There is hardly any Nigerian who is satisfied with the way Nigeria’s Senate has discharged its responsibility as the upper legislative arm of the Nigerian government. Many believe that the overpaid senators have invariably abdicated one of their primary responsibilities – acting as a check on the excesses of the executive arm.
Many of the senators are career politicians, especially former governors, accused of a plethora of financial transgressions, and who now find refuge in the red chamber. Nigerians are anxious to see Nigerian senators live up to their names and carry out their responsibilities in a similar manner as their counterparts in more stable democracies. It was this desire to see a revolution in the Nigerian senate that prompted Dr. Ifesinachi Ugwuonye-Okechukwu, a diaspora Nigerian with a lengthy technocratic resume, to throw her hat into the senate race. Dr. Ugwuonye-Okechukwu sat down with NPM to discuss a variety of matters with emphasis on her bid to represent Enugu West Constituency in the Nigerian Senate. Enjoy the interview.
NPM: Dr. Mrs. Ugwuonye-Okechukwu, thank you for speaking with Nigerian Parents Magazine this evening. Let’s start by getting to know you a little. Tell us where you come from, your upbringing, formative years, career, parenting and anything else that allows our audience to get to know you.
UGWUONYE-OKECHUKWU: Thank you for your time and interest in me. I am glad to be here. I was born the second and only daughter of my father, Prince Michael Ugwuonye, a native of Umumba Ndiuno in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State. I grew up in Benin City with my cousins. My earlier childhood was filled with great memories. I lost my father quite early when I was just 2 years old. So, all I knew of my father was based on stories of others. From all indications, he was a great human being. I have come to know that much.I did most of my earlier schooling in Nigeria before leaving the shores of our great country for greener pastures.
NPM: You are a professional and you have distinguished yourself in life. Tell us why you are making a bid to represent Enugu West in the Nigerian Senate.
UGWUONYE-OKECHUKWU: Well…. Life continues to shift, so also our interests. I have worked in corporate America for several years, with all the attendant benefits and/or challenges.
I know how things work in more advanced democracies, especially the United States of America. I know how the senate works and how senators take their responsibilities seriously. I felt that there is so much I could share with the Nigerian state, from the experiences I have acquired.
NPM: You have not been a career politician. You are a banker and lawyer, an excellent one at that. Why do you feel you are qualified to represent the good people of Enugu State in the Senate?
UGWUONYE-OKECHUKWU: You are correct that I am not a career politician. But I have been involved in the political affairs of Nigeria all these years. I have seen how so much could be done to make life easier for the people of Enugu West, and Nigeria at large. I know that I have the experience needed to actualize these many positive changes.
NPM: What should the people of Enugu expect from you once you are in the Senate?
UGWUONYE-OKECHUKWU: When I get to the Senate, the people of Enugu west should expect quality representation. They should expect that their needs would be tabled in the red chambers. They should expect me to sponsor bills that are geared towards making life liveable again for them. They should expect honesty and transparency. It will not be business as usual. That much I can promise them.
NPM: What is your view of the role the Enugu people in the Diaspora can play in the political situation in Enugu State?
UGWUONYE-OKECHUKWU: Enugu people in the diaspora have a major role to play in the political situation of Nigeria. They have so much to contribute through deploying their experiences to help with job creation and other infrastructures that make for a healthy society.
NPM: What do you see as the biggest obstacle standing in your way in this bid to bring a new brand of representation for the people of Enugu State?
UGWUONYE-OKECHUKWU: The biggest obstacle I see is the usual resistance to change. As we can expect, I would sponsor bills that are geared towards access to basic human rights and dignifying situations. Such bills are generally expected to be resisted by those in the National Assembly who wish to keep the status quo. Change is difficult, but required to move any society forward. In the Nigerian case, change is desperately needed.
NPM: How can our audience help actualize this dream of yours?
UGWUONYE-OKECHUKWU: The audience can help by offering suggestions on probably better ways to achieve this dream, and probably draw from their own experiences. As we know, no one knows it all. We must also remember that politics is a game of numbers. The audience can help by spreading the Sinachi message.
NPM: If the Nigerian Parents Magazine or another body would provide a platform for all the contestants in this election to engage in a debate, would you be willing to participate?
UGWUONYE-OKECHUKWU: Certainly. I would very much hope that this platform could succeed in getting all the candidates to agree to a debate. That’s the best way to evaluate candidates for elective positions. I would be glad to participate.
NPM: What else would you like to share with the general public, either about your personal life or your campaign?
UGWUONYE-OKECHUKWU: Well, I would say that the Nigerian community in the United States has played a very important role in my overall growth and success, both in education and career. I urge others to try as much as possible to be part of this ever growing community. There’s so much to be learned. I also encourage everyone to get involved in the political process. When we fail to participate, we allow room for mediocrity to fester. Let’s get involved and make a change.
NPM: Thank you very much for speaking with us, Dr. Ugwuonye-Okechukwu. Good luck with your campaign.
UGWUONYE-OKECHUKWU: Thank you very much for having me.