Ekwunife: The Courage To Stand By What Is Right

(A review of the scuttled Anambra Central debate)

By Justus Ezeokoye

The Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District, Uche Ekwunife, Iyom, was obviously happy when the maiden debate for Senatorial candidates in Anambra Central was announced. As the sitting Senator for the district, such a debate will be a good platform for her to showcase her impressive scorecard and unveil her plans for the future.

As the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for next week’s senatorial election who has run an issue- based campaign, it was an opportunity to show the glaring contrast between her candidature and those of her rivals.

Last Thursday, at the Dora Akunyili Centre in Awka, however, the rascally behaviour of the All Progressives Grand Alliance senatorial candidate, Hon. Dozie Nwankwo, scuttled what would have been an eventful debate. His decision to barge into the event midway, brought so much discredit to the well-advertised program.

The organisers were partly to blame. After stridently setting the rules and insisting it must be followed, the debate organisers broke their own rules midway into the event by admitting Hon. Dozie Nwankwo who arrived 2 hours late, onto the podium. This prompted Senator Ekwunife of the PDP and Barr Mrs Helen Mbakwe of New Nigerian Peoples Party, NNPP, to leave in protest.

Nwankwo’s act was characteristically unbecoming of an aspiring Senator, but should he have been admitted 2 hours after the program commenced? That was the question Senator Ekwunife asked? The action of the organizers was not only unfair, it was insulting to the others, especially the sitting Senator who was at the venue of the debate before the scheduled time and had to patiently wait for the debate to commence.

Hon. Dozie Nwankwo: his action discredited the debate

Before leaving, however, Senator Ekwunife stated her case clearly: “We were all given the schedule for this debate, and we all confirmed our attendance. I personally had to reschedule most of my campaign activities for today because of the importance and value I place on debates and events of this nature, however, I consider it unacceptable that the candidate of APGA will be allowed to mount the podium, more than two hours after we have started. For me, this is a bad precedent”, the federal lawmaker said.

The Senator also argued that the candidate of the Labour Party, Senator Victor Umeh by virtue of the nullification of his candidacy by the Federal High Court and consequent order of court barring him from campaigning or parading himself as candidate should not have been invited for the event.

She stressed that as a serving lawmaker, she could not be seen participating in a process that did not align with the law. “We are lawmakers and aspiring lawmakers, and must at all times be law abiding. I did not oppose the Labour Party Candidate’s presence at the debate at the initial stage because I waited to make my case while it is clear that he is actively involved in the debate”, the PDP Senatorial Candidate stressed before quietly leaving the premises of the occasion.

The decision of the organizers to invite Umeh was clearly wrong too, considering the decision of the Federal High Court sitting in Awka which 2 weeks ago disqualified Umeh from the contest. And when this grave oversight was pointed out, they also failed to excuse Senator him in order to guarantee a lawful debate.

Umeh who decamped to Labour Party after losing the primary election in APGA, is not a valid candidate in the election having been disqualified by the high court sitting in Awka. The court also restrained him from parading himself as the Labour Party candidate. His appearance at the debate is therefore in contravention of the court order and an insult to the sensibilities of the people of Anambra Central. It could also be regarded as an action in contempt of Court worthy of a Police arrest as Chief Victor Umeh has not obtained any stay of execution of the judgement.

While Ekwunife was courageous enough to point out these salient issues, she found support in the second female contestant for the position. Barr Helen Mbakwe who is the candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), in toeing the same position as Ekwunife, argued that Hon Dozie Nwankwo should not be allowed into the debate after coming in terribly late.

Barr. Mbakwe in her submission said that the rules of debates are clear and that no one should be given preferential treatment. “If we must succeed in our quest towards building a new Nigeria, then we must be firm in executing and implementing our set rules”, Mbakwe added.

While Dozie Nwankwo’s act was irresponsible coming from a lawmaker, it clearly tantamounts to a disrespect to the good people of Anambra Central Senatorial District who he wishes to represent in the Senate. It also robs them of the opportunity to listen to those aspiring to lead their zone.

The question is: for how long will the member representing Anaocha/Njikoka/Dunukofia Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives continue in such character. Since the countdown to the February 25 Senatorial election started, Hon. Nwankwo has been fingered as the brain behind several acts of thuggery and wilful destruction of his opponents billboards and campaignn materials.

Who will call him to order to discontinue such despicable acts that portray the good people of Anambra Central in bad light?

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