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Victor Umeh: A compassionate leader at 55

MICHAEL JEGEDE

Chief Victor Umeh, OFR, an accomplished estate manager, surveyor and valuer turned politician is 55. At 55, the former National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) can be said to have lived a fulfilled life, with his selfless service to humanity and invaluable contributions to nation building.

A God-fearing and compassionate politician, whose heart is filled with the milk of human kindness, Umeh, a worthy son of Anambra State, has put smiles on the faces of many, through his manifold philanthropic activities and gestures.

Dr. Amit Ray, an Indian author, it was who said: “Compassionate leaders know their stakeholders and address their concerns, their hopes, dreams and fears.” Umeh, the Principal Consultant, V.C Umeh & Co., a firm of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, has proved to be a compassionate leader by his constant show of concern for the masses and underprivileged in the society. He derives great joy from adding value to the lives of others.

Many indigent Nigerians who would not have found it easy to acquire education are today enjoying full-scale scholarship up to university level under the Victor Umeh Education Foundation (VUMEF), which was formally launched in 2007 to help advance the course of education among youths.

In 2016 alone, the foundation paid out over N10 million cash for one hundred and five undergraduates under its annual scholarship disbursement scheme. Others who benefited from the scheme last year were 12 postgraduate students and some secondary school students.

A beneficiary of Umeh’s scholarship programme, Miss Chinyere Ibekwesi, who has graduated, said the best thing that had happened to her life was to have benefited from the scheme. Ibekwesi made First Class in Statistics at Nnamdi Azikiwe University under VUMEF. According to her, “Each time I remember that I made a First Class Degree, tears would flow down my eyes. I didn’t know I could become a graduate in life, because when I got admission, I had no hope of any sponsor. When I got this scholarship I told myself that I won’t disappoint my God and VUMEF.”

Umeh’s benevolent spirit has equally seen him making handsome donations to charity and offering support for the execution of various church projects/programmes. A staunch devotee of the Catholic Faith, the ex-APGA helmsman was among some Nigerians recently awarded with the papal knighthood of the Sylvestrine Order. The Pontifical Equestrian Order of Saint Sylvester is one of the five Orders of Knighthood conferred directly by the Pope as the Supreme Head of the Roman Catholic Church.

It is usually bestowed on members of the laity who have distinguished themselves by their active involvement in the life of the church and engaged in acts that made great positive impact on their respective communities, societies, countries and the world as a whole. The well-deserved nomination of Umeh, a 1984 graduate of University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) for the papal knighthood, was evidently in recognition of his significant role in the advancement of humankind and enormous contributions to the Church of God.

On the political turf, Umeh, a Fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, has come across as a colossus and a force to reckon with in the politics of Anambra State and Nigeria in general. As APGA’s national chairman he was a potent voice on salient issues of national interest. Of all the national chairmen produced by political parties in the country since the return of democracy in 1999, discerning observers see him as the most outspoken and assertive.

His journey in politics started in 1998 as a founding member of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where he was elected State Treasurer of the party in Anambra State. He later joined forces with other progressive-minded politicians to form APGA in 2002. He was the party’s pioneer National Vice Chairman, South East and later became the National Treasurer before emerging the National Chairman.

As a courageous and strong-willed politician, Umeh, the Ohamadike Ndigbo, born on July 19, 1962, fought and won many battles that shook the foundation of APGA and wanted to bring the party down on its feet.  Despite the protracted leadership crisis that was tearing the party apart, he was still able to secure a number of electoral victories for his party in Anambra and some other states of the South East, as a result of his resilience, doggedness and sagacity. Even as he has handed over as the National Chairman of APGA since 2015, Umeh, an exemplary leader, remains one of the strongest pillars of the party, accorded due respect for his consistency, dependability, charisma and sincerity of purpose.

Umeh, a political strategist, has in his kitty over 20 traditional titles, several awards of excellence, including the National Honours Award of the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) and an honorary doctorate degree award by Tansian University, in recognition of his contributions to human development. He has, at different times, been described in glowing terms by highly revered elder statesmen from Anambra State, in the likes of Dr. Alex Ekwueme, GCON, first elected Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Late Ikemba, Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu.

At a thanksgiving mass after the expiration of Umeh’s eventful tenure as APGA boss in 2015, Ekwueme described him as his son, noting that he (Umeh) had achieved greatness for Ndigbo at a young age. The elder statesman acknowledged the indomitable Igbo spirit in Umeh and enjoined him not to relent in the struggle for a better deal for Ndigbo in Nigeria.

After the 2010 Anambra governorship election, the Great Ikemba and Supreme Leader of APGA could not help hailing Umeh’s fighting spirit which saw the party breaking the second term jinx in the state with Peter Obi in the saddle then. The Biafran warlord had in a newspaper advertorial placed to eulogize Umeh said: “Kudos! The Might of a Warrior is tested only in Battle. I salute your tenacity, your courage and resilience… Congratulation to the hardest working party Chairman in the Federation!”

It is not for nothing that the people of Anambra Central have continued to remain resolute in their support for his senatorial ambition, in spite of the legal entanglement that has prevented the rerun election ordered by the Court of Appeal since 2015 from holding. However, his supporters believe he would scale through the unnecessary hurdles situated on his way to victory by his political opponents. For them, Umeh has never lost any battle in the court and this one would not be different.

In an article highlighting twenty reasons why Umeh is the best candidate for Senate to represent members of Anambra Central constituency, Hon. Chinedu Nkwonta, the Publicity Secretary of the Anambra State APGA had noted: “Ohamadike is predictable on issues of injustice, his position is naturally constant. He is an epitome of consistency in the defence of Igbo interest all over the nation and beyond. He spoke against the killing and maiming of Igbos in the North. He spoke against the deportation of Igbos by Lagos State government. He spoke against the injustices meted against the Igbo nation in Nigeria by the denial of a sixth State. He spoke against the sharing of National revenue using the Local Government numbers knowing that the South East has the least number of Local Governments in the country. It is on record that Chief (Sir) Victor Umeh’s short participation in the National Conference changed a lot of things for the Igbos.”

I urge Umeh, an outstanding philanthropist, to continue to do his best for the service of humanity as he clocks 55. Albert Pike, the late American poet, lawyer and soldier, once said: “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”

I wish the APGA stalwart many more years of good health and God’s endless blessings and protection. Happy birthday, Ohamadike Ndigbo!

.Michael Jegede, a media professional writes from Abuja .He can be reached through  07065574368

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