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Why I want to represent Abia South in the Senate –Okwuchi

By Henry Uche

Nwagba Blessing Okwuchi is a politician. She was in the Abia State House of Assembly from 2011 to 2019, representing Abia North Constituency. Now, she is running for office in the Senate to represent Abia South under the All Progressives Congress (APC).

In this interview, recently, she told Daily Sun what she would do differently as a lawmaker, if elected. 

You were chairman of the House Committee on Women Affairs, Abia State House of Assembly. How did you advance the cause of women in your state and how would you do better for Nigerian women, if you get to Senate in 2023?

In the words of African icon and former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, “There is no development strategy more beneficial to society as a whole – women and men alike – than the one which involves women as central players”

It is worthy of note that Hon. Blessing Nwagba was the last woman to be elected into the state House of Assembly. And her coming back was after a series of legal fireworks through which she ousted the man that was declared winner in the 2015 election. If not for doggedness, we would have had an all-male dominated house in the 24 constituencies that make up Abia State House of Assembly as we have today.

As the chairman, House Committee on Women Affairs/Social Welfare, Hon. Blessing Nwagba advocated the increase participation of women in politics and governance. She worked in partnership with the office of the wife of the Governor and the Ministry of Women Affairs in the areas of sensitisation of women, both young and old, on the need for them to get involved in politics at all levels. She has been an advocate for the implementation of 35% affirmative action in Nigerian politics. She believes that women have natural intuition that enables them to multitask, and wonders why qualified women are denied from holding some offices because of their gender. In the banking sector and some multinationals, you see some women occupying the position of MD/CEO but when it comes to holding political offices, the issue of gender comes into play.

As the committee chairman on Women Affairs, I did a lot of awareness campaign programmes on the need for women to get involved and the need for them to support fellow women in politics. Recall that the House was dominated by men, oftentimes, issues that would increase more women participation in politics did not see the light of day in the House. 

I also raised the awareness of victims of rape to come out and report to the relevant agencies of government to ensure that the rapists do not go free. You know that in our society there’s this stigma people attach to rape victims, while the rapist seems to be exonerated. We started this campaign after some students of Abia State University were gang-raped. I organized a public hearing and ensured legislative intervention on the matter. 

Your profile has it that you were at the forefront of championing ‘integrity and professionalism’ in the legislature of Abia State. With the ‘take a bow and leave’ method of screening nominees by NASS, how would you enthrone integrity and professionalism in the Red Chamber, if you get there?

I was at the forefront of championing integrity and professionalism and would continue to do so. This is because I believe in putting a square peg in a square hole. Professionalism engenders excellence in delivery, where this is backed up by integrity. It is, therefore, important to appoint the qualified and experienced into positions of authority and that’s what the legislature tries to achieve during screenings. 

The issue of ‘take a bow and leave’ is not peculiar to the 9th Assembly but rather a general legislative practice. It is even practiced at state assemblies, where I served for two tenures. It is a courtesy and privilege the legislative houses give to most of their fellow colleagues who appear before them for screening. This is because the nominees, having served as legislators, have their profiles and experience known and can be vouched for by their colleagues. They could be asked to take a bow and leave. The same courtesy is also extended to respected leaders of note who have distinguished themselves in the service of the nation. ‘Take a bow’ does not in any way undermine credibility of the Assemblies nor the nominees. 

The legislative houses cannot for such a reason be described as rubber stamps to the executive for that or for any other reason.

What’s the level of achievement of Widowhood Rights in Abia State, a bill you sponsored?

The Widowhood Rights Bill would have helped in solving myriads of challenges that widows are facing in the state. Like I stated earlier, the House was dominated by men and as a result some bills and motions that they perceived to be to the advantage of women were not passed into law.

The Widowhood Rights Bill was not passed into law. However, let me applaud the speaker of the 7th Abia State House of Assembly and the members for passing into the law the Abia State Female Persons Right of Inheritance of Property Bill. I think there’s a level of awareness and enlightenment on the part of the male lawmakers. Allowing that bill to be passed into law shows that the majority of them no longer see the female gender as rivals as it was in the past. 

You have received training in management, administration and leadership. What difference would your wealth of knowledge make in the NASS, being your first time? 

I won’t say that the men have failed, rather they have contributed their own quota to the development of our senatorial district. Having made their own contribution, it will be honourable for them to step aside for me to contribute to the development of our senatorial district. One thing about leadership position is that everyone approaches it in his/her pattern. Having lived in Aba since I got married, I think that I understand the needs of our people and will, through people-oriented legislation, improve on what is on ground now. 

Having been in the House of Assembly, I understand the act of lawmaking. Therefore, I am not going to learn on the job. Yes I am going to the NASS for the first time but I have been involved in national politics. Recall that I was a board member of University College, Ibadan. In the last APC National Convention, I was a member of one of the committees. At the National Assembly, the same people I will meet there are the same people I have been meeting at different fora of the party.

I would want to assure the good people of Abia South that having me as their senator will bring something different to the senatorial district.  I will speak for the development of Abia South, especially the dilapidated state of the federal roads in the zone so they will receive utmost attention because I will lobby the relevant ministries and agencies of government to ensure funds are released for the reconstruction of these roads. I understand that the majority of our people are farmers and will ensure that they receive fertilizers at subsidized rates and get access to improved seedlings and cassava stems. The business community in Aba, who have been having a face-off with Custom officers, I will interface with the leadership of Customs to ensure that goods that are not contraband that the duties were duly paid for won’t be seized at the importers’ warehouses. With me as a the senator, such impunity will be a thing of the past. 

Your foundation specifically pursues governance, healthcare and women affairs. What have you achieved so far and what do you intend to achieve with this tripod mix?

I wouldn’t say that the foundation is limited to the three areas you enlisted above. I have done some empowerment programmes when I was in the State House of Assembly during which some of the beneficiaries received sewing machines, barbing clippers, generators, hair dryers, etc. 

In the area of healthcare, Total Blessing Foundation, carried out health outreaches free eye checks and free reading glasses, surgeries, test on diabetes and high blood pressure were carried out and drugs administered and other sickness like malaria, typhoid etc. Total Blessing Foundation also intervened in the area of education as some of my constituents got scholarship and registration of WAEC and JAMB exams to some of my constituents.

On the other hand, it is majorly into fashion and agriculture. In the area of fashion, the foundation established a finishing studio where people carry out their tailoring finishing free of charge. The finishing studio is equipped with sewing machines, button hole machines, Weaving Machines, Button tacker.  The foundation has organized free fashion tutorials which over 100 persons have benefited from. The best performing students from Female and male classes in each set received Sewing Machines and other gifts items distributed to each of the participants. 

In the area of farming, we have also distributed free fertilizers to farmers in some LGAs like Aba North, Obingwa, Isiala Ngwa North, Isiala Ngwa South. Distributed free chicken feeds to poultry farmers in Aba and it’s environs and over 1000 chicks distributed to the farmers as well. Beyond that the foundation organized training for the farmers on the modern way of farming and after which improved crop seedlings were distributed. 

The foundation also built snail pen in two orphanage homes in Ukwa West LGA and Obingwa LGA. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nwagba Foundation distributed palliatives to residents of Aba, which over 500 persons benefited from. Food items shared include Rice, Beans, Noddles etc.

The Foundation has also leveraged it’s contacts at the Federal level to ensure that People from here benefit from Federal Government Social Investment Programmes like N-Power, Covid-19 survival Funds, NASSCO Covid-19 Funds, Trader Mini and Market Moni. 

Is there any other message you have for Nigerians especially to women who see impossibility where women like you tread?

My message to Nigerian women is that we must not relent in our effort to be part of the governance of our country and bring about good governance in spite of the discouragement by our patriarchal system. This is because the consequences of bad governance in a society, which include poverty, insecurity, unemployment widowhood and more, have been proven to impact women more negatively. Our children and husbands are dying while women and children are left to suffer. 

 Again, women are naturally endowed to govern and many who have been given opportunity have proven their mettle. They have shown credibility, competence and character. Oby Ezekwesiri and Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala among other are typical examples. 

-Sun

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Posted by on Dec 27 2022. Filed under Abia, Headlines, Legislature, Senate, State News, Women Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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