ON SUNDAY, Speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly (ANHA), Uche Okafor will turn 45.
Rt. Hon. Uche Okafor who represents Ayamelum Constituency sees in the event, an opportunity to fete his people and give back to the poor. Hence he plans a thanksgiving in his local church at Ifite Ogwari in Ayamelum local government area (LGA). He will also provide gifts and economic empowerment items to people of his constituency.
In the words of two-term legislator, it is not just a birthday thanksgiving or an empowerment program in the usual form of it but an interactive date with his nativity.
Indeed, Sir Okafor (aka Omekannaya) intends to make the date, indelible in the minds of Ayamelum people. In his empowerment package are items meant to give recipients springboards in their businesses and incentives to set up enterprises.
Son of a very popular Second Republic legislator with a resounding reputation, Okafor carries on the family name and legacies. Like his late father who died when he was a minor, Mr. Speaker is a natural grassroots politician. He is at home and in his best elements when mingling among local people, the youth and a lively populace.
He therefore plans his celebration to be a feast with his people. From reliable sources, it is gathered that apart from buses, tricycles, sewing machines, rare machinery, tools and vital equipment that mobilise youth to embrace technology and modern skillsets are in his empowerment kit for members of Ayamelum Constituency.
Born April 1977, Okafor is one of the youngest House of Assembly Speakers in the country. He heads the Seventh Assembly of ANHA. Since mounting the saddle in Anambra legislature, less than three years ago, he has been navigating the delicate balance of Anambra politics with a very visible sagacity for democracy.
Okafor who studied political science for his undergraduate and masters degree at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka is endowed with natural worth and wisdom as well as rare energy for work.
Loved by youth, he has a way of talking like a sage when probed with tricky matters.
Okafor was first elected into the sixth Anambra State House of Assembly in 2015 to represent Ayamelum State Constituency. His rise to speakership position was dramatic. He was not the touted when the Speaker’s seat became vacant after the ouster of his predecessor, Rt. Hon. Rita Maduagwu but his colleagues preferred him.
Reminiscing on that he said it was an honour his fellow legislators reposed on him which he would forever be grateful for and one which makes him always aspire to carry everyone along. “I really see that as a great responsibility. I seek the support of my colleagues and pray for wisdom to do what is right. It is quite challenging. To whom much is given, much is expected. So, I do my best to make sure that I carry everybody along and that is what is expected of me as the leader of the legislature,” he once told National Light.
Okafor’s warmth and socio-cultural awareness whilepaddling through the delicate waves of legislative politics and still meeting the expectations of his colleagues is one factor that endears him to both the political class and Anambra populace. Within government he comes across as both youth and masses poster image.
He is also a bridge of sort in the three arms of government given his always comely and calm mien. He also knows the vital “live and let live” aspect of politiking.
He captures that thusly: “The other two arms of government – legislature and judiciary – seem to kowtow to the executive for survival. In that case, being the leader of an arm of government which ought to be autonomous, a co-equal arm, but which in reality is not, unfortunately, you are faced with the issue of trying to pacify the executive and at the same time, pacifying your colleagues…
“Sometimes, you find yourself in a very big dilemma of trying to ensure that you don’t fall out with the executive and you don’t fall out with your colleagues in the legislature. And the third leg is the people, Ndi Anambra themselves, who are also looking up to you as the head of the second arm of government to protect them.
“So, it is quite a very big challenge, a delicate balance, if you like. My colleagues will like me to dance to their tune because they will always have their own standpoint (the executive will want to have its way)… and as the Speaker, they expect you to use every skill at your disposal to convince your colleagues
“It is a very big challenge,” he confesses. “The first challenge is having to contend with the demands of the executive and those of my colleagues. Sometimes, a bill comes which the executive is interested in but which the lawmakers are reluctant in passing. In such a situation, it is quite difficult trying to pacify your colleagues and in the process fall out with the executive and vice versa. Finding yourself in that dilemma is a very big challenging situation.
“It is a difficult challenge but I have been trying my best to make sure that I walk the delicate balance by bringing the two arms of government together.”
Despite being young, Mr. Speaker has a rare gift in bringing balance in the governance of Anambra State since his emergence while still being disarmingly, humble and natural. What the people of Ayamelum and Anambra are celebrating is not just his four and half decade of eventful life and his beneficial philanthropy but also his political sagacity and wisdom which has brought the state and his constituency a lot of good tidings.