I do not want to compartmentalize the determination of our state Leadership into the Senatorial District that the candidates hail from. I am more interested in seeing that the culture of good leadership which was ably modeled by Governor Peter Obi, is restored to our state.
The action seems to be in your party by way of the array of aspirants. How would you want the party to handle the pressure to avoid the usual crises?
I have said it before, that the party should focus on conducting credible primaries. Everyone who is qualified has a right to aspire to be the party’s flag bearer. It is for the delegates to choose whom they believe will be able to represent them in the general elections and defeat the opposing candidates.
People who are expecting crisis within the PDP are in for a surprise because I believe that the PDP primaries will be rancour-free and the whole party will rally round and support whoever emerges as the flag bearer from credible primaries because a United PDP will be a formidable force in Anambra State in the upcoming 2021 elections.