Ekweremadu: Lessons in true leadership
“What time of night it is, I do not know, except like a fish bobbed out of water, I have bobbed up belly wise from stream of sleep —-great water drops started dribbling, falling like orange and mango fruits showered forth in the wind.” J P Clark in Night Rain.
It was indeed a night rain, drumming hard on my roof, and I suppose everywhere in and around Enugu where I was as at the time. The usual pleasure and sweet smell of water which made first rain of the year memorable was as strong as I drifted, into deep thoughts of a man who has served this nation in different capacities; a good governance advocate, who has used several quarters to profess on policy challenges confronting our great nation. A man who has also proffered various policy options through books and public lectures to help reposition the country. The thoughts of what God could use such a man to achieve for our great country overwhelmed me, so much that I lost “the beat of the drumming all over the land like my friend, JP Clark will say in his “Night Rain.”
You can call him a nationalist, a politician or a philanthropist. Born on May 12, 1962 in Mpu, Aninri Local Government Council of Enugu State, Senator Ike Ekweremadu holds PhD in Law from the University of Abuja, in addition to leadership certificates from Harvard and Oxford universities.
He is the deputy president of the Nigerian Senate and Emeritus Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament. Quite early in his political career, he had stated that his vision was “to restore people’s faith in the concept of representative democracy as symbolised by the legislature and more particularly, within the context of federal representation, whereby the federal legislator must not only be seen as a real mouthpiece and knight for his people – initiating/influencing favourable legislation and mobilising development resources – and not a distant sojourner in the seat of government, far removed from the realities, the needs and aspirations of his people.”
True to this vision, Ekweremadu joined the Senate determined to bring his humility and experiences to bare; having been a former Town Union President, Local Government Chairman, Chief of Staff to Enugu State Government and Secretary to Enugu State Government by sponsoring several bills and motions. Prominent among them was the Civil Process Servers Bill; the Private Detectives and Investigation Bill; the State of the Nation Address Bill; among others. Some of the motions he sponsored include the Surging Incident of Kidnapping and Hostage Taking in Nigeria; the Outbreak of Hostilities in Jos; the Absence of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; which eventually culminated in his propounding the popular “Doctrine of Necessity,” a clause used by the National Assembly effectively to save the nation at a time when it was at cross – roads.
He also chaired many important committees of the Senate. As the then Speaker of the Regional Parliament, he mobilised members to adopt and submit to the ECOWAS Commission for adoption by the authority of Heads of State and Government a draft legislation on the enhancement of the powers of the parliament. History will forever remember him as one of the most dynamic speakers of the parliament, who brought the activities of the institution nearer to the people.
Ekweremadu equally elevated the concept of representation to an enviable level by attracting federal developmental projects and resources to Enugu West, Enugu State and the South East with a view to positively change the fortunes of the people. The list is countless. They include roads and bridges, classroom blocks, library, ICT centres, dam projects, electricity projects, health centres and so on. The legislator also powered so many philanthropic activities, through his non-governmental organisation known as “Ikeoha Foundation.” Through the instrumentality of this organisation, he empowered so many people in the areas of adult literacy, quiz competition in secondary schools, scholarships to indigent students, micro credits to farmers, women co-operative societies, widows and so on, as well as sports competitions for the youths. He also sponsored health challenged people to hospitals both within and abroad and made it a habit to open his doors to people in other to entertain their problems and challenges.
Ekweremadu has evidently promoted public sector reform debates by presenting over 26 public lectures and papers both locally and internationally. In a lecture titled “Strengthening the Foundations of the Rule of Law in Nigeria held in 2016 in honour of Prof. G.O.S. Amadi and organised by the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, the senator argued that the rule of law is indispensable in any society that craves for justice, equity and fairness. He said that “to keep the foundation of the rule of law strong, we all have a duty and a role to play. Those who think the strengthening of the rule of law is not their business are only playing the dangerous game of the cockerel, which refused to attend a meeting of the animal kingdom, claiming it was not his business. But, sadly for him, it was agreed that his linage will be used as sacrifice to the gods. The cockerel and his kindred are yet to recover from that “I don’t care attitude.” He, therefore, maintained that “the rule of law is everybody’s business; insisting that for any society to move forward it must recognise it whole and entire, because it is with the instrumentality of the rule of law that tyranny and oppression will be prevented.
Furthermore, in another lecture titled “National Dialogue and the Future of Nigeria, being a paper delivered at the Pilot Newspapers Annual Lecture and Awards in 2013, Ekweremadu posited that despite several constitutional amendments in the country, the constitution still contains some defects which demand review.
In pointing out “the need to involve the public in crafting a constitution that can meaningfully and fairly resolve the concerns of the various ethnic groups in Nigeria,” he made case for a peoples constitution where “ethnic groups must be persuaded to understand that all ethnic groups have a lot to gain from cooperation and much to lose from antagonising each other. They must be socialised to view each other as partners rather than competitors. According to him such a change in disposition will make it easier for the people to work cooperatively for the common good of the nation.” Concluding that it is very important for people in a democracy to have a moral claim of “participation and ownership” to a constitution. This he said will make them understand, respect, support and live within the constraints of constitutional government.
Similarly, in 2015, while delivering another lecture titled, “The Politics of Constitutional Review in a Multi-ethnic Society” organised by the Faculty of Law, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, the senator maintained that our problem as a nation is not all embedded in frequent constitutional review but also in the political will to implement what we already have in the constitution. He frowned at the lopsided appointments in the country without due recognition of the Federal Character.
On the burning issue, of “leadership” in Nigeria, which so many commentators have bemoaned as one of our major problems, Ekweremadu came to the rescue with his book “Who Will Love My Country: Ideas for Building the Country of Our Dream.” In the book, he admitted, up front, that for personal, professional reasons, he loves Nigeria and will forever love her. The book, in the words of Ibrahim Gambari, “sets high standards of behaviour on the part of leadership, elite and citizens of this country, which demands concrete actions on the part of stakeholders.” It is a 14 chapter book that x-rayed almost all issues that have to do with governance and politics of Nigeria from changing the culture of government to cooperation between leaders and citizens. In the book, Ekweremadu canvassed for the building of the Nigeria of our dream that will enable us love her above our individual selves and narrow interests.
The man Ekweremadu has made contributions in various forums; making robust arguments on how to positively influence foreign partners on African democracies. His arguments have always centred on bettering the fortunes of the common man, especially, in Nigeria. At the fourth Public Service Lecture of the University of Ibadan Alumni Association held this year, with the theme “Federalism and the Legal Framework for Combating Corruption in Nigeria,” Ekweremadu made a case for the Nigerian workers whose salaries are no longer able to take them to the next bus stop and at the same time are expected to be corruption free. He noted that the reward system that pegs minimum wage at N18, 000 for civil servants, while state governors rake in as much as N2 billion as bogus security vote is antithetical to Nigeria’s corruption campaign. According him, when a man who earns N18, 000 cannot buy a bag of rice, how then can he take care of his family? Does it make sense to him if you tell him not to find alternative means of catering for the needs of his family? As much as he was not encouraging corruption, he was just stating the obvious, which is the need to increase the wages of the Nigerian worker to meet with the realities of our time.
Aside his political thoughts, which are too numerous to capture, the lawmaker has shown leadership both at the Senate and in the state: A three time deputy president of the Senate and a stabilising factor in the Senate and a leader per excellence, who has cooperated with his state Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to engineer enduring peace and friendship in Enugu State.
Undoubtedly, Ekweremadu has also exhibited steadfastness of a party man who is not a bread and butter politician who moves from one party to the other because bread seems to be buttered in the other party. He is of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and has remained there. That’s the mark of a politician with ideology.
Mgboh, Public affairs analyst wrote from Enugu.