In 2015, Senator Uche Ekwunife won election to represent Anambra Central in the senate after winning in 6 out of 7 local governments that make up the senatorial zone. But months after she was sworn in, her major opponent, Sir Victor Umeh of APGA, succeeded in removing her through the court on technicalities. But Ekwunife bounced back in the 2019 elections to not only beat her opponent again, but beat him in all the 7 local governments. However, her opponent has again returned to the courts, seeking a similar relief as in 2015.
In this interview with Fides editor-in-chief, Jude Atupulazi, Iyom, as Ekwunife is fondly called, vows that a repeat of the 2015 episode will never happen, even as she promises her constituents of an even better representation. She also speaks on other issues.
You're 7/7 victory surprised many people, given that you were up against an incumbent. Were you surprised too?
I honestly cannot say that I was surprised by the victory. I will admit that I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of support that led to the victory. In an election where the incumbent Senator had the support of the entire state government apparatus and institutions (and resources too), the people rose up and spoke up with one voice. And in all 7 local government areas, voted massively for me. It honestly did not come as a surprise. People had gotten tired of just rhetoric without results. And they knew I would bring them their desired results. And that's why they voted massively for me. I cannot say I did not expect it. I just got overwhelmed by the margin of victory. And I am truly grateful to God Almighty and the people of Anambra Central.
One of the candidates from SDP has gone to court, calling for fresh election over the non-inclusion of his party's logo. Are you worried?
Not at all. I am not worried. But I can tell you that I am surprised that he would go to court and initiate such a baseless action. Some have said that this particular action is basically a “VOICE OF JACOB/HAND OF ESAU” situation. Because I do not see under any conceivable legal ground that he should be going to court. Here was someone whose name was not submitted by his own party to INEC. Because of some internal issues he had with his party which were not resolved in his favour. His party did not submit his name to INEC. And he himself knew, going into the election; that his party did not submit his name to INEC and that INEC did not publish his name in the list of candidates. He therefore knew that his party would not be on the ballot paper for the Anambra Central Senatorial election. And now he files a petition claiming that he was unlawfully excluded from the election by INEC. When reports coming from the SDP indicates that he had actually been expelled from the party for his conduct.
For him to turn around to file this petition came as a surprise to us. Because he himself knows that there is no legitimate ground for him to be approaching the tribunal. That's why a lot of people believe that he is being influenced by impure motives and by Victor Umeh, in bringing this case. But the truth will finally vindicate us.
The man you unseated, Victor Umeh, has also gone to court. What is he seeking?
He is seeking a repeat of the same scenario he foisted on Anambra Central in 2015 where, after I decisively defeated him in 6 out of 7 LGAs in Anambra Central, he went to Court and obtained that unpopular judgment which has now become one of the most ridiculed judgements in the history of the Court of Appeal. Anambra Central people were very unhappy with that judgement and I know what it took me to calm people down from the taking laws into their hands. People saw it as a great injustice meted to me by Appeal Court.
Now in 2019, Victor Umeh thinks he can do the same thing again. That will never happen!! Anambra Central people have decided that this will never happen to them again and are speaking up against his action. They are telling him that the situation he created in 2015 will NEVER be allowed to reoccur in 2019. It is quite significant to observe that Anambra Central people are unanimous in their condemnation of Victor Umeh's conduct. Both traditional rulers, businessmen, women and youths, everyone is condemning Victor Umeh's conduct and expressing a desire to fight him to a standstill this time if he proceeds with this suit; a conduct that is perceived to be anti-people. It's really a shame that Victor Umeh is in at tribunal.
His desire is to plunge Anambra Central into the same darkness he caused in 2015. That caused Anambra Central to be without representation in the Senate for 3 years. But this time around, it won't work at all because Anambra Central is ready for him. This is not 2015! The winning margin in this election is even larger than in 2015 and the people are ready to fight to protect their mandate.
How can Victor Umeh in good conscience approach the court asking that the election be cancelled when he was present and observed that I defeated him in all the 7 LGAs, including 6 polling booths in his home town of Aguluzigbo? Victor Umeh should understand that the era of judicial gangsterism is over. He cannot frustrate the progress of Anambra Central by his frivolous and unwarranted lawsuits. We shall overcome this anyway. The will of the people must be allowed to prevail.
It was alluded in a newspaper article that some people are ganging up against you and your mandate. Can you elucidate on this?
I actually do not know the particular newspaper publication you are referring to. But I can tell you that I am not worried about people who are being used by my opponent to gang up against me. This is not about UCHE EKWUNIFE. It is about the collective will of Ndi Anambra Central and how a couple of disgruntled elements are seeking to hold us to hostage.
God is on our side, and one with God is majority. The people have spoken with their votes. And have made their choice. VOX POPULI VOX DEI (The voice of the people is the Voice of God). No weapons fashioned against God's people will ever prosper. Let them gang up all they want, my God will continue to shame them. And His Glory shall continue to dwell on the people of Anambra Central. Good will always overcome evil.
What are your assurances to your supporters in the face of these plots?
First of all, I want to appreciate the people for their massive support. And the way they came out to support my candidacy. I want to also thank them for speaking up in support of their mandate. Especially in the face of all these legal assault on their collective sensibilities.
I want to assure them of my strong belief that the Good Lord who granted us this victory, will also enable us to secure it. We are not resting on our oars, and even though we have worked very hard together to reclaim this mandate, the job of protecting the mandate is also ours. We must continue to speak up against this evil plot to stifle our collective progress again and to condemn Victor Umeh and his co-travellers.
In essence, my assurance to them is that I will leave no stone unturned in making sure that we secure our mandate this time. So that we can bring about the much needed progress in our District.
You were widely acknowledged for doing well while as a Reps member. How did you make it happen?
It is really by the Grace of God and my passionate desire to bring the best to my people. You have to have a heart for the people to do well in the National Assembly. It's not something you can fake. It is that love for the people that drives me to want to attract projects to our constituency, to secure employment for our job seekers. To include women in our programmes and policies. To empower the youth. Et cetera. It's the love for the people that drives all these; plus having a very deep understanding of the workings of the National Assembly. And also an ability to work across party lines to bring about the needed progress in our constituency. Those are the factors that contributed to my doing well in the National Assembly.
They will still make me to perform even better for my constituency in this 9th Senate.
Finally, what are your constituents expecting from your stewardship this time around?
I think they have come to expect nothing but visible proactive, people-centred representation from me. They know they will now have a strong and experienced voice in the Senate. They know I will champion the attraction of projects and developments into our constituency. They know I will again deliver an inclusive representation where I take their needs and demands to Abuja and bring back to them, the dividends of democracy. They know that I will continue to build political alliances to their benefit. That I will continue to champion the passing of Bills which will directly benefit the common man. That I will continue to move well thought out motions on the floor of the Senate to bring about tangible developments to the constituency.
That I will continue to facilitate employment for the job seekers and empowerment for our women and youths. They have already seen the NEPAD skills acquisition training that we facilitated, which they have been the beneficiaries. They know that this is just the beginning. A tip of the iceberg. That more of these are coming to them.
They are expecting the kind of progress and development in our constituency that they know I can bring to them. And by the Grace of God, I will meet and exceed their expectations. Once again l thank the good people of Anambra Central for the massive support and solidarity and I promise not to let them down.