January 27, 2023

Vanguard Awards: Eunice Onuekwusi, Anambra woman who rejected money for vote

By Vincent Ujumadu

MRS. Eunice Onuekwusi, a 60-year-old widow and petty trader from Amagu village, Ukwulu in the Dunukofia local government area of Anambra State, made history during the November 6, 2021, governorship election in the state by rejecting N5,000 cash from an agent of a political party to influence her choice of voting.

The incident happened at Ukwulu Ward 1. The agent of the said political party, who was accompanied by security operatives, was busy dishing out money to the voters in the queue. When he got to Mrs. Onuekwusi and offered the money, the woman bluntly refused.

Despite promptings from agents of the said political party, she insisted that although she did not have N5,000, she would never accept any gratification that would make her vote against her conscience.

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“I am poor; I don’t have any money in my pocket, but I won’t take N5,000 because it is against my conscience,” the woman said at her polling unit, to the surprise of the onlookers, most of whom were collecting the money from party agents.

Her action stunned most Nigerians, who described it as unusual because many voters usually look forward to collecting cash from party agents during elections. Immediately after the outgoing governor of the state, Chief Willie Obiano, heard what the woman had done, he rewarded her with N1 million in cash in appreciation for her action.

The traditional ruler of Ukwulu, Igwe Peter Uyanwa, was so proud of his subject that he hosted her in his palace for special recognition.

On Friday, November 12, 2021, when the royal father hosted her, Mrs. Onuekwusi was the cynosure of all eyes, and the people described her as an upright lady. At that event, Onuekwusi was also presented with the Macaulay Heritage Foundation Award of Excellence, which was accompanied by a cash sum of N50,000.

The women of Ukwulu Ward 1 also trooped out en masse to the Igwe’s Palace to witness the epoch-making event and rejoice with one of their own. They danced and hugged her, and it was obvious that the woman felt highly elated.

In the words of the state governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, “I summarise the action of the woman of Ukwulu, who rejected N5,000 to influence her voting, as a metaphor. That is the spirit of Anambra, and her action exemplifies the state’s resilience.”Indeed, she exhibited the true spirit of a typical Anambra person.”

To further appreciate what the woman of Ukwulu did, Governor Soludo awarded a multi million naira contract for the construction of the 26-kilometre Awba-Ofemili-Amansea road, which had been in a deplorable condition for years.

The contract, Soludo said, was a reward for the woman for rejecting that N5,000 financial inducement to sell her vote. The road was among those awarded by the governor as part of the ceremony to mark his six months in office. “If good deeds continue to gain accolades as this one has, then we can proudly say we are on our way to reviving Nigeria,” Soludo had said.

Onuekwusi herself was surprised at the goodwill she had received since November 2021. She said: “Actually, I was not expecting any favour from anybody when I rejected that money.

“I was only moved by the kind of suffering we have been passing through since APC came to power at the federal level, and my fear was that if the party whose agent offered me the money won the Anambra election, our state might start experiencing the same problem.

“Besides, Anambra has been making steady progress since APGA took over the governance of the state, and I was not ready for a change that could take the state to an unknown place.”