Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu recently met with widows, the indigent and less-privileged members of his Enugu West Senatorial zone and splashed more than N40 million on various empowerment programmes, writes Christopher Isiguzo
For the widows, indigent and less-privileged undergraduates as well as adult learners from the five local government areas that make up Enugu West Senatorial zone as well as Enugu North and Igboeze North Local Government Areas in Enugu East and Enugu North Senatorial zones, Saturday, July 23 would remain indelible in their hearts. The day clearly marked a turning point in their lives, especially for the over 250 widows and about 500 undergraduates presently studying in different universities and polytechnics across the country.
Ordinarily, most of them who have lost their benefactors and bread-winners may have given up on life, but mother luck smiled on them as they made the list of those who benefited from the empowerment programme of the Deputy Senate President and the senator representing Enugu West Senatorial zone in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.
It was the third edition of the Ikeoha Foundation Adult Literacy Day and 2015/2016 Scholarship and Bursary Award ceremony which took place at Aguobu-Owa headquarters of Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State. Though the event was intermittently punctuated by downpour, but the lucky beneficiaries felt the impact of heavier downpour that came in form of different empowerment facilities.
The Deputy Senate President at the occasion splashed more than N40 million on his constituents on various empowerment programmes, including bursary of N40, 000 to 300 undergraduates, full scholarship of N400, 000 each to 16 undergraduates, 250 sewing machines to widows and 200 grinding machines to 200 first school leaving adult graduands and 50 motorbikes to 50 of their tutors. The adult learners from the 32 adult literacy centres who participated in the march past that added colour to the event also received mouth-watering gifts in form of cash and facilities.
Ikeoha Foundation is the pet project of the lawmaker founded in 1997 but registered in 2004 with a specific mission to provide for the basic educational and health needs of families living in poverty and below the radar of government-sponsored interventions. The foundation achieves its mission through enhancing their access to quality education and healthcare and by building their capacity to participate in mainstream social, political and economic activities of their communities.
Prior to the event over 10, 000 women and youths had received basic education in the 32 adult literacy centres, 2, 572 students had completed their university education courtesy of the foundation’s bursary scheme while 32 undergraduates are enjoying full scholarships. Also, 4,250 women and youths had been trained in agro-farming, 1000 participated in ICT training while 6000 widows were supported with household equipment, agro-inputs and financial assistance since 2007.
It was with that in mind that thousands of people from the senatorial zone temporarily relocated to the Ezeagu headquarters to be part of yet another history. Most of them according to sources had thought the empowerment programme had been suspended since the advent of the All Progressives Congress-led administration at the centre with their benefactor being in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). They were however wrong as the senator took his charity works a notch higher in its third edition with a pledge to even do more.
Notable leaders of the zone and beyond including Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who led members of his cabinet to the event, members of the National Assembly and State Assembly, council chairmen, PDP leaders including Chief Anayo Onwuegbu, Ambassadors Goddy Agbo and Fidelia Njeze, were part of the event.
Over 30 traditional rulers from various communities in the state showed more than a passing presence as they showered encomiums on the lawmaker vowing to stand by him throughout his trying moments. Led by their Chairman, Igwe Hafford Agana, the royal fathers also presented him with the traditional Ofor, symbol of authority of the Igbo people.
The Executive Director of the foundation, Mrs. Cindy Ezeugwu in her welcome address, said the programme was one of the cardinal approaches through which the foundation fulfills its mission of building people and empowering communities through reintegrating men and women who do not initially have opportunity for formal education into mainstream activities by providing them the platform to become literate.
“Today, the adult learners have learned so much and are now able to function effectively in different domains of learning including cognitive, affective and psychomotor: they can now manipulate their phones and communicate with their loved ones, perform some arithmetical operations that can help them to enhance and grow their businesses, trade and vocational operations, they can now engage in various other crafts and skills that can help to sustain them and their families as well as being able to perform their civic, social and religious duties,” she said.
On her part before handing over the facilities, the wife of the Deputy Senate President, Dr. Nwanneka Ekweremadu, said the empowerment programme was “a passion and feeling my husband and I nursed many years ago and we are happy to see it blossom.”
She noted that no matter the situation, they would continue on that part as that was the only way they could easily express appreciation to God who “has led us thus far.”
Speaking at the event, the Deputy Senate president, Ekweremadu said the charity works were his own way of appreciating God for his kindness to his family over the years, adding that his present travails would not constitute a setback in the charity works.
While shrugging off his ongoing trial at the Federal High Court, Abuja, for alleged forgery of the Standing Rules of the Senate the lawmaker reaffirmed his innocence insisting that his traducers would meet a brickwall as nobody would remove him from office.
He noted that his trajectory was from God and as such he would survive the sea billows.
“I decided to handover N400, 000 to each of the 20 students as scholarships for their education for four years. Ordinarily, it would have been N100, 000 each year but since am not sure if I will continue as Deputy Senate President until tomorrow, we have decided to give it out at once to ensure that nothing happens to the education of these young ones.
“Whether they succeed in chasing me out or not, you will continue to go to school. But, I have to assure you that nobody will remove me. It is not by power or by might but by the grace of God. Our trajectory is from God. Nobody will do us anything. No matter what is happening, I can assure you that we shall survive them all,” he said.
He praised the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, for his achievements especially the prompt payment of the monthly salaries of workers in the state noting that he would continue to partner with the governor.
“Be assured that we will continue to support you; whoever is your friend will be our friend; whoever is your enemy will have us to contend with,” he told the governor.
On his part, the governor said the event marked a milestone in the promotion of literacy in the state, adding that it was a welcome complement to the efforts of the state government in improving education.
“Education is the bedrock of any society, that’s why we have continued to channel resources to that sector, “he said, while urging other well to do individuals to follow in the footsteps of the senator. He pledged his administration’s readiness to continue to support the foundation.
Other speakers at the event including Ambassador Njeze, chairman of Ezeagu council, Chukwudi Ezinwa, chairman of the PDP in the state, Augustine Nnamani among others prayed God to continue to shower his blessings on the senator.
One of the beneficiaries, Uka-Offor Justice, a 100-level law student of the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus expressed appreciation to the lawmaker for his magnanimity noting that the with the scholarship she had no other obstacle in her quest for education.
“We went through a rigorous process of screening before we got to this level and luckily enough, I made good results at my O’level which put me in better stead to make the final list of those selected to benefit from this programme of Ikeoha. I can honestly tell you that it is not easy for somebody to release such an amount of money to people who are not even related to him.
“This money will go a long way in facilitating my academic pursuit especially at the university level and he has even promised to do more for us as the years go by. It takes somebody with such milk of human kindness to engage in this type of empowerment. I feel more than excited to be given this rare opportunity to achieve my dream of becoming a lawyer. We have a saying in my place, ‘you have to first of all throw the bone to the dog and watch him wrestle with the spirits’. Our senator has played his part and I can assure you that we will equally play our own part by not disappointing him,” Justice noted.
Another beneficiary of the bursary scheme, a-500 Civil Engineering student of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Eze Jude Ejiofor who hails from Umuogbo-Agu in Igboeze North Local Government Area of Enugu State, said his joy had no boundaries at the gesture by the lawmaker. He said he was more excited to be a beneficiary of the bursary programme because the lawmaker extended the goodwill to those that are not within his senatorial district. Igboeze North is in Enugu North senatorial zone with Senator Chuka Utazi as the lawmaker representing the area.
“For years now, Ekweremadu has been extending his empowerment programme to our area. Countless number of students have benefited from the programme from my area here and am glad to have made the list. Ordinarily, one would say Ekweremadu owes us nothing, we didn’t vote for him; he’s not representing my area but because he sees the entire Enugu State and even the South-east as his constituency, he has continued to extend this to us.
“Am more than excited and my prayer for him is that the good Lord will continue to take him to greater level, ” he said while applauding the senator’s undying love for education.
Also, another student from Enugu North Local Government Area in Enugu-East Senatorial zone, Edwin Ugwu, a-HND 2 Electrical Electronics Engineering student of Federal Polytechnic, Oko in Anambra State expressed appreciation to the senator for extending his Foundation’s empowerment programme beyond his senatorial zone.
“Ikeoha is representing Enugu West senatorial zone, while my own senator is Senator Gilbert Nnaji. A total of 25 of us from this local government are benefitting from his programme. That goes to show a clear demonstration of love for the people. Apart from this programme, he is one of the most outstanding senators this nation has ever produced.
“All of us are praying for him to keep going higher. Those presently seeking for his downfall must know that they are up against the less-privileged people of Enugu State who have received hope and help from Ikeoha. They should know that the God of the poor will never forsake his own people. We are praying for him and I know that nothing untoward would happen to him. He shall serve out his tenure as the Deputy Senate President and still go higher,” Ugwu who hails from Enugu-Ngwo noted.
One of the graduands of the Ikeoha foundation Adult Learning Programme from Enugu Ahu Achi Study Centre in Oji-River Local Government Area, Mrs. Josephine Iloka, said she was happy to have finally graduated with a First School Leaving Certificate courtesy of the Deputy Senate President.
“My son let me tell you, I can now read and write. I can now spell words correctly. I can even name the 36 states and their capitals now. I never knew there would be a time when I, Josephine Iloka will be reading and writing. I even operate handsets now. I am very happy and as you can see, Ikeoha has changed our lives forever. Today, I can do so many things I couldn’t do in the past. My prayer is that our good Lord will continue to keep Ikeoha for us the women and for our children he has given free education,” the elderly woman noted amidst excitement.
Madam Odenigbo Francisca, one of the beneficiaries of the Widowhood Empowerment Initiative from Ezeagu and Mrs. Ekperechi Agbo from Udi who also got a sewing machine from the scheme poured encomiums on the senator for the gesture. According to them, the Grinding and Sewing machines would positively changed their lives.
“Unlike in the past when he gave us money to take care of oursleves, you can see what we got today and no doubt, these would go a long way in changing our lives. He has decided to show us not only how to fish but he has also given us the fishing tools. We are not going to take care of ourselves. This sewing machine will give birth to another machine by the Grace of God. And it will go a long way in assisting us to take care of our children.
Odenigbo specifically praised Ekweremadu for remembering the widows in his empowerment scheme, stressing that “the God of the widows will remember him. Whoever that wants to bring him down will go down while Ikeoha will keep rising.”