By Michael Jegede
Chief Victor Umeh, a fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, is one of the highly respected politicians from Anambra State, who have contributed, in no small measure, to the sustenance and consolidation of democratic governance in Nigeria.
In January 2018, Umeh, a senior certified valuer of the International Real Estate Institute, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA and former National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, was elected the Senator representing Anambra Central senatorial district.
His emergence, as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, came after he won a protracted legal battle that paved way for the conduct of the court-ordered rerun poll, following the nullification of Senator Uche Ekwunife’s victory in the 2015 Anambra Central senatorial election.
Although, the estate surveyor cum politician did not secure a return to the Senate in the 2019 general election, as he was defeated by his political arch-rival, Ekwunife of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The APGA chieftain, in the estimation of many, left an indelible mark in the Senate, with his superbly impressive performance during the seventeen months he represented the people of Anambra Central.
He is believed to have made notable impact with his numerous valuable contributions to discussions and debates on the floor of the Senate, and the facilitation of several programmes and projects to his constituency. His admirers remain convinced that he was not defeated in the last election due to poor performance. His stupendous achievements, according to his supporters, were glaring for everyone to see. It is their view that Anambra Central never had it so good under any senator like what was experienced during Umeh’s 17-month representation, since the enthronement of the current democratic dispensation in 1999.
In the 2018 budget alone, Umeh, the Red Cap chief, pushed for the inclusion of 40 people-oriented projects to better the lives of members of his constituency. Some of the projects have been completed, while others are at different stages of completion. Notwithstanding his failed re-election bid, the former APGA helmsman has continued to keep a very close watch on all the projects he facilitated in his 17-month sojourn at the Upper Chamber to his senatorial district, to ensure proper execution for the benefit of his people. His eventual loss at the appeal court, in his effort to get Ekwunife’s 2019 election triumph upturned, did not also weigh him down, as he has continued to positively impact humanity.
While speaking in a recent interview on his 17-month outing at the Red Chamber, Umeh said, “Let me tell you that it was when I got to the Senate that my people now saw what is called constituency projects for the first time and started experiencing it at the senatorial district. If you are following it online, you will see that I had 40 projects scattered in my senatorial district in 2018 alone. And they are all executed. I didn’t touch one naira of it. All the agencies of government that the projects were domiciled, awarded them and they are supervising them. Most of them are getting completed now. I was involved in only two budget sessions – 2018 and 2019. In the 2019 budget year, 28 projects I put in the budget have been advertised for tender by the government agencies. Some of the 40 projects I pushed in the 2018 budgets have reached 90% completion, where the agencies involved released money. The projects include healthcare centres, primary school blocks, water projects, skill acquisition centers and all that. My people always celebrate it in the social media. If you are occupying leadership position with honest intention, it will be easy for people to see.”
Continuing, he added: “I am happy that the ICPC is probing constituency projects now. I have nothing to fear regarding the projects I facilitated, because my hands are clean. It is only those that have skeletons in their cupboards that will be afraid of the probe. Like I have said, most of my projects for which money was released are at different stages of completion. I can tell you confidently that by the time they (ICPC) finish (their probe of constituency projects), you will hear my name again as one of the best senators on constituency projects execution and implementation. My projects are physical projects. I didn’t do supplies. There are people who will go and put supply this, supply that. No! I didn’t do supplies. What I put there is either healthcare centre, school blocks to help children that are going to schools, or water projects. Things you see on ground!”
As a serving Senator in 2018, Umeh offered university scholarship to 74 indigent students picked from the seven local government areas in Anambra Central. Asked if he would continue to sponsor them now that he is no longer their representative in the Senate, he replied, “Of course! I am still sponsoring them despite being out of the Senate. My scholarship award to 74 brilliant, but less privileged children from Anambra Central senatorial district in the universities, is in addition to over 350 others pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in various universities through my Victor Umeh Education Foundation, VUMEF. The Foundation is 12 years old and has produced hundreds of graduates and postgraduates, including doctorate degree holders in various disciplines. I have officially co-opted the 74 students into my education foundation scheme to take full responsibility of their studies until their graduation, because, giving the youths a brighter future remains my priority, whether I am occupying a political office or not.”
A Roman Catholic Priest, Rev. Fr. Ekene Justin Nwogueze, was quoted as saying, “Sincerely, I have never heard of any senator, past and present that has attracted such projects and determined to complete them than as has done by Senator Victor Umeh even within a short time.
“Put politics aside, he deserves an eulogy. Still best senator so far we should be proud of. Should others emulate him, it would be difficult to complain about the huge amount appropriated to senators for constituency projects. Many senators divert the money for constituency projects unto themselves and many family projects. Now we know it clearly that Senator Victor Umeh is tested and can be trusted for good representation.”
As Vice Chairman Senate Committee on Labour, Employment and Productivity, the quintessential politician, secured employments for many of his constituents and embarked on various empowerment programmes. On the floor of the Senate, he moved motions and sponsored bills that focused on tackling issues affecting his people and the entire Nigerians. His major interventions for the seventeen months he served in the upper legislative chamber bordered on the need to entrench peace and unity in Nigeria to give room for meaningful growth and development of the country.
The APGA stalwart received manifold awards for his outstanding performance within the short time he was in the National Assembly. In 2018, for instance, he was rated the best senator in overall motion; an award he earned as a result of the very important motion he moved on “Illegal confinement of underage offenders and infants in same prison with adult prisoners”. Recently, traders at the Alaba International Market, Lagos, as part of activities marking the 40th anniversary of the market, presented the Gold Award to him, in recognition of his “impeccable leadership qualities and contributions to the growth of the economy and nation while serving as a senator.”
Umeh, a broad-minded and outspoken politician, did not disappoint those who, in expressing their assurance that he would perform, upon his inauguration as Anambra Central senator, seventeen months to the end of the 8th Senate, had made reference to how his impact was significantly felt at the 2014 National Conference, in spite of his late arrival. The erstwhile parliamentarian took his seat as APGA’s representative at the four-month national confab just about two weeks to the end of the conference, after the court resolved the party’s leadership crisis at that time in his favour. Nonetheless, he speedily acclimatized and made brilliant inputs to the discourse on the germane issues that formed part of the confab recommendations.
*Jegede, a media professional, writes from Abuja