My dear brothers and sisters,
- By the grace of God, I am 57 today. I thank all of you assembled here for finding time to mark this remarkable day with me.
- About six weeks ago, my political associates approached me and muted the idea of organising a national symposium to mark my 57th birthday. They wanted an intellectual discussion around national issues that I am obviously passionate about- issues of security of lives and property, including the creation of state police and other levels of well-structured policing; issues of rule of law, including justice and fairness in the distribution of opportunities and amenities in our plural society; and issues of reduction of poverty as well as the need to return our country to its pride of place as a beacon of hope for not only Africa, but for the entire black race.
- I politely turned down the suggestions. I turned it down, not because I have wavered in my passion for those concerns. Never! I explained to them that I would prefer a moment of sober reflection such as this for all of you to just join me in thanking God for making it possible for me to survive yet another year in spite of the vicissitudes of political persecution. I am also mindful of the tragedies of avoidable deaths all over our country in the hands of kidnappers, bandits, terrorists, and suspected herdsmen. Besides, the loss of two family members in the month of March is still fresh in our minds. I appealed to them to allow me honour the fine souls of these our loved ones by toning down the character of my birthday this year.
- Dear brothers and sisters, my life and political odyssey are products of divine grace working through destiny helpers like you, for I know where I am coming from. I also know how far the Almighty God has brought me. At age 10, He thrust leadership on my tender shoulders as the Chairman of my age grade association at Mpu, my hometown. Many years later, I became the President-General of Mpu town union for many years. Following our successful struggle for the creation of my Local Government Area, Aninri, the elders of Aninri approached me to take the responsibility of providing leadership as the pioneer elected Chairman of the new Local Government. I eventually accepted the offer after deep reflections. I contested and won the election and that became my major entry point into politics.
- By the grace of God, I have served as the Chief of Staff, Government House, Enugu as well as the Secretary to Enugu State Government. Today, I am the Senator representing the great people of Enugu West for the fourth consecutive time. You have also re-elected me for a fifth straight tenure.
- Brethren, it is not lost on me that Enugu West is the land of very industrious people, highly civilised people, highly educated people, and exceedingly accomplished personalities. This is the land of great personalities like the former Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and first Nigerian Judge at the International Court of Justice, in The Hague, the late Justice Charles Dadi Onyeama as well as other former Justices of the Supreme Court, namely the late Justices Anthony Aniagolu, Nnaemeka Agu, and Christopher Chukwuma-Eneh. This is the land of the political colusus and former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Christian Onoh. It is also the home of the former Governor of Enugu State, my friend and brother, Barr. Sullivan Chime. It is the senatorial district of the former Military Administrators- Rear Admiral Allison Madueke (Rtd.), Commodore Anthony Ogugua (Rtd.), and Group Capt. Joe Orji (Rtd.), Senator Hyde Onuaguluchi, Chief Enechi Onyi (SAN) Prof. Onwumechili, HRH (Prof.) Samson Ukpabi, HRH (Dr.) Augustine Otiji, HRH Igwe Onyioha Nwanjoku, the late Chief Esom Alinta, Prof. Bartholomew Okolo, Chief Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu, Mrs. Justina Anayo Offia (SAN), Prof. Doris Ethel Umeh, Prof. Mark Anikpo, Dr. Udenta Udenta, Major General Edward Nze, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, Prof. Gilbert Onuaguluchi, Chief Dubem Onyi, Chief Anayo Onwuegbu, and former Minister and Ambassador, Mrs. Fidelia Akuabata Njeze. The Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Calistus Chukwuma Onaga; the Catholic Bishop of Awgu Diocese, Rt. Rev. John Ifeanyichukwu Okoye; the Auxilliary Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Rev. Fr. Ernest Obodo; the former Anglican Archbishop of Ecclesiastical Province of Enugu and Bishop of Oji River Diocese, the Most Rev. Amos Madu; the late Chief Basil C. Okwu and Chief Sydney Mgbejiofor, among a host of other Irokos all hail from this part of Enugu State. Nevertheless, you have bestowed on me the rare honour of your mandates these many times.
- By your prayers and goodwill of my colleagues at the Senate, I am also serving a third consecutive tenure as the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate. In between, I was unanimously elected by my former colleagues at the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS Parliament, as the first Nigerian Speaker of the regional body. This position will take about 60 years to rotate to Nigeria again, going by the alphabetical succession order of the ECOWAS states to that office. Considering all this, you could agree with me that God has been exceedingly kind to me.
- So, my dear brothers and sisters, we are assembled here today, not to celebrate, but to mark the awesomeness of God in my life and to thank you all for standing by me over yet another year of trauma in my politics and helping me in the psychological management of the aforesaid family tragedies, the attempt on my life and the lives of my family members, the assault on my liberty, and all the evil designs of the evil people in our society against my person and my politics. I have indeed been through fire and brimstone these past four years in particular. I have also been through the valley of the shadow of death. I have been scorched and bruised for my political beliefs and determination to defend the principles of democracy and uphold justice for every segment of this nation. But in all this, God has been on my side. You have also remained my bulwark and source of inspiration. Without the almightiness of God and your fidelity and support, I would not have been here to acknowledge the triumph of the grace of God and your goodwill over the evil intensions of wicked souls in high and low paces of our society.
- Again, I have looked back on the last 16 years, which I have represented Enugu West as their Senator and I can only thank God for our accomplishments. I have tried to count our blessings. I have tried to name them one by one. I must confess, that I am truly surprised at what the Lord has done for us. Our road infrastructure has improved remarkably. The Awka-Ugwuoba-Oji River-Nachi-Udi-9th Mile-Abor-Ukehe-Opi Road has just been awarded. We have worked on this over the past three years. Two weeks ago, the Federal Government graciously awarded the contract for this all-important road. I am grateful to the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government and all those who contributed to the realisation of this project, especially my representative, who is also the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Works, Hon. Toby Okechukwu. With this, Enugu West will link up with Enugu North at Opi on solid asphalt road at the same point Enugu East also links up with Enugu North as a symbol of the divine trinity of Enugu State. We are indeed one people under God.
- We have made progress in electricity and water supply to our various communities. Our Water for All in Enugu West Initiative is achieving its vision. I am informed by the Management Committee of the Water for All Initiative Enugu West led by Engr. Jonathan Ivoke that we have good fund in the account of the Initiative and that we will further provide water to about 20 of our communities in next 60 days with our drilling rig, which we acquired for the purpose in 2017. We have built, rebuilt, and we are still building and rebuilding schools, churches, health centres, and civic centres, among others.
- Our human capital development projects are on the upward trajectory. We have assisted several of our young people with employment in public service. Through the Ikeoha Foundation, we have supported 3,843 undergraduates with bursary awards, 87 undergraduates are currently enjoying full scholarship, while over 12,155 women and youth, who were unable to receive formal education and who otherwise would have been left behind in education and technology have received basic education courtesy of the Ikeoha Foundation Adult Literacy Programme. The Foundation has provided support to the poor and succour to our widows in addition to providing healthcare through our annual healthcare outreach. But most importantly, we have united our people. Today, Enugu West is one people with one destiny. We must ensure that this is irreversible; and by the grace of God, it will be irreversible.
- My dear brothers and sisters, please, join me in thanking His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the people’s Governor of Enugu State, for his friendship and brotherhood. My personal relationship with him has been most mutually rewarding and uplifting to our people. I want to publicly recommit my loyalty to my relationship with him. We have come a long way in our relationship. I consider it a relationship made in heaven for the benefit of our people; and what God has joined together, let no man or woman put asunder.
- To my lovely wife, Mrs. Nwanneka Ekweremadu, PhD, Lady of the Knight of the Good Shepherd, the amazon, Achalaugo Ikeoha, I say may God continually bless you. As far as I am concerned, you are the best and the most beautiful woman in the world. Today technically marks our 25th marriage anniversary. Our traditional marriage was on the 12th of May 1994. We wedded two days later on the 14th of May 1994. I thank you for your unparalleled devotion to me, for your uncommon love and care, and your commitment to the stability of our marriage. You stood by me at all the rough times. You have been a pillar and source of my spiritual strength over the past 25 years. I appreciate those sleepless nights that you devoted to upholding me in prayers without which I would not have been here today to mark this day. You have attended to my family, friends, and staff without complaint. Many wives have done virtuously, but you surpass them all.
- Let me also thank my four lovely children for their understanding and perseverance in the face of my frequent absence at home on account of my public service career over the past 22 years. I am happy that my wife and your mother, stood in for me in providing care and support to you, my children, in those times of my absence. I also know that at every opportunity, I have played my role as a loving and caring father and I will always do. But I thank God for blessing me with wonderful children, whose accomplishments thus far I am indeed very proud of.
- To the clergy, please accept my gratitude for all your spiritual support, which knows no denominational boundary. You have helped us to consistently commit our politics into the hands of God in every electoral cycle and we have never been disappointed. My partnership with all the men of God will remain unbroken.
- Your Royal Highnesses, Town Union presidents, and leaders of our communities, I am indeed humbled by your consistent support and solidarity. May God bless you and your various communities. May He give you more wisdom and grace to pilot the affairs of our people.
- To the political class, my political associates, Members of the National and State Assemblies, my aides, Local Government Chairmen, commissioners, party administrators, and all the other political office holders here present, I reiterate that we have become a family. My accomplishments are definitely your accomplishments, for together, we have made this difference in the narratives of the wellbeing of our people. In the last election, I predicted that we would win in every Ward in Enugu West and by the grace of God, we did. The prediction was predicated on the knowledge that you are always there for me in every Ward and every community. May God also be there for you in every aspect of your lives.
- Meanwhile, it is possible that I have offended so many people in the course of these years. This is an opportunity for me to say that I am indeed very sorry. Please, find a place in your hearts to forgive me. On my part, I do not bear malice, for life is too short for such distraction. So, the issue of forgiveness does not even arise. My relationship with everybody remains perfect.
- My dear brothers and sister, you must admit that no matter how melodious a song may be, it will definitely have an end. Therefore, as I thank you for these 16 memorable and splendid years as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; as I thank my distinguished colleagues for honouring me as the Deputy President of the Senate for three consecutive times; as we recall the accomplishments of the projects of my representation in the last 16 years; as I acknowledge your kindness in keeping me in the Senate for these 16 years; and as I prepare to further represent you by your mandate for the next four years, let me seek your understanding and indulgence to now announce that this will be my last term as your Senator.
- As I earlier mentioned, Enugu West is highly blessed with human resources. And as we diligently search for my successor, you can rest assured that I will support your choice and put in my best possible to ensure that he or she not only succeeds in the journey to the Senate, but also benefits from whatever experience and contacts I have garnered these years for the good of our people and the nation.
- Importantly also, as we get set for the 9th Senate, be assured that I will focus on completion of all ongoing projects we attracted as well as ensure that communities that are yet to benefit from our vision in infrastructure adequately benefit. Indeed I will work with other patriotic Nigerians within and outside the National Assembly and across party, ethnic, and religious lines to address issues of disunity, insecurity, and poverty currently threatening our nation. I believe that together we can pioneer a new order characterised by peace, justice, unity, prosperity, egalitarianism, and boundless opportunities for all.
- My dear brothers and sisters, my prayer is that the Lord, who has always been our bastion in the years gone by, will continue to bestow us with the grace to triumph in the years ahead. Thank you and God bless Enugu West. God bless Enugu State, and God bless Nigeria.
SENATOR IKE EKWEREMADU, PH.D, CFR
Deputy President of the Senate, Federal Republic of Nigeria