“I have not come to receive a chieftaincy title, no; I have come to celebrate with the people of Oduma because God has eventually heard their cries” –– Sen. Ike Ekweremadu
Oduma is an agrarian community in Aninri Local Government Area of Enugu state. Oduma is easily the most populous clan and perhaps second to Igbo Eze clan in Enugu state. During the administration of Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, Oduma was split into eight autonomous communities, each having a traditional ruler.
Oduma quickly comes to my mind because of its enormous farm produce. The Oduma swampy soil is noted for rice, yam, okro, palm oil, etc and other economic fruits. For their enormous farm yields, Oduma and its environs are referred to as Aninri (land of food).
Oduma was one of the most neglected areas in Enugu state in terms of social amenities. The road passing through the swampy area was so deplorable that only lorries with auxiliary gears contemplated it on the specified market days. So marshy and slippery was the Oduma road that a high-ranking government official once described it as “an impossible terrain”. The issue of rural electrification was, of course, inconceivable in Oduma.
The deleterious consequences of the Oduma neglect are better imagined than experienced. Due to the poor and inaccessible road, the sales of farm produce were not commensurate to the labour cost, and most times the perishable farm produce did not have exit to the wider market. In the school and church systems, a transfer to Oduma was often a condign punishment to the recalcitrant. School and church teachers detested Oduma. For these and other reasons, all the schools were not only in lack of quality teachers, but were in pitiable condition. The healthcare delivery was also in an abysmal state such that guinea worm, ringworm, hookworm, etc, thrived unabated in Oduma. In summary, Oduma was so humiliated and retrogressed by this neglect that identifying with it attracted both martyred look and condescension.
However, all those were before the coming of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as the Senator representing the Enugu West Senatorial District. As the Chairman, Oduma Development Union, Chief Ezekiel Chukwu as well as the President-General of Oduma Women association confessed, Ekweremadu’s infrastural transformation of Oduma has firmly put Oduma in the league of contemporary Igbo societies. The turn-around of Oduma from the labyrinth of abandonment to symmetry of modernity is such that Ikeoha, as Ekweremadu is fondly called, is on the lips of the old and the young. The school children have unconsciously composed various songs with Ike Ekweremadu as their saviour, the God sent, emancipator, the redeemer, change agent etc. He has also won hearts of the communities in Enugu Senatorial District through his focused rural transformation programmes.
It was in appreciation of such quality representation that the Oduma communities set aside April 19, 2014 for a Grand Reception to honour him as well as the Chairman of the house Committee on Works who is also from Enugu State, Hon Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi; Minister of Works, Arc. Mike Onolememem; and the Group Managing Director of SETRACO Nigeria Limited, Engr Fayez Khalaf.
In fact, anyone who saw the little children, pregnant women, old and the young line up from the entrance into Oduma to the venue of the grand reception and conferment of chieftaincy title on him would understand that Ikeoha had touched their lives the way no person had ever done. Not even the emergency embargo placed on the conferment of chieftaincy titles by way of a written order to all recognised traditional rulers by those who believe that Enugu State and the fullness thereof belong to them could stop the people of Oduma. Even the various forms of threats to the community and their traditional rulers changed nothing.
Perhaps, the State Government forgot that there is this spirit that emboldens and stirs the passion, soul, and tigritude of the average Odumaman, which once it is sufficiently provoked, becomes irrepressible. Thus, in a most dramatic display of bravery, the more the threats, the more the indigenes of Oduma surged out in their numbers to receive and hail their beloved illustrious son of Aninri.
Thus, in spite of all the obstacles, Ekweremadu entered the arena in a grand style with distinguished senators, members of House of Representatives, Ministers, etc amidst pomp and pageantries. The boom of 21 gun salute and the chant of Ikeoha Ike! Ikeoha Ike!! Ikeoha Ike !!! rented the air. Various cultural troupes, masquerades, all the local government areas in Enugu West Senatorial District and dignitaries of various categories were present to witness the conferment of Dike-Eji-ejemba of Oduma (the Great Ambassador of Valour) on Senator Ekweremadu. An appreciative Ekweremadu certainly captured the whole essence of the day when he declared that he did not come to Oduma to pick chieftaincy title because he had received so many of them. He emphasised that he came instead to rejoice with the people for God had heard their age-long wailing and used him and President Goodluck Jonathan as tools to wipe away their tears.
That there was no drop of rain on the day and that no one was stampeded to death in the mammoth crowd also show that even the heavens were happy with Senator Ekweremadu. It was a triumph of spirit over flesh, love over hate, will over wickedness, and good over evil.
The scenario takes one back to the Greek mythology where Zeus, the King of the Olympian gods, had in anger and retribution, withdrawn fire and indeed other means of life from humanity. The kind hearted Promotheus, one of the Titans noted for intelligence and compassion, defied all odds and restored fire to humanity, an act that heralded progress and civilization. Zeus fiercely rose against Promotheus. But the latter had won the hearts of mankind till the present day. Promotheus was to caution mankind against the Pandora box.
––– Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia is the Special Adviser (Public Affairs) to the Deputy President of the Senate on Public Affairs