By Law Mefor
One would want to join President Muhammadu Buhari and millions of Nigerians to celebrate a rare statesman, ace legislator and three-time deputy president of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, as he turns 60. The lawyer and politician is indeed the unsung hero and scion of Nigerian democracy, who, unknown to many, led the National Assembly to break the jinx of constitutional amendment in the current dispensation and through the unprecedented four successful amendments of the unitary 1999 Constitution. Thus he has made the most salutary impacts on constitutional and electoral reforms in Nigeria as deputy senate president and chairman of the National Assembly Committee on the Alteration of the 1999 Constitution.
In terms of representation, Senator Ekweremadu remains the best and most effective representative of his people. No lawmaker in Nigeria’s history has attracted the number and quality of infrastructure and social amenities, which Ekweremadu has facilitated to open Enugu West Senatorial District to the state and other districts in Enugu, and even other parts of the country, as records show.
Ekweremadu’s Ikeoha Foundation has a robust scholarship foundation, which has produced thousands of graduates trained in Nigerian tertiary institutions and overseas in several fields of human endeavour. Most of the beneficiaries of his scholarship scheme are indigent students from poor and less privileged homes, who are now medical doctors, engineers, lawyers and other professionals who otherwise would have ended up as artisans at best.
Senator Ekweremadu has therefore emerged a major breaker of intergenerational poverty transfer in Enugu state by planting highflying professionals and successful people where there was no hope and today they have become beacons of hope for their families and beyond.
As President Buhari rightly noted in his tribute to Ekweremadu at 60, in a polity where there is high attrition of elected officials, the lawmaker’s nearly 20 years long longevity in the Senate, is an expression of the confidence reposed in him by his people. Indeed, his life has been that of public service, as he bestrides the executive and the legislature, having served as Chief of Staff to the Governor, Secretary to the State Government, Senator, Deputy Senate President, and Speaker, ECOWAS Parliament.
On such a landmark birthday, however, one cannot fail to write about Ekweremadu’s principled politics and defence of the independence of the legislature. He is one of the few Nigerian politicians, who have never defected from their party since 1998. He has been with the party come rain, come shine. The lawmaker’s re-emergence as Senate’s number two man in 2015 through a deft political manoeuvre of the PDP and his refusal to dump the party at its critical time like many other party leaders following the onslaught of the All Progressives Congress-led administration, no doubt contributed greatly to the survival of the PDP post-2015.
But he has also had to pay a price for this, not once, and not twice. It is a well-known fact that Ekweremadu is one of the most investigated, persecuted, and harassed politicians since the coming to power of the APC administration. Here was a man arraigned along with his principal, Dr Bukola Saraki, on trumped-up charges of forgery of Senate Standing Rule without any shred of evidence or even a mention, let alone an indictment by the police report. The FG later withdrew the matter on it’s their own. Here was a man, who survived two assassination attempts, had his official guest house ransacked by a detachment of the Nigerian Police, and faced all manners of harassment for PDP’s sake. Yet, he stood his ground and became a rallying point for the main opposition, contributing ideas, heading strategic committees like the PDP 2015 Post-Election Review Committee, etc.
Today, Ekweremadu has declared for the governorship of Enugu State. No doubt, his people love him and have beckoned on him to return and give attention to the development of the state, a clarion call he has harkened to and thought through as evident in his great manifesto, which he christened A Pathway to a New Enugu State. The brilliant manifesto is a classic blueprint in inclusive governance and transformational leadership that will transform Enugu state into a master image and ensure prosperity for all. For instance, here is a Nigerian governorship aspirant, who has proposed six special cities – Sports City, Auto city, ICT city, Film/Media city, Agriculture cities (One in each senatorial zone), and Health city. You can actually say that Dubai is coming to Nigeria, Enugu to be specific.
But then, there is a clear gang up in Enugu State to stop the cerebral lawmaker. The desperation has even become so dangerous that Ekweremadu’s supporters are targets of political thuggery or at the instance of agents of state.
The initial argument was that Ekweremadu is aspiring to become governor against the zoning arrangement, which has been punctured and proved as non-existent. I have read former governor Sullivan Chime’s interview in the 23rd November 2018 edition of the Sun Newspaper and he was very blunt in stating that there was never a governorship zoning arrangement in Enugu State; that during his first and second term race, people from all parts of the state, including Governor Chimaroke Nnamani’s deputy at the time, Dr Okechukwu Itanyi, who hails from the Enugu North zone, contested against him in the PDP primary. Besides, the governorship seat has fully rotated round the three senatorial zones.
Ironically, even Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is running for the Senate against a said zoning principle in his senatorial district, while the Peoples Democratic Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) has repudiated the principle of zoning by throwing its presidential ticket open to the whole country.
The reports coming out of Enugu State ahead of the PDP primary elections and 2023 general election is therefore painful to me as a lover of democracy, who has risen in defence of the PDP and our democracy on countless occasions. One is the widely reported unleashing of political thugs on Ekweremadu’s supporters.
What is more, there has been widely reported impunity by the PDP and the state in the just concluded ward congress to elect three-man ad-hoc delegates. Not a single result sheet could be found anywhere in the 260 wards of Enugu State during the ward congresses. Media reports say that the panel from commissioned by wadata plaza were handed a fraudulent list of delegates complied days before the exercise, while the outcomes of the real exercise conducted on the field at the designated venues were jettisoned.
Now that aggrieved party members have gone to court, it is either the PDP doesn’t appreciate the consequences of these kangaroo ad-hoc delegates list on all the primary elections in Enugu and even the presidential election (since the contentious delegates participated in the election of national delegates) or it just wants to return the favour done to the party by the APC in Zamfara in 2019.
But what is even most embarrassing, curious, and annoying is that all the perfidy and nonsense is happening under the watch of the new national leadership many had earnest hoped would restore sanity and integrity to PDP’s system. For crying out loud, Ekweremadu ordinarily deserves a consensus choice engineered by the leadership of the party once he declared interest to run for the governorship. This is given the height he has attained in the party and given the fact that he has stood with the PDP through thick and thin when most of the fair-weather politicians now masquerading as PDP leaders took flight and refused to associate with the PDP at its critical moment. But since he is not even asking for that and has instead demanded a transparent process, the very least expected of the PDP is a level playing ground and to Enugu, PDP members to choose their governorship candidate.
Lastly, let it be on record: the PDP national leadership encouraging irresponsibility and irrationality going on in Enugu State is taking too much for granted. That you have thrown the presidential race open has already left the people of the South East deeply hurt. Any attempt to manipulate the governorship ticket to an unpopular candidate anointed by any governor in the South East amounts to taking too much for granted. And as one has often warned on matters like this, there will be consequences and by then, it will be too late.
• Dr Law Mefor is a Senior Fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; Tel.: +234- 905 642 4375 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; follow me on tweeter: @DrLawMefor.