Despite the current economic hardship in the country, the Ikeoha Foundation, founded by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu recently doled out N38.5 million to indigent university students from Enugu State. Christopher Isiguzo reports

“This is the most exciting moment in my life. Receiving this N400,000 cheque will propel me in my academic pursuit. For the four years I will be in school, fees and other expenses will no longer be a problem to me and my parents who have been pondering how to sponsor my education since I got admission. God has indeed answered our prayers.”

The above expression by Abia Kingsley Oluebube, a first year student of Chemical Engineering at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State aptly captured the feelings of the 18 undergraduates that benefitted from the Ikeoha Foundation 2016/2017 Scholarship award for indigenes of Enugu State.

Indeed, October 14 will remain indelible in the lives of those students whose quest for education received a major boost as the foundation, a pet-project of the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu doled out huge sums of money to support a select group of disadvantaged students from the state.

At the event which held at the headquarters of Udi Local Government Area, the beneficiaries drawn mainly from the five council areas that make up the lawmaker’s Enugu West Senatorial Zone, as well as three other councils, including Nsukka, Nkanu West and Igboeze North shed tears of joy akin to the feelings of someone whose hopes were restored.

For the event alone, the lawmaker gave out N38.5 million in scholarships and bursaries. Apart from the 18 students that got N400,000 each, another set of 300 students received bursaries to the tune of N40,000 each while nine others received empowerment items like sewing machines and motor bikes. Ekweremadu through the non-profit organisation is also sponsoring 12,000 ‎adult learners in an adult education programme.

Presenting cheques and other items to the beneficiaries at the event tagged Ikeoha Foundation Adult Literacy Day, the deputy senate president said he couldn’t have achieved his current status if not for his educational background.

“I want to show that no time is late to go to school. I pray that these (adult students) would take up positions of authority in no distant time.

“For some people, their parents had to sell lands for them to go to school, but now there is help. One day I will be tired of Ikeoha foundation and I hope one of these people will take up the foundation,” Ekweremadu told the guests which included Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State and the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for Anambra State gubernatorial election, Oseloka Obaze, national and state assembly members, former Nigeria Ambassador to Switzerland, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze, traditional and religious leaders and other notable PDP leaders.

The lawmaker said he stands tall to speak at the National Assembly because of the mandate of his people. “So it is time for giving back and any support I get from people, I appreciate so much. I couldn’t have achieved what I am today without education. It liberated me to speak anywhere and with anybody in any part of the world without feeling intimidated.

“A country that takes education serious tends to develop healthier and happier. Education is light and means to restore dignity of man while ignorance is darkness. Education will continue to be a veritable tool for human and societal development. Education is an instrument for national development and the interaction of persons and ideas are all aspects of education,” he said.

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 is why we have continued to channel resources to that sector,” he said, while urging other well-to-do individuals to emulate the senator. He pledged his administration’s readiness to continue to support the foundation.
Also speaking, the Executive Director of the foundation, Mrs. Cindy Anene Ezeugwu said the organisation founded in 1997 by the lawmaker and his wife, Nwanneka had continued to empower several persons who ordinarily would not have acquired education.

“Financial incapacitation is a major setback negating the attainment of higher education in many homes in Nigeria. The foundation took the bull by the horn through the provision of scholarship and bursary in cash and material awards to indigent, well-behaved and intelligent students in the state.”
She added that all the processes required to access the bursary and scholarship at the foundation are entirely free.

According to her, so far, about 12,000 women and youths have received basic education in their 34 adult literacy centres, while 2,872 students have completed their university education courtesy of the foundation’s bursary scheme. Also, 50 undergraduates are presently enjoying full scholarship, while 15 schools, their quiz masters and deserving students have received different categories of awards, including complete sets of science equipment, text and exercise books and financial assistance by participating in the annual secondary schools quiz competition.

Apart from education, Ezeugwu said the foundation also delved into other areas as it had distributed 20,000 units of anti-malaria drugs to malaria-endemic areas; 5,477 adult learners fitted with reading glasses; 20 co-operative societies supported with farming micro-credits; while several others have benefitted from other gestures including ICT training, modern agro-farming training, among others.

Other speakers at the event including Obaze, Hon. Toby Okechukwu and Denis Amadi representing Awgu/Aninri/Oji-River and Udi/Ezeagu Federal Constituencies respectively, Ambassador Njeze and the Transition Committee Chairman of Udi Local Government Area, Sheddy Ozoene applauded the senator for the giant strides in education empowerment of the youths.

They noted that by the time the state starts reaping the benefits of such massive investment in education, Enugu would become a unique destination.
One of the beneficiaries, Timothy Eke, a 100 level Computer Science student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, thanked the lawmaker for his magnanimity, saying that with the scholarship she has no other obstacle in her educational pursuit.

“We went through a rigorous process of screening before we got to this level and luckily enough, I made good results in 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 someone to release such amount of money to people who are not related even 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 computer scientist. We have a saying in my place, ‘you have to first 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 also play our own part by not disappointing him,” Eke said.

Another beneficiary of the bursary scheme, a 500 level Law student of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Miriam Chukwu, said her joy had no bound at the gesture by the lawmaker. She said she was more excited to be a beneficiary of the bursary programme.

Also, another student from Enugu North Local Government Area in Enugu-East Senatorial Zone, Austin Nnadi, a 400 level Science Laboratory Technology student of the Institute of Management Technology, Enugu, thanked 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 four of us from this local government area 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 country 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 will happen to him. He shall serve out his tenure as the deputy senate president and still go higher,” Nnadi said.