Death, according to Julius Caesar “is a necessary end, it will come when it will come.” The death of Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu on December 18, 2019 will always be remembered by the people of Okigwe zone of Imo State. It was the day they lost what can be described as a precious jewel, their voice in the Upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly. When the news broke that faithful morning that the Senator who until that day represented Imo North Senatorial district in the 9th Senate on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) slumped and died while having his bath in his residence in Apo, Abuja, his passage attracted encomiums from many Nigerians.
When the leadership of the National Assembly led by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, paid a condolence visit to the family of the Senator, it dawned on us that death has snatched the courageous and committed lawmaker who until his death was the Chairman Senate Committee on Labour and Employment. As expected when a good man dies, it elicits sympathy and anguish.
Born on June 30, 1965 to the family of late Chief B. U Uwajumogu of Umuihi Village, Ihitte Uboma Local Government Area of Imo State, Sen. Ben Uwajumogu after his secondary education proceeded to Schiller International University, Paris, France and the University of New Jersey City, United States of America where he obtained an Associate Degree in International Relations and Economics respectively.
Sen. Uwajumogu was a devoted Christian and was married to Lady Ellen Uwajumogu and they are blessed with three children. He was recognized with many awards. These include, The Guardian Newspaper “Integrity and Credibility Award, Best Speaker (Nigeria) Award and traditional title of “Ogbuhuru Uzor Okigwe” meaning one who brings development to his people. The title was conferred on him by the entire Okigwe zone traditional rulers
He joined politics quite early in life as an active member of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Imo State. In 1991, he emerged as the youngest local government party chairman in the state. He later rose through the ranks and occupied sensitive positions both in private and public service.
He contested Imo State House of Assembly election to represent Ihitte Uboma state constituency in 2011 and won on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Sen. Uwajumogu was thereafter elected Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly on June 7, 2011.
His political profile further rose significantly in 2015 when he teamed up with a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) having switched from PDP to APGA to birth the All Progressives Congress (APC) which eventually won the presidential election with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) as its presidential candidate.
In July 2016, he emerged the winner of Imo North Senatorial seat on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in a rerun poll. Again, the same scenario played out in the last Senatorial election in Imo North as Uwajumogu found himself, this time in what looked like war without end because his political foes were more. He was a member of the Imo Coalition that stopped former Governor Rochas Okorocha from making his son in-law Uche Nwosu to succeed him.
Similarly, his opponents in the February 23, 2019 election approached the Governorship and National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Owerri and asked it to declare the election inconclusive, but the tribunal dismissed the petitions, but the Appellate Court in its judgment upheld Uwajumogu’s victory which enabled him retain his seat that he won in 2015.
Unfortunately, the victory came not without bruises. The delay by INEC to issue Sen. Uwajumogu with Certificate of Return three weeks after he was declared winner of Imo North Senatorial election cost the South-East geo political zone opportunity to produce the number three citizen of the country. As the only two terms Senator of the ruling party from the entire South-East, Uwajumogu who was tipped as Senate President of the 9th National Assembly was not in the Red chamber during the election of the leadership of the 9th Assembly due to the delay.
However, he was finally presented with Certificate of Return and was sworn-in on July 26, 2019 in a brief ceremony conducted by President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmed Lawan at plenary.
Sen. Uwajumogu will be remembered as a man of modest means who tried to sustain continuity, but his opponents wanted to enthrone a new order. He will also be remembered for offering his constituency quality and effective representation in both state and federal legislatures and he couldn’t have achieved this feat without the support of the people who stood behind him because to them, he is a leader and not a boss.
Within the short period Uwajumogu stayed in the 9th Senate, he sponsored the Whistle-blowing and Witness Protection Bill which made provision for financial rewards to encourage citizens who expose corruption and protect them against victimization and loss of jobs.
Therefore, as the sun set on Sen. Benjamin Uwajumogu, it behooves on the state and National leadership of APC to take cognizance of the tireless efforts and contributions of the amiable parliamentarian which helped the ruling party’s electoral fortunes in Imo State and the entire South-East.
As the battle for who will replace Uwajumogu gains momentum, the constituency of the late Senator in a recent press release called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole to toe the path of equity and fairness and do unto Okigwe South Federal Constituency as it was done to the people of Onuimo Local Government Area of the state when Hon Maurice Ibekwe died, the people of Osun West when Sen. Isiaka Adeleke died and the people of Kogi State when James Enojo Ocholi, the former Minister of State for Labour and Productive also died in car accident with his wife and son. These men died while representing their constituencies in office and their relatives or kinsmen were drafted to complete their tenure.
In the same vein, it won’t be out of place to give the same concession to Sen. Benjamin Uwajumogu’s relatives. Until his death, the late senator was one of the major stakeholders of the ruling party in the country.
Okafor writes from Lagos