The 9th National Assembly, particularly in the House of Representatives, will have to decide between a female and male speaker.
The powerful female contestant for the position is Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, representing Isuikwuato/Umunneochi constituency at the Lower Legislative Chamber.
She is daring a position dominated by males since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999.
She isn’t just contesting, but doing so against one of the most influential lawmakers Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, the political godson of the powerful National Leader of All Progressive Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
So, let’s dive right into how Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha started gaining political power.
Below are some of the achievements of Nkeiruka Onyejeocha as written by Nna and first published on The Nation.
How Nkeiruka Onyejeocha started
Notwithstanding the death of her mother at a very tender age, which exposed her early to the vicissitudes of life, she has continued to soldier on with dogged determination.
By divine providence, she attended a model secondary school and took a degree from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka before her foray into business, which appears to be in the family bloodline.
When in 2002, she was assigned the portfolio of Resources Management & Manpower Development as a Commissioner in Abia State Governor’s Office, her pioneering stuff stood out.
She championed the establishment of skill acquisition centres in the State to fill the skills-gap preponderant in rural communities. The objective was to tame the scourge of poverty and arrest the ugly trend of lack of economic self-actualization.
The direct impact of the novel intervention, especially on the womenfolk, is remembered today with healthy nostalgia.
Her appointment, a few months later, as the Chairman of Umunneochi LGA signposted her inexhaustible repertoire of patriotism that would never dry.
Despite the challenges of underfunding of the LGAs, she embarked on erosion control projects, rehabilitation of feeder roads, promotion of peace & security within the LGA bordered by four states in the South East and took the welfare of the traditional rulers as a priority.
As a measure of reciprocity and for the first time in history, the Traditional Rulers Council unanimously installed a chieftaincy title of Adaejiagamba- (ambassadorial daughter) on her.
A section of the privileged class in her area could not come to terms with her mercurial rise and the aspiration to the House of Representatives in 2007.
They felt threatened and vowed to stop her. Being a young lady in a male-dominated environment raised uncritical eyebrows, and destructive arsenals were mobilized to stop her at all costs.
But, God and destiny were on her side. The people were on her side too. So, the challenge was to square up to the task of elite manipulation at the political party level and the electoral process.
Nkeiruka Onyejeocha’s political journey
To the chagrin of the hard-nosed opposition, she outsmarted the booby trap of power game, navigated safely through the shark-infested waters of Nigerian politics and emerged victorious at the polls.
The legal fireworks that trailed her elections were enough to weaken a feeble mind, vis-à-vis the boastings of connections and stupendous wealth of her traducers. But, the arms of flesh could not subvert the people’s mandate.
Between 2007 and 2011, she chaired the newly created Committee on Women in Parliament and galvanized the female parliamentarians as a bloc to deal with issues of gender, children and the underprivileged.
At the other Committees where she served, like INEC and Police Affairs, her inputs were outstanding. Her patriotic fervour, however, became manifest nationally, when she emerged the Chairman of the Committee on Aviation in 2011.
The effective oversight functions of the Committee were indicative of the upgrading of our domestic and international airports to meet international standards, just as the issues of safety in a sector that hitherto witnessed scandalous air crashes came to the front burner.
In fact, the Committee’s uncompromising resolve to clean up the Augean stables and the rot in the aviation sector became a benchmark for other committees in the House of Representatives.
Her courageous call for the prosecution of those who compromised rules, which predicted the 2013 Dana Air disaster was exemplary, especially, in a clime where a significant number of public officers are losing their voices on account of fear of witch-hunt and or deal-making.
Onyejeocha stood out to be counted during the probe of a former Minister of Aviation that bordered on financial infractions and extra-budgetary expenditure.
Nkeiruka Onyejeocha audacity
She shrugged off ethnic solidarity and mouth-watering largesse of the powers-that-be, and insisted on doing the right thing. Adaejiagamba, as fondly called, does not shy away from defending any cause she believes in.
At the height of the face-off between the former Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and the presidency, and irrespective of her closeness to the first family, she did not sacrifice the independence of the legislature at the altar of friendship. She struck a balance and discreetly intervened between them.
At the end, she earned the confidence of both parties. In the business of legislation, Nkeiruka has acquitted her self well. To her credit, five private-member bills are at various stages of legislative work.
Her bill for an act for compulsory treatment of gunshot victims by hospitals, is awaiting presidential assent.
The prevailing situation had been that a police report must be issued before administering medical treatment, and unfortunately many had lost their lives in the process.
Another bill that seeks to codify punishments for perpetrators of torture, cruel and inhumane treatment on fellow citizens has passed third reading. On social welfare, she sponsored a bill for the establishment of senior citizens centres to cater for the needs of the aged and retired public servants.
The bill, which has passed second reading, is intended to provide social safety net and ameliorate the sufferings of pensioners that has become a national embarrassment.
The fourth bill, which has also passed second reading will help in the administration of justice in Nigeria. It seeks to establish a programme to facilitate the protection of witnesses during investigations, inquiries and prosecutions of suspects especially, in matters of public interest.
Perhaps, based on her experience and the increased emasculation of the local government system by successive governors, pressured her to sponsor a bill for alteration of Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution.
The bill intends to restore local government autonomy and expunge the operation of State/Local Government Joint Accounts in order to free up development at the grass-root.
Her contributions at the floor of the House have remained incisive, lucid persuasive and populist.
She always stood on the part of majority of Nigerians- the good, the bad and the ugly.
The vibrant legislator sponsored and co-sponsored motions that brought federal attention to ecological challenges in Isuikwuato/Umunneochi constituency; the menace of herdsmen; the Abia- Ebonyi boundary dispute that almost degenerated to armed conflict; and very recently, to check the excesses of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria that has the tendency of plunging the country into religious crisis, among many others.
Through her contacts and legislative dexterity, she has attracted projects – especially basic amenities to virtually all the 22 political wards in her constituency; and facilitated the employment over 200 qualified graduates in different federal agencies and institutions.
Some constituents have been empowered and given hope through her non-governmental organization, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha Foundation.
She donated vehicles, motorcycles, sewing machines, hair dressing machines, barbing gadgets, grinding machines and seed capital for small scale businesses to the poor, the jobless and the downtrodden.
Some of the beneficiaries of her scholarship grants have graduated in flying colours.
The annual free medical scheme in collaboration with the Living Hope Ministries, United States of America (with a team of over 15 medical doctors of various specialties) had provided primary and tertiary health care services – including surgery to her numerous constituents at Isuikwuato and Umunneochi LGAs.
The lawmaker singlehandedly built many houses for the wretched that lived under thatched-roofed huts, and donated wrappers to countless widows in many autonomous communities within the constituency.
The monthly rotational meetings of her Foundation has transformed into a mass movement, and a rallying point for the electorates that scarcely meet those they voted for.
Her regular touch with home to interact with her constituents earned her the sobriquet ‘village honourable’.
Adaejiagamba is friendly, values loyalty and stands with friends and supporters in moments of joy or trails. Not a typical use and dump politician.
She is frank to a fault, but very compassionate. Her motherly touch to legislative business and harvests of results are really pace-setting. Her country home, Ngodo Isuochi, is a Mecca of sorts for those in need of succour.
Indeed, the recent award of excellence by the Authority Newspaper, along with other performing public officers in Nigeria, is indicative of her towering personality. More powers to her elbow!
Will Nkeiruka Onyejeocha emerge the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 9th National Assembly?