Why it was easy for me to emerge as Afikpo North chair – Obiageri Oko- Enyim

Barrister 0biageri Oko-Enyim is the first female chairman, Afikpo North local government area, Ebonyi state. In this interview with PAUL OKAH, she speaks on her experience and achievements; criticisms, the situation of women in politics, among others.

You were sworn in as the first female Executive Chairman of Afikpo North LGA on 1st September last year, what has the experience been like?

My experience has been encouraging, in the sense that, since 1976 that Afikpo North Local Government Area (LGA) was created, women didn’t have the opportunity of being the chairman of the council until my emergence last year. In fact, it was the assumption of office of His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State, Apostle Engr. David Nweze Umahi, that gave the women of Afikpo North the opportunity of being on the seat as Executive Chairman of Afikpo North, through my humble self. My experience has been worthwhile, because I came on a divine platform. It was as if Afikpo North people had a consensus, whereby residents were already tired of the men and needed a positive change championed by women, irrespective of who assumed office. They had tested different men and needed to give women the chance to prove themselves. Therefore, it was not really difficult for me to emerge, because of the massive support from my people.

What was the situation of women in Ebonyi politics before 2015?

The situation of women in Ebonyi politics was nothing to write home about before the assumption of office of Governor Umahi in 2015. It was a terrible one, in the sense that women were not given the opportunity to participate actively in Ebonyi politics. Few of us, who were already there, were seen as outcasts. We were intimidated and called names, including being referred to as prostitutes. The men said many demeaning things to demoralise us and to bring us down for being involved in politics or for trying to compete with them by doing everything possible to get us off the track. Also, in Afikpo tradition, there are certain things women are not supposed to do, see or say and there are places women are prevented from going to or accessing. So, it was actually very difficult for us. For instance, sometime ago, one Patricia Isu, who is presently a staff of the Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwana, was the first female politician who tried to contest for the councillorship position in her ward. I know what the lady passed through. She was called many derogatory and demeaning names by men, who didn’t want her to compete with them. The men made us to be so naive and backward when it comes to politics. They didn’t give us the opportunity, even with our levels of education as women. Even in terms of education, it is just recently that Afikpo women started breaking grounds. In fact, in my set, in my hometown, Amasiri, I was the first female to gain admission to study Law in the university. So, upon graduation, men tried to use every opportunity and demeaning terms to pull me and other enlightened women down as they felt threatened by our education. They have been calling us enlightened or exposed women who can never stay under them.

However, since the assumption of office of Governor Umahi, he has championed the revival of Ebonyi women in politics. He gave us the opportunity to be heard and be elected into political offices. Don’t forget that when it comes to politics, the people who do the actual voting are women, but whenever it is our turn to be voted for, men will stand in our way. Nevertheless, Governor Umahi came and opened the eyes of people to know that those who have been voting for you also deserve to be elected. The agreements of the Beijing Conference of 4-15 September, 1995, known as the “Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace”, are being implemented in Ebonyi, because we have passed 35% affirmative action. We are almost 50%, if we are not there already, courtesy of Governor Umahi. It is not only in Afikpo North Local Government Area that a woman is occupying the number one seat as Hon. (Mrs) Chinyere Nwaogbaga of Ebonyi LGA, Dr (Mrs) Nora Aloh of Ezza North, and Princess Nkechinyere Iyioku of Ohaozara LGA are Amazons, who have proven that women, if given the opportunity in public offices, can perform creditably well, even more than their male counterpart. So, I am sure that every woman in Ebonyi State, irrespective of political affiliation, should be grateful to the state governor for allowing women to have a say. The Governor is indeed an extraordinary man with a heart of gold. Recall that during the last administration, that is Governor Martin Elechi’s tenure, we only had few women elected into political positions. I remember that the chairman of Onicha LGA was a woman and a barrister. However, when Umahi came on board in 2015, he made sure that the three zones that make up Ebonyi State, that is Ebonyi North, Ebonyi Central and Ebonyi South, had representatives of women, but he didn’t end there as he has been appointing women into key positions on a daily basis. Testimonies abound that the assumption of office by Governor Umahi as the Governor of our dear state has changed every negative stereotype and tag on the image of Ebonyi and Ebonyians by outsiders.

Today, we raise our shoulders high as one of the fastest developing states in Nigeria, thanks to the Governor and support for women in Ebonyi. Yes, we can’t overemphasis Governor Umahi’s zeal of incorporating women in politics. As you know, he has appointed female Commissioners, Special Assistants,  Development Centre Coordinators, Technical Assistants, among others. Also, creating the enabling environment for a woman to emerge as the Chairman of Coordinators Forum of the state and another elegant woman as the ALGON Chairman has truly defined His Excellency as a gender sensitive leader, which is something never heard of or experienced since the creation of Ebonyi State. These interventions, among others, have given sense of belonging to the women of Ebonyi through Governor Umahi’s deliberate policy of incorporating them in the political system. So, Umahi is an extraordinary man. He is a man with a heart of gold. He gave us the opportunity to vote and be voted for and elected into different political offices. I am sure we will not forget that in a hurry as he has shown the people of Ebonyi state that we can do it better.

In fact, if you look at the LGAs that women are heading, you will see that there is relative peace. If I can use Afikpo North as a case study, you will agree with me that, since my assumption of office, as the first female executive chairman of Afikpo North, residents are sleeping very well. For instance, just last week, precisely on August 25, we had a stakeholders meeting and one of the major stakeholders revealed that one thing we have achieved is peace in Afikpo North as people can now sleep and wake without any trouble. So, I am happy and grateful to God, the state governor and security agencies, who have been making it possible. It may interest you to know that it is like that in other LGAs chaired by women. Like I said earlier, even in appointments in Ebonyi State, many women have been appointed by His Excellency, because the governor has tested us and seen that we are sincere and reliable. We don’t play politics when we are required to face governance. We separate politics from governance. So, Governor Umahi is at home with women and I can assure you that we won’t disappoint or let him down, because to whom much is given, much is expected. We will continue doing our best to reciprocate the governor’s kind gesture and not make him regret giving us the opportunity to serve in his administration.

What effort have you made, with regards to curbing insecurity in Afikpo North?

With regards to the issue of insecurity, which is a nationwide concern, we have been able to do our best to ensure that Afikpo North remains peaceful. Outside Ebubeagu, which is government outfit, when I assumed office, I had to take cognisance of all the traditional institutions in the LGA. Afikpo North has this setting of the Essa being the highest authority in the community, so I had to meet with the Ekpuke Essa, meet with the Ekpuke Eto, Isi Elia, Uke Ogo in Amasiri and all the necessary traditional rulers and other institutions. I was able to liaise with them on the issue of insecurity and we had representatives from all concerned. Remember that Afikpo North has age grades in different communities, so I engaged them in vigilante work, whereby they will be doing it age grade by age grade. Every week, one particular age grade will work, while another age grade will work as vigilante in another week. Also, we had a security committee before the Ebubeagu security network was formed by the state governor to assist us in the 13 LGAs that make up the state. Afikpo North is naturally a peaceful LGA, but the coming of Ebubeagu and other security agencies have been helping to maintain relative peace in the LGA. We have the aforementioned security outfits checkmating who comes in and out of Afikpo. The Governor does not want the blood of any of his citizens to be shed and has been providing us the needed support to maintain peace in Afikpo North and other LGAs. He has been doing everything within his reach to ensure that the lives and property of his citizens are safe and remain secured.

What about the bomb blast incident that reportedly happened at Amaizu Amangballa Primary School in March and alleged Fulani herdsmen attack on Ameta village in April, apart from the killing of military officers at Timber Shed Junction?

Please, there was nothing like bomb blast at Amaizu Amangballa Primary School. That was the insinuation and allegation of rumour mongers and mischief makers. The truth is that the unfortunate man was a Mobile Police officer, who had a grenade in his waist. Maybe, out of his carelessness, the grenade burst and he unfortunately lost his life. Even the Police PRO, Loveth Odah, visited the scene of the incident for an on-the-spot assessment and confirmed that the unfortunate man was a police officer on a special assignment, not the nonsense fake news peddlers and mischief makers were trying to tell the whole world. In fact, the deceased’s ID card was still intact on him after the incident, to lay credence to his identity. So, in a nutshell, there was no bomb blast in Afikpo as rumoured, but a case of a police officer that made a mistake with his grenade, which eventually claimed his life.

Also, there was no Fulani herdsmen attack at Agba Amaeta in April. The rumour is also the handiwork of mischief makers and fake news peddlers, because I personally went to Agba-Amaeta with the Development Center Co-ordinator of Afikpo North East, Hon. Omerikete, and we discovered that nothing of such nature happened. People merely wanted to create unnecessary panic and rumour with fake news, in the name of opposition politics, which shows how low many of us have descended or can descend; just to score cheap political points.

Furthermore, the killing of soldiers at Timber Shed Junction is really unfortunate, because it was later confirmed to be the handiwork of unknown gunmen, who came from nowhere to kill soldiers protecting Afikpo people. As you know, Afikpo North is a peaceful area and my people cannot kill the same security men sweating day and night to protect them. However, since the incident, we have been up and doing as we have security agencies seriously monitoring the movement of people in and out of Afikpo, thanks to the proactive nature of Governor Umahi.

September 1 will mark your first year in office, what have been your achievements since assumption of office?

Yes, I assumed office on 1st September, 2020, after my election in August. Upon assumption of office, I was able to ensure that there is peace in Afikpo North. I have also done motorised boreholes and ensured good health for residents. For instance, they were two women I intervened in their medical cases. One had cancer, while the other had tumour on the cheek, which was disturbing to me when I learnt of the plight of the duo. I sponsored their treatment by taking them to the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu for treatment and paid their medical bills in full. They’re all okay now. This is apart from providing humanitarian interventions for many residents whenever I can help. Presently, the ongoing Uji-Ndibe bridge project initiated by me is receiving good attention. Also, the ongoing Mater-Ozizza road is courtesy of the state government and the local government. There are other projects that we will carry out very soon, as already captured in our budgets. We are just one year in office and need time to provide more democratic dividends to our people, depending on funds available to the council. People just have to be patient with us as our plans for Afikpo North are for good. It is only a matter of time and we will surely deliver on all our promises to the wonderful people of Afikpo North.

There are allegations that the Uji-Ndibe bridge have been abandoned, with residents making references to it on social media on a daily basis, what is the true situation of things?

It is really unfortunate that many of our people don’t seem to understand how projects are carried out. We started the Uji bridge project recently and working round the clock to ensure timely completion. We are at the peak of the rainy season and taking our time to do a perfect job. Good engineers will tell you that no work can be perfectly executed during the rainy season. In fact, as a result of having houses close to the bridge or project site, we refused to use high-level force or dynamite to break the stones around the area; in order not to affect houses around the project site. So, we are contending with both the houses of people and the rainy season. But once the rainy season is over, we will ensure timely completion of the bridge, probably in October, but definitely sooner than people expect. End of the year or December is even far for the completion of the bridge. In fact, though we are working round the clock as it doesn’t necessarily rain 24 hours in Afikpo, I lay emphasis on the rainy season; in order for us to get the actual things we want of the bridge, so that it won’t be haphazard or shoddy. I can assure you and other concerned people that we will do a perfect job at the Uji-Ndibe bridge and it will be usable as soon as possible. My able and reliable Co-ordinator, Hon. Ibiam Inya Agha, has been doing a good job in supervising the project, so I will appeal to residents, motorists and those whose businesses are temporarily affected by the construction to be patient with us.

For the records, I really feel for those whose businesses have been affected by the project. I really feel for my people, but we must do what we have to do; for the betterment of everyone. Those who have businesses along the road and motorists plying the road should just bear with us. The Uji-Ndibe bridge is one of the projects we will complete in earnest time because, like you pointed out, it is affecting many businesses. It is a road we make use of every minute of the day, so I understand the predicament of my beloved Afikpo people. We are really doing our best to fast-track the project. It is not when people go on social media to criticise the construction that the bridge will be completed. We started the project and fully aware of the implications. Our Governor is a “talk and do” governor, who has never started a project he cannot complete. So, how can I fail the same governor, who I am emulating by not doing my best for my people, with regards to timely completion of the Uji bridge? We must complete whatever we started, because we are working with a reliable governor, whose yes is always yes.

Investigations reveal that projects by the last administration have been ignored by your government, what could be the reason?

In governance, when you are taking over power, you will be handed over the asset and liabilities of the last administration. Whatever we met on ground when we assumed office, we will continue from there, because government is a continuous process. It is just that there are certain things before us that we must do before considering the projects initiated by the last administration, including the 30 Shops Ultramodern Plaza Complex, Magistrate Quarters and other abandoned projects. Projects are capital intensive, but Afikpo North is blessed with mineral resources and we have other internally generated revenue.

There are allegations that Governor Umahi demands a large chunk of federal government’s allocations from local government chairmen, what is your reaction?

The local government system is enjoying financial autonomy from the federal government. The constitution has made it clear and we are comfortable with allocations from the federal government. No local government can complain of being asked of money by the governor from the allocations from the federal government, at least I am not aware of the governor making demands as alleged. The governor is a law-abiding citizen and cannot go contrary to what the federal government wants. We have gotten financial autonomy, so those making allegations about the governor seizing federal allocations are just mischief makers, miscreants, rumour mongers and jobless youths in search of unmerited attention.

Despite your assurance to residents about restoration of power supply during a peaceful protest last year, Afikpo North LGA is still in darkness, why?

When you say LGA, it will look as if it is the entire Afikpo North that is in darkness, which is not true. So, I want to disagree with you, because Akpoha, Amasiri and other areas in Afikpo North have been enjoying light and presently enjoying hours of power supply. The only places that seem not to have light in Afikpo North are just those in Afikpo urban and the reason is not farfetched. The issue of vandalised transformers, fallen poles and electrical equipment are to blame. Each time there is light in Amasiri, Akpoha and other places, it does not get to Afikpo, because of the vandalised transformers and fallen poles. In fact, sometimes the power supply to Afikpo will be disconnected; in order to avoid electrocution as a result of the fallen poles and vandalised transformers. However, we are not sitting idly without doing anything to solve the situation. We have been doing a lot of things that are oftentimes not reported in the media. Even the governor has started rural electrification project, which has almost gotten to the Amasiri substation that is presently under construction. This is apart from the agreement he reached with the Niger Delta company to intervene in our power supply woes. I believe you are aware of the true situation of things as you severally interviewed the former Ebonyi State Commissioner for Power and Energy, Engr. Ogbonnaya Uche Ude.

Nevertheless, one of the promises I made to my people is that there will be steady power supply in Afikpo. Since I assumed office in September last year, I have not relented in keeping to my promises. Even when the rain and erosion brought down poles, I engaged the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) on power restoration. However, the EEDC sometimes frustrate one’s efforts to ensure that there is steady power supply. I recall that some poles fell since April this year and I had to write to EEDC and spoke with them on phone to partner with them for replacement. I am glad that they are now on ground to replace some of the fallen poles. Those are my efforts to ensure that Afikpo urban enjoys power supply, like their counterparts in Amasiri, Akpoha and other places. In fact, the EEDC officials told me that they are waiting for the fallen poles to be replaced before they can bring in new transformers to replace vandalised ones. If they bring the transformers without fixing them, as a result of damaged electric poles, they may still be vandalised, so they are begging for time. To be on the safe side, we agreed that it is when the damaged poles are replaced that they will install new transformers, repair or replace vandalised ones to avoid repetition of the ugly experience.

You are about the most criticised LGA chairman, could it as a result of your record as the first female executive chairman of Afikpo North?

If you say that I am the most criticised LGA chairman, I will disagree with you a bit because those who criticise me are just miscreants and job seekers, who feel that once it is not them, it cannot be anybody else. I don’t want to believe that being the first female executive chairman of Afikpo North is the reason for the criticism. I know the few people that seemingly criticise me. Some of them are in the opposition and who don’t like anything good. Some of them don’t criticise me on their own accord, but on the instruction of their paymasters to justify the crumbs they feed on from their tables. I like criticism, especially when it is constructive. When you criticise me constructively, it shows that I am doing well. So, they criticise me because they didn’t know that a woman will achieve the much I have achieved as the first female executive chairman of Afikpo North, within a year in office. So, being the first female executive chairman of Afikpo North, I think what they are doing is normal and I appreciate it because it makes me to sit up and perform more. Even the opposition knows I am doing well, except few of the gullible, mischief makers, miscreants and ignoramuses, who cannot differentiate politics from governance.

Are you getting the needed support from your fellow women?

Yes, I am getting the needed support from my fellow women and even beyond. The elders of Afikpo North are with me. The youths are also with me. I have support from numerous women. They have been wonderful and I am really humbled by the kind of unprecedented support I have been getting from my people since I assumed office in September last year. Only a few ignorant people make noise in the name of criticism as a result of their not being the ones in power. Like I mentioned earlier, my emergence as the first female executive Chairman of Afikpo North is divine. In fact, when I declared interest to contest the position of Afikpo North Chairman, nobody opposed my ambition. Even some of those presently criticising me wanted me to be there. They were supportive of my election in August last year and some are still supporting me, despite getting money from their paymasters to criticise me, because they feel they are supposed to be sitting on the seat presently occupied by my humble self. That’s life for you. For me, you struggle to become what you want to be in politics. However, I will still advise that, when it is not yet your turn, turning to criticism will still not get you anywhere. Always allow God to do His work until it gets to your turn. They feel that once they go to social media to criticise me, they will now get the opportunity to replace me. It doesn’t work that way. I didn’t criticise anybody to get to where I am today as the first female Chairman of Afikpo North since 1976. I keep saying that my emergence is divine. It came at the time God wanted it and I will forever remain grateful to the first family for what God used them to achieve.

So, my advice to the women leading the campaign to discredit my administration, using unemployed youths and crumb eaters, is to pipe low. They should pipe low and allow God to use them for positive things. Let us not misuse this golden opportunity afforded us by the state governor. I’ve always told my fellow women: it is not just that Obiageri is the first female Chairman of Afikpo North; I am just the pilot. It can be anybody. If I don’t get it right as the first female executive Chairman of Afikpo North, women will have issues in Afikpo politics. This is because, if I leave office and other opportunities come for women to assume office, they will then regret reasons for criticising me, because the same people using them to criticise me will ask what I achieved while in office for them to be given another opportunity. That’s why I said that it will affect women. So, I will continue to advise them to come together as women and use the opportunity afforded us by the governor to achieve more. I run an open door policy. I always tell my people, especially women, anywhere you see me, talk to me. If I am not getting things right, tell me where I am failing so that I can adjust and sit up, instead of blind, directionless and aimless criticism. Even if I am getting things right, we can still improve with your advice and meaningful suggestions. It is all for our own good as I am just here to pilot affairs where women are involved. So, we must do our part to ensure that we get things right for our tomorrow. That is why we should pipe low; in order to get things right by allowing God to use us to do the needful.

Can you say that Umahi has been fair to Afikpo, with regards to siting of projects?

Governor Umahi has been over fair to Afikpo North, with regards to siting of projects. In fact, I call the Governor Mr Project, Infrastructural Governor, Pacesetter, Trailblazer. I even lack words to describe the governor, because he has been performing wonderfully well in all the 13 LGAs of Ebonyi state, with regards to projects. Even before I assumed office last year, since 2015 that the governor came into power, he has taken it upon himself to develop the state, starting with Afikpo North. He has completed so many projects in Afikpo North to his credit, including the reconstruction of the Afikpo-Abakaliki road, Afikpo NYSC road, rehabilitation of Amuro-Eke market roundabout, Ngodo- St Mary roundabout, construction of a two-bedroom apartment for a widow at Ngodo, among other projects. The ongoing flyover at Amasiri is courtesy of the governor. The ongoing Ozizza- Mater road is also courtesy of the governor.

Can you agree that those criticising Umahi are being fair then?

No, they’re not fair! In fact, like I said earlier, anyone criticising the governor in Afikpo is just to satisfy the paymaster as crumb eaters. You can never please everybody on earth, but the Governor has done well in giving a facelift to Afikpo North in particular and Ebonyi in general. I repeat, majority of those criticising Governor Umahi are jobless, ignorant miscreants, mischief makers and never-do-wells doing the bidding of their equally selfish paymasters. I also want to put it on record that it is not the entire Afikpo North that criticises His Excellency the governor. Also, the criticism is out of jealousy, ignorance and mischief as the supposed critics are not even aware of what they are doing, but blindly following the directives of their paymasters. They will not know the harm they are causing themselves until the governor leaves office. Even if it was our son that is the governor of Ebonyi state, we would not have achieved what the governor has done for Afikpo people.

If governance is something that you shift a minute for someone to occupy the seat and prove his mettle until you come back, I would have said that the governor can shift before the expiration of his tenure so that people can see what he has been doing for them from the failures of the person that would stand in for him. My Amasiri people would always say that if a woman marries two husbands, she will see the better man. So, people will not understand the goodness of His Excellency until He leaves office. I particularly pity some of us because once the governor leaves office, they will not have the opportunity they are having now. In case you didn’t know, Governor Umahi is down to earth. Irrespective of your position or the message you send to the governor, he will answer you. I can attest to that as I communicated with him severally, even when I was nobody in politics. His Excellency has a listening ear and always there for his people. That is why I cry for Ebonyians, not only for Afikpo people. I am concerned about his successor. Who is going to replace His Excellency? Can his successor follow in his footsteps? What will become of Ebonyi after Governor Umahi?

The above are always my source of concern and prayer points, because I know that Ebonyi may never have it good again after Umahi. I particularly feel pity for the few people who feel that writing against the governor on social media is the best achievement they can ever have, because they are ignorant, uninformed, jobless, misguided and misled. When the governor leaves office, they don’t know if the next governor will even have their time. They are doing all these things they call criticism because the governor has a listening ear and is a good Christian. The cry of his people gives him sleepless nights. So, who is sure of his would-be successor? His successor may not even have time for Facebook or social media to bother with criticism. So, I pity our people. However, if you claim that you are criticising someone, let it be constructive criticism and not just because you are in different political parties. Ironically, the so called critics are those who were praising him before now and only seemingly realised the governor’s faults because he defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in November last year. What we have achieved in his tenure, we never achieved in the past 16 years of Ebonyi government, which is very clear. Nobody from Afikpo North will tell me that since 1999 to 2015 that they had achieved what we have achieved under Umahi’s administration. Therefore, we should be fair to ourselves because the governor has done well and will continue working till the last day of his tenure. In a nutshell, the miscreants and those who don’t like good things have not been fair to Governor Umahi, with regards to criticism. The miscreants and jobless people criticising him are also not fair to themselves. However, the good people of Afikpo North know full well that the governor has done well so far and will continue doing well until he leaves office. We will continue to appreciate him by supporting his government and giving him whatever he requires to get to wherever God wants him to be after his tenure as Ebonyi State Governor.

What is Umahi’s relationship with those in the opposition?

I am not praising the Governor because I am the Chairman of Afikpo North. Before I assumed office as Afikpo North Chairman, I always praised him, because he is a good Christian. Even those that are criticising Umahi, he is still giving them appointments. As they are criticising him, you will still see him blessing them, making you wonder if he knows what he is doing. Some people hardly forgive, but not Governor Umahi. For instance, I worked against the governor in 2015, when he wanted to contest in his first tenure. I was a House of Assembly aspirant in the Labour Party. However, after the election, I saw the good works the governor was doing on assumption of office and I came onboard. He appointed me as his Technical Assistant (TA), despite our earlier party differences. That is the type of man His Excellency is. He is the type of man that believes in governance. He doesn’t believe in politics over governance. We do politics when necessary, but after election, you should know that every Ebonyian is under you as governor. That is the way Umahi has been taking his government and good people like me sincerely appreciate that.

Are you getting enough support from the Governor, as Afikpo North Chairman?

Without His Excellency, I won’t be standing, because Afikpo North’s salary wage is something else. The governor has been so supportive. Like I mentioned earlier, he is down to earth and an understanding father that is always there for us whenever we run to him for help. Amasiri si na imagi ebo madu unu na iharia mini (you can’t help someone with a basin of salt and invoke rain on him at the same time). Since he was instrumental to my emergence as Afikpo North chairman, it stands to reason that he will always be there for me and others. When my people said I should contest as Afikpo North chairman, he supported me and heard their cry by ensuring that an enabling environment was provided for my election. I have mentioned many of my achievements since assumption of office, but the challenges are also there. There are certain things we would have done if we had the money, but our salary overhead is costing much. Nevertheless,  I still thank God for my supportive Afikpo people and the governor himself. They are always there for me; no matter the challenges I encounter.

How has the defection of the Governor improved the lives of Ebonyians?

The defection of the governor has greatly helped in the development of Ebonyi state. We have started getting a lot of benefits and dividends of democracy we were hitherto losing from the federal government before our connection to the centre in this Next Level dispensation. APC controls the centre, so we are tapping the blessings therein. All the works and projects the governor have been carrying out are testimonials to the benefits we are getting for connecting to the centre, because the governor or Ebonyi does not have all the money needed for some projects. So, it is not an issue of defecting to the APC, but being where you can get the best for your people. We defected to the centre and we can never regret it because we are getting what we want for the development of Ebonyi and our people. The benefits are too numerous to mention and I will always thank His Excellency for showing us the way and leading us well.

Innocent lives were lost during recent cult clashes in Afikpo, how did you react to the situation?

As a mother, the moment I got hold of what was going on, I swung into action. I visited Ndibe and Nkpoghoro and spoke to the affected families. I had extensive interaction with the youths and succeeded in convincing them to calm down and allow authorities to intervene. I don’t see why any youth should misbehave and engage in cultism. His Excellency is a youth friendly governor and has empowered a lot of youths. He has appointed them into key positions and is always impressed by their performances, so the cult clashes were quite unfortunate. Fortunately, the youths assured me it won’t happen again. I thank God they listened to me when I visited the affected communities and the situation didn’t escalate.

Also, I don’t think Afikpo is notorious for cult activities or cultism, unlike other communities or states. Afikpo North is an urban and we are literate. So, I cannot say that cultism thrives in the LGA. I can only say that a group of boys, who lack home training or who have forgotten where they are coming from, sometimes misbehave; in an attempt to bring bad name to the LGA. I thank God that we succeeded in calling them to order.

Security is everybody’s business. I thank God that my people have been helping. Insecurity is an international problem, not restricted to Afikpo North, Ebonyi or Nigeria at large. What matters is how we solve the problem, according to LGA, state or country. Governor Umahi has been proactive in the area of security, with regards to the formation of Ebubeagu security network. Some of us heading different LGAs have also tried our best to complement the governor’s efforts, hence the relative peace in Afikpo. However, I advise my people to be security conscious. While God can guard and protect you, also do your best to protect yourself and not expose yourself to unnecessary danger.

What is the government doing, with regards to growing unemployment?

Like insecurity, unemployment is a general disease. However, the state governor recently flagged off the employment of 3,000 youths, which is ongoing. Every Ebonyian should support His Excellency, irrespective of party affiliation. He has done well. When I called him Mr Project, I meant it. What he is doing well is also replicated in all other LGAs that make up Ebonyi. There is no LGA that doesn’t have Governor Umahi’s numerous projects sited there.

Last year, before I was elected, Umahi asked all LGA chairmen to identify where he can site one kilometre road, so he did one kilometre road at Ihie, where the former chairman chose, as the road leading to his house. The road was completed, courtesy of His Excellency. So, I don’t know why Ebonyians should even dream of criticising the Governor, instead of supporting him. Like I said, I see it as mere jealousy and envy as the Governor is a man who carries every Ebonyian along, irrespective of party or political affiliation. As he said, he was called to power for a purpose, not to be playing politics, instead of governance.

During my undergraduate days, we didn’t publicly admit to being from Ebonyi state. You would hide to agree that you’re from Ebonyi state. Some will claim that they were from Enugu, Anambra or anywhere other than Ebonyi state, because they were ashamed of the state being referred to as dust of the nation, instead of salt of the nation. But today, anywhere you are, even before you are asked, you will gladly proclaim that you are from Ebonyi state. Some people don’t even appreciate Governor Umahi’s efforts until they travel out of Ebonyi state. It is when you leave Ebonyi and interact with people that you will see that we are really blessed to have someone like Governor Umahi. Many even wonder how he gets money to execute the numerous projects littered all over Ebonyi, because the state doesn’t even have much money. We are recognised anywhere we go because the governor has made us proud and wiped away our shame through infrastructure. So, I repeat, every Ebonyian should pipe low and follow the moving train by supporting Governor Umahi and the APC government, because we are in the Next Level dispensation, where only good things are gotten for the betterment of all concerned.

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