By Monica Chidinma Eze
I plead with my friends, fans, admirers and associates world-wide to join me to celebrate a man whose life defines humility and loyalty. As if describing the special attributes of this unassuming, indefatigable and humble son of Ebonyi State, renowned Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzu (533 BC), credited with founding Taoism, noted: “I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others, and you can become a leader among men.”
When I was appointed Technical Assistant on Media in 2016 by the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State, Apostle Dave Nweze Umahi, and was introduced to Dr Kelechi Igwe, the deputy governor, I wondered how someone so educated and occupying the second-highest office in a state could be so humble. It was then that I took special interest in him and found out the traits that separate him from his peers. I began to appreciate the words of John Ruskin, when he stated: “I believe the first test of a truly great man is in his humility.”
Dr Igwe, an astute and consummate politician, was sworn in as Deputy-Governor of Ebonyi State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on May 29, 2015. This politician who enjoys the trust and confidence of his boss, Governor Umahi, was born on June 17, 1970, to the family of Chief Francis Igwe of Onu-Nwakpu, Ndufu-Alike in Ikwo Local Government Area. He attended Umunneato Central School, Oun-Nwakpu, Ndufu-Alike, where he secured his First School Leaving Certificate before he went to Abakaliki High School (former Presbyterian Secondary School, Presco) in 1988. He obtained both the General Certificate of Education (GCE) and Senior Secondary School Certificate same year. An alumnus of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State (1989-1993); from there he attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos (1994-1995). He went to University of Jos where he obtained an M Sc in Human Resources Management, and in 2015 he obtained Ph D in Law.
Igwe was a member of Governing Council, University of Jos, between 2010 and 2011. He also served as a Special Assistant, Operations and Mobilisation to the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Presidential Campaign in 2007; special assistant to the Minister of State for Industry between 1999 and 2002; Principal Partner, Kellys Chambers, from 2002 until his election as deputy-governor of Ebonyi State. He was also served as personal assistant to the National Commissioner, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Abuja from 1998 to 1999. A member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Institute of Credit and Risk Management of Nigeria, Igwe also served as executive director, Dr Sam Egwu Presidential Campaign. He is married to elegant Nnenna Igwe, and they are blessed with three children.
JOURNEY TO GOVERNMENT HOUSE
John Stott, one of the known philosophers of our time, could be attributed to have defined the force behind the rise of Igwe to his present status. He said: “The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love; not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.”
But in case Scott didn’t satisfy you, see how renowned businessman and philanthropist, Bill Gates, captured it: “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Thousands of Ebonyians who have benefitted one way or the other from this child of God could attest to the fact that Igwe lives and loves the art of giving, which is the hallmark of his boss, Governor Umahi. The partnership of the two great sons of Ebonyi is the testimony of the great feats and remarkable changes currently taking place in the state. The account as told by Governor Umahi and Senator Egwu of how they formed prayer quartet against erstwhile governor, Chief Martins Elechi, through which Igwe rose to the office of the deputy governor of Ebonyi State is like a fairytale. But, the testimony below should truly amaze you.
Umahi and former governor, Egwu, narrated how they outwitted Elechi and his allies to emerge victorious in the April 2015 elections during a thanksgiving service by Egwu, who is the current senator representing Ebonyi North Senatorial zone, in Umuebe, Ohaukwu Local Government Area. They stated that they formed a prayer quartet and handed over their struggle to God, and the results are the current offices that they are occupying today.
Egwu, who was the first to disclose this, described Umahi as the arrow-head of the struggle. He recalled: “I remember a particular day, myself, Pius Anyim, David Umahi, and Kelechi Igwe sat down in the dining room of the former SGF (Anyim) and we prayed about our mission. We asked God to support us in the mission we had embarked upon. We knew it will be difficult – very, very difficult – but we committed it into the hands of God. Four of us prayed that we were going by the grace of God to contest the elections. We prayed that Engr David Umahi becomes the governor of Ebonyi State; myself to be senator, and Kelechi Igwe to be the Deputy Governor.
“Of course, Senator Anyim said he was not going for any position, but he would solidly be behind us. We thanked God for answering our prayers. But, I must hail Governor Umahi and Senator Anyim who were the force behind our victories and the face of the struggle in Abuja. With what God did in our lives, I must call on political office-seekers to always seek God’s endorsement.”
Governor Umahi, in his own account, also narrated the struggle with former governor Elechi, even after he (Elechi) was advised by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to allow Egwu and himself to contest the elections. He disclosed that after their prayers at SGF’s home, they became stronger and more determined to contest the elections.
“We can’t thank you enough our dear Anyim; we can’t thank you enough. You got all the important personalities to help us; you also brought the funds needed alongside with your friends. At a time, we were more interested in former governor Egwu going to Senate than myself going for the governorship position. I must praise Eunice Egwu for lending her support to the struggle as she was our main political consultant,” Umahi noted. Finally, ex-SGF Anyim said: I am elated because our prayer for Umahi to become the governor of Ebonyi State, Kelechi Igwe as the Deputy Governor of the state, and for Egwu to become a senator was answered by God.”
UMAHI, IGWE AND 2019 PROJECT
Contrary to the experiences of most deputy-governors, both in the past and present in Nigeria, on how they are treated shabbily and reduced to nothingness; but, in Ebonyi State, the story is totally different. In this regard, Umahi, the wonder-working governor of Ebonyi, in support and approval of the inputs of his supportive deputy have declared to the entire world, that he is happy with his deputy, Kelechi Igwe; and would pick him as his running mate during the 2019 gubernatorial elections.
Explaining further, the people’s governor – during a civic reception to honour Igwe organised by the people of Ikwo-Noyo, Igwe’s home clan at Onuebonyi Echara in Ikwo Local Government Area – described Igwe thus: “Igwe has been very special; he has been extremely loyal and honest. He has assisted me greatly within these three years in office. I am lucky to have Igwe as deputy,” adding: “His position is not negotiable, and by God’s special power, both of us will continue together beyond 2019.”
The governor who can be described as the modern Emancipator of Ebonyi – considering his relentless efforts to develop every area of the state during the event – stated: “In Dr Igwe’s honour, I shall extend the 18-kilometre road that traverses the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo (AE-FUNAI), to the rice mill in the area. Work has already commenced on this project since March, 2018.”
He directed the LGA chairman to “rehabilitate” those that defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC), “so that they will appear differently after defecting to the People’s Democratic Party.” The governor, during the reception, also appealed to Ikwo people to re-elect both members of the Ebonyi House of Assembly from the area in 2019, saying that both had garnered useful experience that would help the lawmaking process. “I will be here, again, to beg you to return Chike Ogiji (PDP, Ikwo South) and Humphrey Nwuruku (PDP, Ikwo North), because I want the House of Assembly to be intact beyond 2019,” he said.
Chief Austin Umahi, the PDP South-East Zonal Vice Chairman, in his remark, urged the governor to listen to the clarion call of the people and seek re-election in 2019. “I am a member of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) and will not allow it assign you greater roles in 2019, because Ebonyi people need you more.”
On his part, Senator Obinna Ogba (PDP, Ebonyi Central) promised that National Assembly members from the state would support the governor’s re-election bid in 2019, saying that they were all proud of his achievements. Chief Onyekachi Nwebonyi, the State PDP chairman, said that the governor’s good work had endeared him to the people, making his re-election bid easy.
The governor was given the traditional title of Okwuoha I (peoples’ benefactor) of Ikwo, in addition to a bus, a horse, several tubers of yam, among gifts during the reception.
EBONYI STATE POLITICS IN THE EYES OF IGWE
One could capture the mind of this great son of Ebonyi State on what he thinks about the future of the state when he opened up on why Ebonyians embarked upon massive rallies in almost all the local government areas of the state. According to him, “The rally evolves from the people of the state to show solidarity to the state governor, Chief Dave Umahi for the good works he is doing in the state and also support the construction of that ring road. The ring road is very important for an Ebonyi man; whether you are from the Central, North or South, because that ring road is a key to unlocking the economic potentials of the state. People have been clamouring and calling on the governor that we learnt that some people went to court to challenge the effort of the government to reconstruct that road and people of Ebonyi are saying: ‘Governor, please make yourself available, we want to show you solidarity, we want to show you support.’
“Unfortunately, the governor was not around. He has travelled for a meeting with Mr President. The people are saying that they want to converge at the local government areas to demonstrate their support for the construction of the ring road and we cannot stop them. What we can do as government officials are that if we have the time, we will go to various local governments and see what the people are saying, to see whether they are speaking from their mouth or they are speaking from somewhere else.”
“Government and governance was ‘come and chop’. They felt they needed to fight back and return to power so that Ebonyi State can be looted once more; so that this government can have nothing to show. Knowing that if the ring road is completed, added to the newest project that the state government has constructed, it will be a very tall order for anybody to rise up and say he wants to contest for the office of the governor of Ebonyi State. In knowing that, they think that one of the strategies to confront them will be to raise a campaign against the approval of that fund.”
Igwe, an astute and charismatic politician and a seasoned administrator with an amiable personality, is a phenomenal reformist whose cult-followership stature among the youth and God-fearing people puts him as a leader to be admired, watched and associated with. Indeed, he has become legendary for showing limitless benevolence to the downtrodden, associates, colleagues and practical display of immense love and compassion to everyone that has crossed his path in life. I thank God for allowing me to cross the golden path of this great son of Ebonyi State. I will like to conclude this by quoting Rick Warren: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. Humility is thinking more of others.” And John Maxwell posits that “Authority is not the power a boss has over subordinates, but rather the boss’s ability to influence subordinates to recognise and accept that power.”
Happy birthday, your Excellency,
Happy birthday, most humble and loyal deputy-governor in Nigeria!
Happy birthday to one of the most educated deputy-governors in Nigeria.
God bless you for us and grant you better and greater years ahead.