“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)
One infallible truth about the Word of God is its infallibility. Whatever God says is final; that is why He is called Ekwueme (talk and do).
This maxim is now playing out in Imo North Senatorial District of Imo State, where the senator representing the zone in the National Assembly, Distinguished Senator Frank Chulwuma Ibezim, is about taking a bow out of the hallowed Red Chamber.
Of course, the zone had had other lawmakers before him. However, Ibezim’s revolutionary representation has stood him out as a shining light for others.
The distinguished lawmaker was sworn in on April 27, 2021, after a hard-fought battle that climaxed at the Supreme Court, to complete the remaining two years of the tenure of Senator Ben Uwajumogu, who died suddenly on December 18, 2019. In fact, never in the history of electoral contests in Nigeria did anyone scale through the multiple labyrinths of electoral hurdles as Ibezim. Yet he was unfazed, and thanks to God, he did not buckle under the weight.
Until he came to the rescue, Imo North had not been represented in the Senate for over two years, following the demise of Uwajumogu and the protracted legal tussle over his replacement; hence the zone was left tottering at ground zero. Nevertheless, Ibezim surprised even his detractors with his zestful approach to the Herculean task set before him, which was unprecedented in the history of the zone.
Imo North, also known as Okigwe Senatorial District, is one of the three zones in Imo State. The two other zones have been more privileged. While Owerri hosts the state capital, with its huge appurtenances, Orlu cornered almost half of the state’s 27 local governments due to some confounding political masterstroke of its elders. Whereas Imo North has six, the least number of local governments, Imo East (Owerri) has nine while Imo West (Orlu) has 12. The implications of this unfair imbalance in the distribution of the local governments are better imagined.
Pressed for time, Ibezim plunged into the work headlong and it is self-evident that he is leaving huge, indelible marks, which have brought Imo North from the boondocks to a place of reckoning. Beyond lawmaking, Ibezim also attracted several democracy dividends and infrastructural developments, leaving a longing and fear if his successors would be able to match the pace he has set before them.
He participated in most plenary activities, moving or supporting motions; sponsoring vital bills, such as sponsoring the bills for the establishment of an Information and Communications Technology, ICT, Institute; Federal Orthopedic Hospital as well as concurring with the establishment of Federal Medical Centre, FMC, in the zone, and securing legal teeth for the PRODA in Enugu.
Ibezim served as the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Industry as well as a member of the Senate Committee on Basic and Primary Education and was outstanding in establishing his presence during the Senate oversight functions.
Imo North shall not forget his role in securing several major Federal Government interventions, such as the N30,000 Survival Funds from the Bank of Industry from which not less than 400 persons of Imo North benefitted; N60,000 Special Public Works Programme, with not less than 300 beneficiaries; N500,000 COVID-19 Relief Loan, with over 200 beneficiaries; N60,000 Job Security Stipends and N100,000 National Directorate of Employment Loan, targeting not less than 600 persons. Over 1,000 Imo North constituents benefitted from these palliative programmes, which alleviated the pains and boosted the economy of many households, families, and communities in the zone.
There have also been digital training sessions for youths. Thirty of them from across the zone participated in the Senator’s cinematography academy programme. The programme was targeted at training individuals to become experts in videography, documentary photography, and video and picture editing, and a total of 300 youths from the zone (50 from each LGA) were empowered and given work tools and take-off capital after their training. He also organised training and empowerment sessions during which various agricultural and trade tools were freely handed out to excited participants.
His foray into reviving the reading culture of students through his pet Classroom Libraries Project, using at least 18 primary schools in Imo North as pilots is highly commendable. He sponsored debates among secondary schools in the zone and winners were handsomely rewarded accordingly. He also motivated teachers through cash awards to elicit their commitment and passion for this project. He showed his love for sports and promoted Okigwe youths and their football team to participate in a competition in Enugu, including the Senator Frank Ibezim Football Academy, which supported talented football enthusiasts of the constituency.
Ibezim touched virtually every aspect of the people’s life, including the organisation of constituency-wide health outreaches during which all manner of sicknesses were diagnosed and treated. He was not found wanting during natural disasters, such as the flooding in some parts of Imo North, especially Amauzari in Isiala Mbano Local Government Area. He also saw to it that the yearly flooding challenge around Isinweke-Lowa in Ihitte Uboma LGA was permanently addressed.
Ibezim shone brilliant light into the thick darkness that had bedevilled Imo North. He doggedly pursued the realisation of a power transmission substation, which had been approved for construction for the zone but abandoned for almost 20 years till he secured the approval of the Federal Ministry of Power to restore the Okigwe 132/33KVA transmission substation to a district station, with additional three other power-related projects.
His advocacy also propelled the NDDC to draw a direct line from Ohiya, Umuahia Station to Ihitte Uboma to the National Open University, NOUN, campus at Ezeoke Nsu in Ehime Mbano. Likewise, the commitment of the TCN to expeditiously install a full-capacity mobile Power Transmission Station at the Okigwe Power Transmission SubStation site, along the Okigwe-Umuahia area of the Enugu- Port Harcourt Express Road, to serve Okigwe, Onuimo, Isiala Mbano, among others.
Distinguished Senator Ibezim has his imprint on the installation of over 400 solar street lights across major markets, strategic areas, villages, and churches in the zone in the six local governments that comprise the zone. His power projects are already having a positive turnaround in the area, as comatose economic and commercial activities are now on the upswing. Apart from installing the first solar power plant and accompanying it with the mounting of poles for use by the Okigwe South component of Imo North at Ihitte Uboma LGA, Ibezim also donated transformers and drilled boreholes for some communities.
The lawmaker’s synergy with the Agricultural Development Programme empowered hundreds of rice and cassava farmers to cultivate hundreds of hectares of rice and cassava, and other cash crops in line with his ambition to make Imo North the food basket of the state.
Ibezim has not been deterred by the fact that his brief is about to end. He is determined to keep faith with his promise to the people by continuing to work, even till the last minute. Expectedly, only naysayers would pretend not to see the groundswell impact that he has made in barely two years; that does not change anything though.
However, to ensure his continued service to the people, even outside the National Assembly, he has floated the Senator Frank Ibezim Agricultural Foundation, which has signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, with the Bioresources Institute of Nigeria, BION, for the training of youths in all the local governments of the Imo North Senatorial District on aquaculture at the Federal Government-owned Umuna Fish Farm and Technology Transfer Centre.
Ibezim’s exemplary representation of Imo North for just two years has set a standard for future representatives of the zone. The constituents are proud of his performance and celebrate his tenacity and success story but wish he stayed longer. They eulogise him for his prodigious and unmatched service to the people.
Indeed, Ibezim isa trailblazer and has set a pace for other lawmakers in the zone. The constituents are now wondering if they would get a worthy replacement. One only hopes that Ibezim’s successors would emulate his uncommon devotion to their ‘covenant’ with the constituents, and serve them selflessly, without withholding even their personal resources and convenience.