Ask a random stranger from Enugu West senatorial constituency, you will likely hear of how their village had been without electricity a few years ago and how it is now fully electrified, or how it was impossible to access his village with his car but how the road there now is comparable to a road anywhere. You may also hear of how his widowed mum is being empowered with literacy and empowerment skills, or how his sister in school is on bursary. Ask who is behind it, the likely answer is Senator (Dr) Ike Ekweremadu.
Enugu West Senatorial zone is made up of five local government areas namely, Udi, Ezegu, Oji-River, Awgu and Aninri.
The people of the area are largely farmers who are known for their dedication, honesty and peaceful disposition. Perhaps, it is because of this their peaceful disposition that they were in the past neglected by past governments in the state and at federal government when it comes to distribution of public amenities like good roads, water good schools, etc.
But all that changed with the election of Senator Ekweremadu into the Nigerian Senate in 2003.
Prior to his coming, the people of the area had serious infrastructural challenges. Most parts of the area including his Mpu hometown had no motorable road. This was exacerbated by muddy, hilly and difficult terrain which made it a costly venture to embark on road construction in the area.
This affected the communities’ development drastically as the farmers could not move their goods out while other businesses found it hard to bring in goods. As a result the many people migrated out of the area leaving the area largely desolate.
However, Senator Ekweremadu has since demystified the road construction myth in the area as he has attracted numerous road projects to the five local governments in the zone which have opened up the zone.
A recent visit to the area shows that the area has been transformed by these projects which have been strategically spread to various parts of the zone according to the needs of the communities.
Roads and erosion control projects
In Aninri local government area alone, Mr Ekweremadu, who is presently the Deputy President of the Senate, has attracted over 15 projects to the local government area alone.
In Awgu local government, another fifteen of such projects have also been attracted by the Senator to the people of the area which has assuaged the road transport challenges of the area noted for its hilly and difficult topography.
Oji River have witnessed the citing of over 20 erosion or road projects by the Federal government courtesy of the Deputy Senate President while Udi and Ezeagu local government has over 12 and nine projects respectively.
Some of the major road projects are the Achi-Mmaku-Awgu- Mpu- Okpanku- Akaeze road. Akaeze is in Ivo local government area but because it shares a border with Mpu it was included in the road project.
Speaking on this project, Senator Ekweremadu recalled how the contractor first went and constructed a one kilometre road that pass by the senator’s house, thinking that would please the man.
“When the road was awarded the contractors thought they were going to please me so they went in front of my house and did one kilometer of asphalt road. I asked myself how do I get to that road because I have to do another 30 kilometers to this house, I said to them, I am not interested in this just do me the favour and remove that asphalt road go and start from the beginning, I would wait. I insisted and they went and removed it, people thought I was crazy, and they started the construction until they got everywhere,” he said.
Another of such road is the Nenwe-Oduma-Uburu road. The road construction attracted by Senator Ekweremadu is the first time asphalt will be laid on the road.
Mr Jonathan Umahi in a reaction on the road has this to say, “the road was impassable in the past. It was so bad that you will have to take up to 5 hours to get to Enugu but today it takes just about 45 minutes. It has boosted activities in the area. We now earn meaningful income from our farm products as people come from all parts of the country to buy from us”
According to a resident of the area, Mr Obiora Obasi, prior to this time the people of the area had who were noted for their rice production prowess had a difficult time transporting their goods out.
“Senator Ekweremadu on a campaign visit to the area saw the suffering of the people first hand and wept. He swore that he must make sure the road is constructed even if that is the only project he will do”.
“Today, the road has been completed. We cannot thank the Senator enough for what he has done. Now we can comfortably transport our rice to the market or to butyers anywhere in the country and this has increased our zeal to farm as we are sure to find the market for the products easily”, Mr Obasi stated.
Another of such project is the Ugwueme-Nenwe-Ezere-Mgbidi-Mmaku-Agwunta and Obeagu road. The road is in a difficult topography which made it almost impossible for road construction.
There are also the Ozalla-Agbani-Apugo, Amagunze road and the Nenwe-Nomeh-Mburumbu Nara road with a spur to Oduma.
The road construction being carried out by IDC involved the breaking of a mountain into two in the middle to create the access road. Before the construction communities in the area resorted to taking motorcycle to the villages as there was no motorable road.
Before the coming of Senator Ekweremadu, most communities in the senatorial district had no portable water. They relied on streams for their daily consumption and other water needs.
As a result the people suffered serious sicknesses from water born diseases. Senator Ekweremadu saddened by the situation worked hard to attract many water projects to the area from the Ministry of Water and other agencies of government. He also has a comprehensive understanding and plan for it, as he explained.
“What we have done in Udi and Ezegu is to buy a rig machine to drill water for my people there because they have underground water. But we can’t say the same thing for Anniri and Owu and some of Oji-River but we need to provide for them.
“There is coal deposit underground that part so the implication is that you cannot get underground water no matter how you try so the alternative is to do dam for them. So, we brought about 3 dams going on in that area. One is at Ivonko that will service Anniri, I am sure if you go you can see the overhead tanks coming up and the dam is almost completed. Even though dam is constructed to provide water, irrigation, and power but my interest now is to provide a dam so that they will have access to water.
“Then we have one at Ungbo that will serve the people of Owu, Ungbo and environ so that has been fixed and completed but unfortunately we’ve not been able to recreate it due to budgetary constraint it’s not been put to use and also we intend to clean it up a deploy water there into people’s home. We have another one at Ugbo that will serve the other part of Owu local government and possible part of Oji-River. And so wit that we’ve covered our people with water provision.”
With this vision, later launched the Enugu West Water For All Programme which has supplied water many communities in the area.
Dr Luke Mgbo, from Udi local government and an Aide to Mr Ekweremadu said the procurement of a rig to dig boreholes made it easier and cheaper to provide water to more communities.
He said that this has led to a drastic reduction in the number of cases being recorded in hospitals as a result of water born diseases contacted from the people from disease ridden water.
The Ivo dam project attracted by the Deputy Senate project is another project that when completed will enhance the standard of living of the people of the area.
The Ivo water Dam project will benefit communities in Aninri in Enugu state and Ivo local government in Ebonyi state. It wis expected to enhance agriculture in the area as it has irrigation facilities that will enable farmers farm all year long rather than the once a year farming they normally do.
Senator Ekweremadu has also attracted the building of many school classrooms, ICT Centres and Libraries to different schools in the zone. The Highlight was getting the National Open University to open a centre in Awgu local government area.
There are also numerous Health Centres, five Youth Development Centre, one for each of the five local governments, supply of drugs to community health centres, building of town halls.
In power, the Senator has donated numerous transformers to various communities in the zone to help energise such communities and replaced some damaged ones. Also many communities in the zone have also benefited from the solar power street lightening projects of the Senator.
Ekweremadu also has scholarship and bursary schemes aimed at helping indigent students in universities and tertiary institutions. A lot of them testify that without Senator Ekweremadu’s magnanimity they may not be able to complete their studies.
Aside supporting young students, Senator Ekweremadu had conceived a unique inclusion strategy for women with literacy challenges. He recruited school teachers in villages across the constituency to use their free hours to teach women basic literacy and numeracy, to help them integrate with the past moving society.
The programme has added so much value to the lives of these women and has attracted commendation for Senator Ekweremadu, with the state government indicating interest to replicate that.
In his Mpu community, Ekweremadu has another indelible project, this time a personal one; a magnificent church he donated as a serene place to worship by members of the community.
How he does it
In a system chockfull with stories of diverted or mismanaged constituency projects, Ekweremadu stands out as one who not only seeks for projects but one lawmaker that ensures that the projects are executed to the latter, and in the best form.
First, he goes all out through diplomacy and legislative lobbying to get the the projects into the budget, and then follow it up with ensuring the execution is well funded.
“If I want a water project, I do not need to wait for minister of water to come to my office, I go to his office and I follow up with him. When you take that time to go and see a minister, for instance, he would feel humbled and feel respected, he might even do something out of his way just to please you for the fact you have shown respect. It does not change anything I am still the deputy senate president, the fact that I came to see you as a minister has not changed anything”.
Having achieved that, the deputy senate president follows up to ensure that contractors don’t sabotage or play with the execution.
“So because they know I don’t have any interest except in the completion of the project they take it seriously and they know what will happen if they don’t take it seriously. So I have cause sometimes to report to the police to arrest the contractors and stuff like that and get them back to come and complete the work.
“So the contractors have already known that am not going to ask for any money, am not going to ask for any cut, am not going to demand anything less than the completion of the project so they to work and do it. Because sometimes when you get the so-called cut, you reduce the amount of money available for the project, so most times the project will not be completed. So if you want to help your people, you’ll have to go all the way and make all the sacrifice to help.”
Enugu West has benefited a lot from the sagacity of the legislator and vast experienced which has transformed the zone with roads, bridges, electricity, schools, youth development centres and so many other life enhancing.
Suffice it to say that Senator Ekweremadu to the people of Enugu West has surpassed all expectations; little wonder his people have elected him to the Senate on three occasions, and are still eager to keep him there. His constituents who are members of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, have also given him the ticket to contest next year’s general election and return to the Senate in 2019.