On a recent soggy afternoon, tears of gratitude flowed freely as hundreds of businesses and individuals were empowered at Abia’s Central Senatorial Zone, writes Solomon Elusoji
Emmanuel Uche, a partially disabled 10-year-old boy from Eziama-Nsulu community in Abia Central Senatorial zone, is seated patiently in the stands, his mother by his side. His limp hands are folded on his laps, and his eyes roam flittingly, waiting for the empowerment to begin. A supervisory councillor in his community, Ikechukwu Adieze, had brought him and his mother to the open field in Umuahia. Today, he hopes to get a new wheelchair, so he can continue to go to school, where he’s in Primary Three.
Uche is not alone. There are hundreds of other people gathered on the field, their eyes sparkling with hope. Today is the day when Abia Central’s representative in the Senate arm of the National Assembly, Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji, is set to empower those who voted for him in his constituency, through the distribution of certain empowering gift items. The gift items include 20 units of 2.5 megawatts generator, 20 units of home grinding machines, 20 units of sewing machines, 100 bags of fertilizer, 14 units of motorcycles, 10 units of tricycles, 15 units of wheelchairs, amongst other things.
“I want to emphasise that only those that voted for me will receive these items and anywhere it stops, we continue until the items get to those that cast their votes for me,” Orji had said in March.
The mood at the open field is upbeat. There had been a heavy downpour earlier, which had trickled down to showers. Since the people at the field were also expecting to be showered with good things, the rain was like a message from God.
“Today, the senator is having his constituency empowerment programme,” one of the coordinators of the programme, Engineer Emma Nwabuko, says. “And this empowerment covers the six local government zones in Abia Central. And to be fair, the committee that selected those who received the items were selected from the six zones.”
However, for Nwabuko, “the most attractive item being given out today is the liquid fertiliser, which we have not used before, and which we are now trying to introduce. In the next six months, we want people to come up and attest to the effectiveness of the fertiliser.”
“It is magnificent and wonderful to see this kind of thing,” a former Deputy Speaker of the Abia State Assembly, Hon. Chidiebere Nwoke, tells THISDAY, just before the programme kicks off. “Of all the 109 senators you have in the federal republic of Nigeria today, it’s only Senator T.A. Orji that has done this, within eight months of assuming office. We had something like this happen in Aba recently, but the magnitude was much less than what is happening today. So, it’s a thing of joy, and I believe that more are going to come, and the people are going to enjoy the dividends of democracy.”
Soon, Senator Orji marches into the venue and ecstatic cries and chants fill the air. He is the man everyone had been waiting for. After serving as the Executive Governor of Abia for eight years, Ochendo, as Orji is fondly referred to, is widely loved by his people. This love, apparently, stems from the fact that Orji, throughout his political career, has been a leader who chose to mingle with the people and understand their problems. Today, his decision to empower hundreds, unleashing diverse creative entrepreneurs in the process, is another example pointing to the reason he is loved by all and sundry.
“Ochendo has done what nobody has done before,” a Deputy Chairman of the PDP in Abia, Chief Allen Nwachukwu, says, as he gives a short remark, describing Orji’s indelible efforts, both as Governor, and now as senator. “He has done what nobody has done.”
Before long, Orji himself is called to give a short speech and officially kick-start the empowerment process. “Today’s rain is a shower of blessings,” he says. “I want these items to get to everybody. But those that don’t get now should be patient; it will eventually get to you.”
Then the empowerment began, and it turns out to be a carnival of joy as men and women leap, whirl, dance, and sing songs of thanksgiving.
“The senator has tried,” Samuel Emeribe from Isiala Ngwa South Local Government, who got a wheelchair, says. “He has the goodwill of his people in mind, and that shows that he’s representing us well. Also, he’s putting smiles on the faces of the less privileged. I ask God to continue to strengthen, guide and protect him.”
Chuks Robert Onuigbo, who got a tricycle, tells THISDAY: “The senator is a man of God, a man of destiny; he is a man who likes to empower people, a man who likes the growth of people; I thank him, and may God bless him. I will use this to earn a living. I used to be a farmer, and this tricycle would be used to supplement my income.”
Victor Onyebuchi, from Osisioma Local Government, who got a generator, enthuses: “As you can see, I am very happy. I have a provision store, and this generator will help me to power it. Ochendo is a good man, I say thank you to him.”
“I am not surprised; it is his nature; he has been doing it before now,” a member of Ochendo Women, Lady Doris Iboku, tells THISDAY. “And for him to have done this in less than a year of being senator, it means that he knows what he’s doing and why we sent him there. Even when he was governor of Abia State, he was awesome, so we are not surprised. We pray that God will increase him more.”
“The former governor, now senator, who is much loved by the people of Abia, is continuing his good works by empowering his people,” a former PDP Chairman in Abia State and Chairman of the Day, Chief Uzodinma Okpara, tells THISDAY. “It’s a great thing for the people of Abia Central.”
The state chairman, Joint National Association of Persons with Disability, Abia State chapter, Stanley Onyebuchi, was equally delighted at the empowerment programme. He says: “Ochendo, the former governor, has been a friend to persons with disability, so he’s a man that always thinks about us. That’s why you are seeing wheelchairs; besides, some of us will be given other items. In fact, this is the first time a senator or a honourable member is doing an empowerment programme in this state and you see items for persons with disability. So, that shows that he is a friend to us.”
A resident of Abia Central, Ugochukwu Emezue, tells THISDAY that the empowerment programme was a great way of boosting Abia’s economic fortunes. “It is a good development, because what he’s doing is to give back to the people for supporting him,” he says. “He did an education empowerment three months ago, and today, he’s investing in entrepreneurial empowerment. It’s also a way of supporting Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, the governor of the state, because this will definitely have a positive impact on the economy of Abia State. The senator has done well. Of course, like Oliver Twist, we expect more from him, but I know he’s equal to the task.”
A former Commissioner of Housing under T.A.Orji, Prince K.O. Mgbeahuru, who could not hide his joy said: “This is ‘jara’ for me. We are very proud of him. Within a short time, he has sponsored a lot of bills. He’s doing very well.”
“I think this is wonderful,” says a former Commissioner for Works, Hon. Longman Nwachukwu on the empowerment programme, adding “It is an epitome of responsible representation. We have never had it this good before now. This is the first time a senator is doing something like this in Abia Central. The senator is rewriting what representation is all about. He is a leader par excellence and a game changer.”