Home Politics I joined politics by accident – Hon. Ikechukwu Ezeugwu, Leader Enugu State...

I joined politics by accident – Hon. Ikechukwu Ezeugwu, Leader Enugu State House of Assembly

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Rt. Hon. Ikechukwu Ezeugwu

Leader of Enugu State House of Assembly, Ikechukwu Mellitus Ezeugwu is representing Udenu State Constituency. 

The third-term lawmaker believes that education is key to success in any human endeavor.

He speaks on how his education foundation has given hope to indigent students, transformed destinies and raised young leaders.

He also talks about corruption in Nigeria and how to tackle the menace.

As an Accountant, what can you prescribe as the antidote to the level of corruption in Nigeria?

The word corruption may sound small, but it’s as huge as an elephant. The fact remains that when the system is corrupt, everything inherent in it is corrupt. You know that in the ministries, for instance, you have internal auditors that could okay whatever that is going on, and when the internal auditor okays it, authorization is there. The external auditor will come there and what he will say is that the documents given to him represent the true view of the transactions. As it is said, when you fight corruption, corruption will fight back, it takes two to tango. If people are doing what they are supposed to do, this extent of corruption won’t be in place, but a lot of people have fallen short of their expectations.

We have seen you deploy the Ikechukwu Ezeugwu Foundation to touch lives in areas of scholarship awards and others. Could you talk about the organization?

The fact remains that prior to my coming into partisan politics, with all due humility, I can tell you that I have always intervened in peoples’ lives, either in education or business ventures, but upon getting into the political limelight, I realized that the problem was even more than I knew it and what propelled me to start the scholarship foundation was the social contract I had with my people during my primary election in 2011. Then, those that contested with me were doing certain things I didn’t want to do and I called the party officials then at Udenu and told them that I came into the system to raise the bar and that I wouldn’t want to do what others were doing, that they should vote for me believing that I will not forget that they voted for me and that if I should settle them monetarily, I won’t owe them any obligation when they call me because I would have settled them and coming from the business world, I would multiply whatever money I gave them by five, I recoup it before I think about helping anybody. I asked them to vote for me so that when I get into the office, even if I want to derail, I would remember that these guys voted for me believing that I won’t forget them. As God will have it, they voted for me and I won that primary election. That was why in 2013, I started the scholarship program with Prof Malachy Okwueze who was then the Deputy Vice Chancellor of UNN, and Rev Fr. Ushi, who was in charge of Obollo Denary, the two I called to design a template, shared the forms everywhere, in the market places, churches, and communities to select for me two intelligent, but economically disadvantaged undergraduates. Two per ward and my constituency, Udenu, has 10 wards, meaning 20 undergraduates. The forms were returned to them and they did the selection. I wasn’t interested in who emerged, but I told them not to select anybody that is related to me in my ward. That’s how they did it and since then, if, for instance, inward ‘A’ somebody graduates, I will still go and pick another person from the same ward so that at every point in time, I have two persons per ward. So, as of December last year, the foundation had produced 21 graduates, our first Medical Doctor graduated in March 2021 and presently, I still have 23 undergraduates when I had a meeting with the National Association of Nigerian Students in South East, they gave me an award of honor and I told them of my intention to extend it by picking one person per state, starting from November 2022.

Nine years on, what lessons, motivations, and experiences have you had from the foundation?

My life remains that so long as I am doing the right thing, if you boo me, I’m not bothered, if you decide to clap for me, I won’t be excited, I am focused on doing good even if human beings don’t appreciate it because from my life experience and from where I am today, God rewards me in so many ways, I cannot even count and it makes me feel good each time I help people. The low part is, probably because one is in politics, some people even think that it’s a right, some people even think it’s their money and that’s why I’ll always told them that in or out of politics, I’ll keep doing it so long as God keeps providing and I am optimistic that God will keep providing. The high point is that when you see that young girl or boy that wouldn’t have ordinarily gone to the university and the person graduates, becomes a medical doctor, a geologist, an engineer and the person gets his residency in USA and another is about getting his scholarship in Oxford University, when you sit back, the joy is inestimable and no amount of money can make me to be as happy as when I sit back and ask, how did I do it? Once in a while, I call them for mentorship and to know how they are doing and this particular medical doctor involved in a medical outreach, he said that what gives him joy is that when he is treating the elderly persons, they will be praying for him and he will tell them don’t thank me, thank Hon. Ikechukwu Ezeugwu. But I told him no, they should be thanking God because I’m only a pencil in the hands of God. So, when you think about the trickle-down effect, the joy that radiates, because some of these elderly persons prefer that young doctors go into their villages to treat them; to touch them and they are healed 50 per cent. So, I tell them that Ikechukwu Ezeugwu Foundation is not in the habit of giving scholarships, we are in the business of producing medical doctors, engineers, administrators, teachers, etc. The difference between a medical doctor and an engineer is the tuition fee that the other person who is equally intelligent couldn’t pay. The moment that person pays that tuition fee, every other thing can always be worked out. Last year when I handed over the cheques, there was something one of them said in their appreciation that actually touched me. He said Daddy, you know they call me Daddy, he said that I don’t even understand what I was doing for them. He said that some of their colleagues instead of concentrating and reading, they will be thinking about how to pay their fees, but for them, on going back, they already have their school fees, and in some schools, you can’t take your exams until you pay your school fees and so that alone gives them 50 per cent concentration.

What effect do you think mentorship plays in the lives of young people? 

There is this saying that a problem shared is half solved, there are people that mere advice and mere counseling will turn their lives around. There are people that will come and ask how did you start, and how did you get to this level and I’ll always tell them. I was lucky when I was in secondary school; I had a very good principal, the late Raphael Achugbu, he comes to the Assembly ground and he will be giving us idioms, which we used to call parables. He will tell us that hasty climbers make sudden falls, he used to tell us that you cannot make an omelet without breaking an egg; he will tell us, those in quarrel interpose often wipe a bloody nose; he would tell us father has, the mother has, blessed is the child that has. If you expand these four idioms, you would have given a young man or a young girl a one-year lesson. Some people say my father is a professor, my mother is a medical doctor and they will be so carried away and I will ask them, what will your children say you are? I tell them hasty climbers make sudden falls. Wealth doesn’t just happen, you can go and grab it today anyhow, tomorrow not only will it go, but you might also end up in prison and your integrity will be ruined. I usually tell them about engineering mathematics. While studying Accounting; I asked what engineering mathematics was doing in the accounting department because it was a compulsory course. The question I used to ask myself was, will I graduate from this department? If I am to graduate; I must pass this course and so if I must pass the course, why do I have to wait to retake it? So, when you ask yourself such a question and you really want to graduate, you would have no choice, but to read and understand that course. When I was in the university, our HOD used to tell us that getting a job is one thing, but keeping it is another, it was strange to me when students talked about sorting and I asked them what is sorting. And they laughed at me that it was to pay and pass your exams. I said it was unfortunate. I told them that I got a job as an Accountant in a company, I went with the originals of my certificate, but nobody looked at it. The day I resumed, I was shown a big Accountant’s office; at that time they were using ledgers, there were no computers and you will see heaps of books. So, assuming I didn’t know what I was doing, would I have kept the job and I was the only accountant in the company, there was nobody to ask what to do. So, when these children are not told all these, they wouldn’t realize what life actually is. I also told them that if they cannot manage N100,000, you cannot manage N1 million. Again, if you are working in a company and you don’t take your work seriously if you start your own company, that same attitude is what you will bring to bear in that company. What goes around comes around because even those that work for you will do the same thing you did in your own company. The summary is that conscience is an open wound and only truth can heal it. So, I always tell them to do the right thing whether they are being seen or not being seen.

Why do you emphasize education in your foundation and not skill acquisition or sharing of money, rice or tricycles, as others will do?

The fact remains education, education, and education. I am where I’m today because I’m educated; it gives me a very serious edge, that’s why I’m the chairman, of South East Legislative Forum, that’s why I’m able to be working in synergy with my colleagues, the Speaker of Ogun State House of Assembly, we were able to form the Conference of State Legislators of Nigeria, a replica of National Council of State Legislators in America, because, in America, the 50 states, the senators and the House of Representatives members have one association. The essence of the association is to have a platform whereby the legislature will have an engine room, if you have new legislators, they take them into orientation, and guide them to become good legislators. The problem we have in our society is mostly caused by those who are not well-informed and that’s why some don’t want others to be informed so that they can be used as tools. Once somebody is educated, there are certain things you cannot take away from him. The person will have self-esteem, so, the more educated people we have in society, the better.

Why is it that you have a Ph.D., but you don’t emphasize it, are you a shy person?

No, I don’t need to emphasize it, the fact remains that growing up, and that is what I usually tell younger brothers and sisters of today, what used to intoxicate me from primary school was dressing neatly and speaking very good English. You won’t find me lagging in that. Not dressing expensively, but neatly. I don’t know if they still have morning assembly reading in primary school these days. I was also doing reading in primary school, while in secondary school, I was in the debating society, so it gave me that self-confidence and that’s why I am equally interested in ensuring that people go to school because you can be a graduate and be a businessman. Going to school doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go and look for a white-collar job, but once you are educated, whatever you are into, you will do it better than someone that is not educated. So, I don’t need to emphasize it, but probably there will be no gathering that I will be shy to discuss even without prior knowledge and that is what you get when somebody is educated. It’s said that examples are better than precepts. You don’t have to be wearing a Ph.D. like a scapula.

You really don’t behave like a politician; how did you get involved in politics?

Sometimes, I wonder how I got involved, honestly speaking because I’m such a person that I just do my thing quietly and people say I am a very shy person. I’m not shy, but that’s the way I like doing my things and I don’t pretend. The fact is that it was accidental, just as you said dating back to 2008 when my friends were coming to see the then Governor Sullivan Chime and when they had concluded the arrangement, they called me to join them, after that they started calling us from Lagos to attend meetings. When people from my ward heard I was going for a meeting in Enugu without coming down, they called me to go and declare at the local government. They asked me to go for local government chairmanship and I said no. In the process of attending the meetings, I met my primary schoolmate who came and knelt down to ask me to contest for the House of Assembly. He said that I was helping people as a private person and that I will use the position to help more people. He said that if I fail to go and contest, I would be doing it out of selfishness, that it’s because I was comfortable and don’t want to help others. The guy was as though he was reading my mind because I didn’t want to lose my privacy. I was upset with the guy., but as God will have it, I ventured into and when I look back to do the cost analysis, I say to God be the glory.  

As you round off your tenure in the House of Assembly next year, what’s the next move?

The way forward is that I’ll be free (laughs). I didn’t pick for any elective position, I didn’t want to re-contest for the House of Assembly nor seek a higher office, I’m somebody who when I’ve done what I’m happy doing, I will go into another thing, and with all due humility, I’ve enjoyed being a legislator and I’m still enjoying it till June 2023, after which I’ll say bye for now until further notice.

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