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Walter Duru
Since the return of Democracy in Nigeria in 1999, Enugu state, one of the five states of the South Eastern part of Nigeria has been in the firm control of the Peoples Democratic Party-PDP. In fact, Enugu is one of the major strongholds of the PDP. No opposition party has been allowed to breath in the state.

A look at the governance framework of the State from 1999 till date says it all - from one PDP administration to another. For instance, from May 29, 1999, to May, 2007, the state was governed by Chief Chimaroke Nnamani, formerly of the PDP. From May, 2007 till date, the state has been under the leadership of Chief Sullivan Chime, still of the PDP. The State legislative House and successive Local Government Administrations have also been under the party's firm grip, even as the gospel of “change” was being preached.

Shortly after the successful merger of the parties that constitute the APC, Enugu was one of the areas that no one ever considered a fertile ground for the “broom revolution”. Even after the Party's gubernatorial primaries in the state, which produced Chief Okey Ezea as the party's flag-bearer, not too many people took the party seriously. Many however attributed it to the fact that Chief Ezea was a regular opposition aspirant, who had contested for the same office twice, prior to this time, without success. Nobody gave the party a chance.

However, for the first time in the history of Enugu state politics, opposition made an impact, with an improved visibility in the 2015 general elections, a feat described by many as unprecedented.

The secret was the introduction of a reputable grassroots mobilizer and anti-corruption expert, Barrister Juliet Chikaodinaka Ibekaku as the Deputy Gubernatorial candidate of the Party. Her entry made the difference. Not satisfied with the poor governance and insincerity with which the country's resources are being managed, she embraced the change revolution and wasted no time in being an active crusader.

The rate at which APC suddenly gained acceptance in Enugu, following her entry amazed many. Students, women and youth, the aged and all other categories of people, many of whom had benefited from her works of charity through her non-governmental Organisation-JC Ibekaku Hope Project wasted no time in embracing the Party. The mammoth crowd that received the APC Presidential candidate, General Mohammadu Buhari during his Presidential rally in the state speaks volumes. Never in the history of the state has an opposition party enjoyed such massive support and reception.

In readiness for the general election, Ibekaku toured the length and breadth of the state, spreading the good news of Change and converting thousands of followers for the party.

I was elated, the day I witnessed Enugu West Senatorial Zone stand still for her, during her campaign rally in the area. The event reminded me that indeed, a prophet could be honoured in his country.

History was indeed made, as thousands of supporters and residents of Enugu West Senatorial District of Enugu state took the locality by storm to receive their own, the Deputy Gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Barrister Juliet Ibekaku.

The gathering, which was held at the Egede square ground in Udi Local Government Area, of the state, had in attendance, supporters from the six Local Government Areas that constitute Enugu West, thus: Oji River, Aninri, Awgu, Eziagu, Oji River and Udi, the state executive officers as well as the gubernatorial candidate – Barrister Ezea. The excitement on the faces of the attendees was infectious. During her campaign tour on other parts of the state, the story was not different.

Stakeholders at various instances took turns to pour encomiums on her, describing her as a special blessing to the people of the state, who would be further empowered by the APC administration to deliver the state to the Party in 2019.

Commenting on her person, a youth leader in the state, Donatus Okonna described her as the face of hope, whose involvement in the politics of the state has given the masses the confidence that Enugu state can change for the better.

Adding her voice to the testimony, a women leader in the state, lolo Okechi Anna described Ibekaku as the best thing that happened to the Party in the state.

She described her as a 'record breaker' who has a history of breaking new grounds. “I see Juliet Ibekaku as breaking the record as the first female elected Governor in Nigeria someday. After serving Nigeria at the center under General Buhari, she has to come back to the state to salvage the situation.”

Indeed, she is the new face of APC in Enugu State!
Ibekaku, an advocate for the strengthening of women's rights, human rights, and governance institutions in Nigeria, is the founder of J.C. IBEKAKU Hope Project and IBEKAKU Multi-purpose cooperative where she supports leadership and entrepreneurial development for women and youths.

Barrister Juliet Ibekaku has twenty-two years of postgraduate experience as an international criminal law attorney and development expert. She was called to the Nigerian Bar as a Barrister and Solicitor in 1993. She has a Masters degree in International Human Rights, Humanitarian and Criminal Law and a postgraduate certificate in anti-corruption studies.

Ibekaku is an alumnus of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, University of Lagos, Nigerian Law School, Hague Academy of International Law, Netherlands, University of Hong Kong Program on Anti-corruption, University of Salzburg, Austria's program on international human rights and humanitarian law as well as the United States International Florida Bankers' Association.

Through her work on governance, she made significant contributions to the review of laws, regulations and procedures to strengthen anti-corruption institutional and legal measures in Nigeria and internationally. Growing up, Barrister Ibekaku's dream was to be a lawyer – not just an ordinary lawyer but also a lawyer whose role would intersect the critical crossroad of “justice and development”. Determined to achieve this goal, Barrister Ibekaku on graduation from law school, worked closely with women's rights organizations to achieve her dream. Her work with “BAOBAB for Women's Human Rights and Shelter Rights Initiative” gave her the opportunity not only to bring justice closer to the ordinary Nigerians, it also gave her the opportunity to speak out for women and children's rights. She also provided pro-bono legal services to victims of rape and domestic violence. From 1999 to 2002, she participated actively as a member of the Nigerian civil society delegation in the negotiation of the provisions of “Gender-based violence” in the Rome Statute during the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

She initiated various reforms in the anti-corruption sector from 2000-2013. As the former Director of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, she initiated and drafted the bill to set up the Nigeria financial intelligence center in compliance with international standards. While working as the manager for anti-corruption section of the DFID's Justice for All Programme and as an Advisor to the Attorney-General of the Federation, She also initiated the review of the terrorism bill, the mutual legal assistance bill, and the proceeds of crime bill.

Barrister Ibekaku has served in the following places as an international development expert: the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) - 2000 to 2002; National Project Coordinator for United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) - 2002 to 2004; the Legal Advisor for the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism in West Africa (GIABA), Senegal and the Commonwealth Secretariat –Governance and Institutional Development Division (GIDD}, London, UK- 2007-2010; the British Department for International Development's (DFID) Justice for All Program (J4A) in Nigeria -2011 -2012; Acting Director of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, EFCC – July 2012 - November, 2013.

She has been involved in various British-DFID programmes in Africa and until recently was an advisor on the development of an anti-corruption program for DFID Nigeria and Ghana. She is also consulting for various law-enforcement agencies in Nigeria on issues ranging from anti-bribery, anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, and financial of terrorism measures as well as on financial intelligence. She also provides training on financial crime.

She has facilitated and spoken at several national and international conferences including the EU Anti-money Laundering Conference on Financial Crime, UK, the Cambridge Symposium on Economic Crimes, UK, the Florida International Bankers Association Conference, Miami USA, Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS), the Bank of America Annual Seminar on Financial Crimes in Charlotte, North Carolina, International Business Machines (IBM) Financial Fraud Summit, North Carolina USA, School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), London, UK, the International Anti-Corruption Conference of the Transparency International, the Commonwealth Secretariat program for law enforcement officers, the Nigerian Police Seminar on Fraud Prevention, the Zero Coalition Against Corruption, Corruption Conference on Whistle-blowing Measures in Nigeria and the Conference on Global Terrorism among others.

Ibekaku hails from Egede, Udi LGA and is married with two children.

She is a recipient of numerous awards, from both local and international organizations. They include: Justice For All Program of the British Department of International Development, UK, 2014 Award for “Outstanding Achievement and Contribution to the Promotion of Justice and Equality for All Women; Macarthur Foundation Fund for Leadership Development, 2003; Nominated by Center for Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford University, UK and Open Society for Justice Initiative to participate in the Media Advocacy Training Program, July 2004; Received the United States Agency for International Development Superior Unit Citation, among others.

As Nigerians await the incoming administration of General Muhammadu Buhari, expectations are high that the administration will tackle the menace of corruption to a stand-still. Placing someone like Ibekaku as the arrow-head of the administration's anti-corruption war is the sure way to go, in order to guarantee results.

For the women, having Ibekaku as Minister shall in no small measure guarantee effective mobilization, participation, empowerment and development of women in Nigeria. She is a genius!

In the area of justice delivery, appointing Ibekaku as Minister for Justice shall guarantee the enhancement of the country's justice reforms and effectively check corruption in the system. She is an incorruptible comrade and relentless crusader of justice.

Appointing her as arrow-head of development and governance shall guarantee effective private sector participation in governance and ensure effective grassroots development; a feat that successive administrations in the country have rarely achieved.

With women like Juliet Ibekaku in General Buhari's administration, Nigerians would be reassured of his commitment to anti-corruption war and genuine development of the country, beyond rhetoric!

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Chike Duru and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Chike Duru