Maria Ude Nwachi, popularly known as Afikpo Chic is an entrepreneur and media expert who is gunning for the Afikpo North-East Constituency slot in the Ebonyi State House of Assembly. Nwachi, whose legacies flow from philanthropy to statesmanship spoke with Onu Ibiniukpabi in her country home at Afikpo town, Ebonyi State, Nigeria.
She analyses the Nigerian political arena, enumerating reasons why she thinks the time has come for more women like herself to venture into political leadership, and contribute meaningfully to the development of not just the nation, but also the world at large. She also expresses confidence that rigging via ballot snatching has become a thing of the past:
What gave you the impression that you can serve in the capacity of the lawmaker for Afikpo North East?
My people know my strengths and weaknesses, and they believe with certainty that I am the only one that will go out there, make N10, add my own personal N2 to it and work for them. I will do it, because I have been doing it since I was born. I have been sharing whatever money I have, when I am very rich, when I am not rich, when I am broke, I still share whatever money I have with others. Especially with my people.
So they know that I am eager to serve, that I am eager to change the face of Afikpo. I will do it. In my first week of resumption of office, I will put over 50 people on the streets of my constituency, to sweep it every day and ensure that it is very clean. We will also go ahead and beautify Afikpo. This will be done on a continual basis, its not going to be a one-time thing. What I have in mind, I am going to break a record that doesn’t even exist in America. I will bring in investments which will double the allocations I am working with. I don’t say anything unless I am sure I can do it. I am going to be the most-impacting legislator in the whole world.
Get this clear- I am also going to impact on the lives of people, not just in my constituency, but others in Ebonyi State, and probably beyond.
What is the assurance that your promises are not empty, just like in the case of other politicians?
The situation in Nigeria today is that, before they can believe in you, they would look at your life before. In Igbo land for instance, because of the experiences of the people in the hands of their political leaders, they would never allow themselves be deceived by any politician unless they know the antecedents of these people.
In Abia State today, Dr. Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah of Masters Energy came out to run for governorship, and the people are going gaga. The reason is because of his antecedents. He has done a lot, and he has a super clean record of philanthropy. Real philanthropy, people like him, who have trained people, gives scholarships, helps the poor have records people can make reference to. The same is applicable to me, in my own little way. I don’t want to brag, but there are things I have done that not even men have been able to do.
What are some of these things you have done for your people?
I literally bridged the gap between the poor and the rich in this town. There were times when things like cars were big deals in this town. I rubbished that idea when I bought a car for myself and also buying a bunch of cars which I gave out to people. That immediately brought down the value they placed in cars. On a daily basis, if a I walk down the streets of Afikpo with N3 million, by the time I am home, I am left with nothing. I just go on and share it around. So my whole life is about sharing whatever I have with my people, and making sure that no one is looked down upon. If I see anyone look down on others, I must do something for the victim. These are the things my people know me for. My people know that I have seen so much money, and so, that my reasons for running for this elections is not to enrich myself.
I don’t want to brag, but I still have the biggest house in this part of the town, yet I am still the same person- still walks the streets when I like, still takes okada, greets you the same way, and respect you, and love you the same. No matter how lowly you may be, I don’t care. I am still the same old Maria. There is no height, the only height that is above all is God. I don’t consider earthly heights-it means nothing to me, no matter how big you are. So my people know this of me, that’s why they are loving me and I am loving them. I love my people with all my heart, I can die for Afikpo.
Is that why they address you as ‘our mother’, ‘Eze Nwanyi’, and so on. Are these names there because of the things you do for them?
They nicknamed me ‘Eze Nwanyi’(Woman King). It’s not a title, it’s just a nickname. They just looked at the things I do and named me that. I am the Woman King in this town, it also means that I am the mother of all, men and women, and they are my children. Every Ehugbo person is my child, and as a mother, a mother cannot eat when her children have not eaten, and I will not eat until my children eat. So if I enter the government, I will not put food into my mouth until I put food in their own mouths. It’s my daily life. My people don’t joke with me because they know I don’t joke with them.
I noticed that the crowd overwhelmed the venue of your flag off, and even made it difficult for your convoy to move around Afikpo. It was like the days of Jim Nwobodo’s campaigns in the old Anambra State. Did you anticipate such a crowd coming out?
Never. This is a presidential crowd, what my people gave me will never pass for a crowd coming out for me. Imagine, I am only running for a House of Assembly office. But it happened. The funny thing is, everybody kept saying I must run for governorship. Nobody was promoting me for anything else. And I asked why they didn’t. someone said to me, ‘your kind needs to lead a state. If you are a senator, you will only deal with a certain constituency, if you are a rep, only a certain constituency. But if you are a governor, you will lead the whole state, and Nigeria will experience another type of leadership’. I was overwhelmed. I knew my people love me, but I never ever in my wildest imagination expect this type of love. Afikpo people do not worship anyone, if you like be a governor. I don’t understand it, I don’t. it’s too much, its beyond me. All I If you are called tomorrow to be a governor of Ebonyi State, what will you do?
I am very happy that I am starting with the state assembly. I need to make a very important point with it. I want to work. I want to use whatever they give us, the so-called allocations to work, so that Nigerians will see how much is in the state assembly, and how much someone in the state assembly is capable of generating in order to do what they need to do. I want it like this, assembly which they consider in their scheme to be the lowest. I want to start with it and show the world that if people elected to serve actually use the money they get to serve, Nigeria won’t have any problem. Nigeria will be a beautiful country. I want to start working like yesterday- June is so far away. I want to start yesterday to show people, to prove to people that there is nothing with the Nigerian system of governance. It is the people who are so heartless and greedy that make is look so. Imagine going in there, you are aid N100, you send the whole cash into your bank account and start building houses, buying lands, doing all sorts of things, without thinking of the people you are sent out to represent. This is wickedness and heartlessness of the highest order. It amazes me that so many people are doing this and I wonder, are they not ashamed? I would be so embarrassed, so ashamed of myself. I wouldn’t even want to be seen on the street, or to walk down the streets. I know now why these people don’t like to be seen. Me, I like to walk around in my town. Now I know why most of them don’t like to be seen.
How can you embezzle money belonging to every one? Building houses, buying cars, looking good, looking hot, while everybody else suffer. This has to end, I have to end it. I am going to start a revolution in this country- work revolution. You are elected to work, work. Bring out the money, spend it. Do the work. Am going to start it.
There are certain politicians who might want to stop you. Are you prepared to ensure that no matter what, your revolution continues?
They cannot stop what is about to happen. This is because I am glad you are here in Afikpo with me, to see the genuine love these people have for me. You have to put this question to Ehugbo people, because they are the ones to fight this battle, not Maria. I am just a vessel to carry out this mission. I am going to do my best, whatever it is I have to do. I cannot stop the bigwigs from doing their thing, but the bigwigs can be big, but no one is almighty. They cannot get everything they want. I am going to be a change agent, powerful change agent- selfless. I will work, work, work, until I bend. If they don’t want to follow suit, that’s not my problem, because I cannot encourage bad. We can’t leave politics for scoundrels. Enough of them. If you don’t enter and work, they will be your masters for life, because they are the ones making the rules. If you like sit in your house and insult them, it makes no difference. Rather, enter and show us what you can do. Most of the time, you insult him because you haven’t had an opportunity to go and loot your own.
How are you prepared to protect the votes and defend the peoples’ mandate after the votes are cast?
The rigging that used to be there is no more there. The issue of snatching ballot boxes, if you try it in my town, they will burn you instantly. You can’t even try it, so anybody who is planning to come and carry ballot box, don’t try it. Afikpo people will lynch you. You can give anybody else whatever you want to give them, but nobody must steal my mandate. Afikpo people said, let anybody who will get anything get it. But just give us Maria. It’s not too much to ask, and Maria is going to be handling only seven wards in the whole of Ebonyi State. Anybody that tries to deny them of Maria, sorry for that person. This is beyond me. I don’t want anybody to rig for me, but do not rig me out. Just allow my people to have their choice. If you attempt rigging in this Afikpo, sorry for you.
Why do they call you NEPA? Do you work with the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC)?
What happened is that my town had been in darkness for almost three months, and this darkness affected four local governments in Ebonyi South- including Edda, Okposi, Amasiri, Unwana, and all these areas. They were in darkness for about three months. Normally, I will pay something, and they will restore the power. But during this election period, I was spending a lot of money so things were tight. I couldn’t act. But at a point I just said to myself, ‘Maria, if this NEPA thing continues like this, my people will be in darkness for Christmas, and many people will not come home, and it’s going to be boring’. Also, I use my generator 24/7 because I am an internet junkie. So I just said to myself, ‘you just have to take some of your election money and do this’. So I went to EEDC, and they told me. I wired the money to them same day. A few days later, there was light.
It made my people so happy, so happy, I can’t even quantify how happy they were. People in Owutu-Edda, Amasiri, Unwana, everybody was happy, calling me, thanking me. The light issue has taught me that any president that gives us stable electricity will never be forgotten in the history of Nigeria. Any amount of money he looted will be forgiven. So since then, my people call me ‘Up NEPA, up Maria, oku(light), and all sorts of NEPAish names. I didn’t even think it was a big deal, but it became such a big deal.
This is because they felt that we had all the big duds, all the politicians, and they didn’t do anything. But me, the way I look at it, I just did what I had to do. I cannot be enjoying electricity 24/7 in my house and then, allow my people stay in darkness.
When I am elected, the matter will be treated legislatively. There has to be a way we should have a better working relationship with EEDC. We will work out a situation whereby our people have light whenever they need it.