By Vincent Ujumadu
WHEN more than ten years ago Mrs. Joy Emodi made a near successful run for the Anambra governorship one of the major challenges she faced was the opposition from the traditional institution.
Traditional rulers from the State muttered they could not have a woman as Governor to break kola nuts. Mrs Emodi had responded she would designate a male commissioner with the special responsibility of breaking kola nuts on her behalf.
More than ten years on, the traditional institution in Anambra has come full circle with its endorsement of Emodi’s bid to return to the Senate. Vincent Ujumadu reports on the royal endorsement of the woman fondly remembered as the Joy of the Senate.
TRADITIONAL rulers, especially those in Anambra State, hardly dabble into political matters in view of their position as fathers to all. When it concerns politics, traditional rulers are usually careful and would readily tell those who approach them for endorsements that the best they could do is only to wish them well in their endeavours.
However, last Wednesday at the palace of the traditional ruler of Igbariam in Oyi local government area of the state, Igwe Nzekwe Kelly, the monarchs from Anambra North senatorial zone took a political decision that would go a long way towards determining who would represent the zone from 2011.
After a meeting that lasted several hours, the royal fathers from all the seven local government areas that make up the zone endorsed Senator Joy Emodi for a return to the senate where she was representing the zone until the nullification of her election by the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu.
Indeed, the stepping aside of Senator Emodi was seen as a big blow to the zone because of what she was able to do for the zone during the period she occupied the seat. In fact, it is a fact that she was one of the very few lawmakers from the state in the National Assembly who knew what they went to Abuja to do and that was why her removal from senate was felt by the entire people of Anambra State.
Going through Senator Emodi’s score card during her stay in the senate would reveal so much of what a hardworking lawmaker means to the people she represents.
For instance, through her constituency projects, she constructed and equipped the Primary Health Centre at Umolum in Ayamelum local government area which was the first of its kind in the area and sited a nomadic school for the migrant farmers at Ifite Ogwari also in the local government.
Other projects sited in the zone through her constituency projects include the borehole at Lafiaji in the Fegge area of Onitsha, the modern library and ICT center at Queen of the Rosary College and Federal Government Girls College both in Onitsha, as well as supply of transformers in some communities in Onitsha, Ogbaru, Anambra East and Oyi local government areas.
Also through the Joy Emodi Foundation, a number of landmark projects are being executed. They include the annual micro credit grants to widows, women and children which has led to the economic empowerment of the beneficiaries, free eye treatment for which more than 5000 people have benefitted, annual charity programmes for the people of all cadres in the zone and scholarship scheme for the indigent people in Anambra State.
While the royal fathers were still meeting to take a decision on the issue of who should represent the zone from 2011, Emodi, arrived the venue with all the seven local government chairmen of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), her new political party and other supporters of the party and commended the royal fathers for their support and promised not to disappoint them if she goes back to the senate.
Going down memory lane, the senator said: “Anambra North senatorial zone made history in 2003 when you elected me the first female Igbo senator. If I had remained till May, 2011, I would have spent six years out of the eight years I would have had in two tenures. In other words, I have one and a half tenures instead of two tenures.
This is because I lost two years of the first tenure in the courts battling to regain the mandate you gave me which was taken away.
“That notwithstanding, I am convinced that I have made you proud with the good representation and modest achievements as a senator representing the people of Anambra North. There is no doubt that I will do even more if I have another complete tenure. I am counting on your support as we strive to make yet another history by reelecting me to the senate in 2011.
I know you will not let me down. In appealing for your support for reelection into the senate, I am propelled by the desire to serve and better the lot of our people. I believe that the interest of Anambra North senatorial district will be served better by a ranking (senior) senator who has a wider reach and is better placed to attract the much needed government presence to the district than a fresher who might be lost in the learning phases of senatorial legislative duties.”
As if that was the tonic needed by the traditional rulers to lend more support to Senator Emodi, Igwe Nzekwe Kelly, who is the chairman of the Anambra North Traditional Rulers Council said the zone has been feeling the absence of Emodi in the senate and would therefore do everything possible to ensure that she is reelected to go back to complete the good work she was doing for the zone.
Igwe Kelly, who spoke on behalf of the traditional rulers said: “When she (Emodi) was in the senate, we used to see her speak on the floor of the senate frequently. We, the people of this zone know what she has attracted to Anambra North and the number of people that have benefitted from her empowerment programme and our people are very impressed.
“We know that the senate is a place for intelligent people like Senator Emodi and our people will like to see her back in that hallowed chambers. We the traditional rulers have decided that she will go back and we are asking our people to be prepared to vote for her. We have taken this decision believing that she will even do more for us when she goes back.
Though we are not politicians, we know that we can influence her political party, APGA, through our governor, Mr. Peter Obi, the national chairman of the party, Chief Victor Umeh and even Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to ensure that she secures your party’s ticket which is the first step towards her return to the senate next year.”
With the Igbariam declaration, members of APGA in the zone went home in high spirits knowing the kind of influence the traditional rulers have in their various domains. But Emodi insisted that her outreach which has taken her to most of the wards in the senatorial zone would be pursued with vigour. One significant thing is that some of the things she attracted to the zone while she was in the senate are still arriving and she has been going round to inspect them.
For instance, last week, she visited the famous Central School, Odoakpu Onitsha where she attracted a six classroom block, VIP toilets and furniture for the classroom block which is about 70% completed and expressed satisfaction that even outside the senate, the things she attracted for Anambra North were not lost, thanks to her colleagues who still protected her interests in the senate.
Chief Ralph Igwa, former president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists who is one of Senator Emodi’s supporters said the people of Anambra North know what they want and they have found it in Senator Emodi, adding that senate is such a serious place where every state sends her best to represent her. According to him, there should be no sentiment in deciding who goes to the senate, adding that it would amount to a great risk sending a neophyte who would spend another four learning the ropes.
Another constituent, Mrs. Elizabeth Nuomah who was among those that benefitted from Senator Emodi’s eye treatment scheme said she has been mobilizing women in her Anambra East local government to support the return of Senator Emodi to the senate irrespective of their political leaning.
She said that for the first time in the history of the area, a senator was coming to the people to identify with them without minding the political party they belonged to, adding that Mrs. Emodi has broken the barriers of partisan politics in the zone.