Of Ekweremadu’s shenanigans and lure of public office
There he stood with eyes darting about the chambers with the air of familiarity and unabashed condescension. And as he stood, his mind seemed to replay the events of four years ago as if in an eerie reel. With smothered giggles and hisses from kindred personages and gallery occupants, his appearance was received. Yet, he looked on as if assuring himself: Here I go again!
Instinctively, he must have recalled how he stood in similar circumstance nearly half a decade ago to harvest the fruits of political perfidy and stupid calculations of greedy godfathers. Again, as he stood instead of cringing from the oddness of his craving, he tended to straighten up with the certitude of an impending triumph heaving through his chest, strengthening him.
The story of Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s political progression, particularly his attempt to entrench himself as a perpetual Deputy President of Nigeria’s Senate penultimate week, turned out not as a relieving feature of the chicanery that defines the selection of the upper legislature’s principal officers, but as its lowest point. For 12 years and in three election cycles, Ekweremadu straddled the position of second fiddle both as a striker and a stalker. His election to the Senate from 2003 through 2019 exposes the streaks of opportunism and procedural abuse that defines Nigeria’s brand of democracy.
In 2003, two clear years after he was rescued from political misadventure that revolved around an electoral defeat as council chairman of his Aninri local government council, Ekweremadu waltzed his way to the Senate at the coat tails of home state governor. Apart from winning him over from the opposition All Peoples Party (APP), his benefactor, Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, had first appointed him Chief of Staff to the governor of Enugu State and subsequently as Secretary to the State Government (SSG).
Four years later, he became a beneficiary of the infamous garrison political style that delivered a scary electoral process, such that while his constituents spread across towns and villages in Enugu West Senatorial District were still on the queue awaiting accreditation for voting, the airwaves was spitting his name as winner of the election. That was in 2007!
Perhaps, it was on account of the likelihood of his becoming the Deputy President of Senate, which was allotted to the Southeast geopolitical zone by the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that the process was rushed in his favour. Having therefore become number two man in the Senate, Ekweremadu’s second term in the Red Chamber offered him the opportunity to hone the skills in deal making and doublespeak.
Ekweremadu’s curious ability to run with the hare and hunt with the hunt came to the fore in 2009 during his first stint as Deputy Senate President. It happened that Chief David Edevbie, who was at that time serving as the Principal Private Secretary to former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was indicted in the United Kingdom of corruption and money laundering. When the DSP was called upon to take a stand on the matter, Ekweremadu refused, saying that he did not know the facts of the case. As a politician with the characteristics of quick silver, Ekweremadu’s preoccupation seems to revolve around acquiring the necessary ‘facilities’ to oil the machinery for political advancement.
While as Chief of Staff, Government House, Enugu, a private company linked to Ekweremadu printed aprons that were sold to commercial motorcycle operators in the state, a development that stirred civil strife. Also, the Deputy Senate President was embroiled in committee distribution that sparked some discontent among some senators who were dissatisfied with the mode adopted by Ekweremadu in the allocation of ‘juicy’ committees to some non-ranking Senators.
Similar to his decisions, Ekweremadu’s poll numbers during elections in his Enugu West Senatorial District are most times mindboggling despite the fact that his party, PDP, is well entrenched in the state. Having moved from opposition to the ruling party, Ekweremadu is said to be adept at reaching out to the opposite camp to ensure the fielding of feeble candidates. For instance, in his election into the Senate for a third time in 2011, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) credited him and PDP a total of 112,806 votes against the 7,522 returned by his rival, Mr. Jackson Ezeofor, who stood for election on the platform of Peoples for Democratic Change (PDC) founded by Ekweremadu’s former principal, Chimaroke Nnamani.
Like other principal officers in the Senate, the Enugu State-born Senator covered much political mileage out of the Doctrine of Necessity initiative that catapulted former Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to the position of substantive president after the demise of Yar’Adua. In 2015, when agitation against his ambition to continue in the Senate gained momentum, Ekweremadu was said to have pleaded with his home state governor, Sullivan Chime, to allow him another term.
Given the manner of his emergence, Ekweremadu decided to adopt the strategies of ‘Amalinze the cat:’ when embattled politically he adorns his traditional ishiagu attire to curry Igbo sentiment and favour, only to return to his trade mark English suit when the situation normalizes.
After surviving the various onslaughts, Ekweremadu, who knows how to deploy fiscal resources for political manoeuvre, damned every qualm to stand election once again for the fifth time as floor officer in the Senate. And harassed by the threat of forceful retirement from the senate through the instrumentality of federal might, Ekweremadu deployed his ambivalent style to good purpose by allegedly reaching out to the presidency cabal. As a result, faced with a barely known female rival on the APC platform in the person of Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, Ekweremadu secured another berth in the Senate of Federal Republic of Nigeria for a record firth term.
Unlike previous vote tallies, Ekweremadu defeated the APC female candidate by 86,088 to 15,187 votes. At a thanksgiving ceremony that coincided with his 57th birthday anniversary, Ekweremadu announced his decision to quit further contest for the Senate, stressing that his fifth term in the Senate would be dedicated to completing ongoing projects in his constituency.
But forgetting how he vowed, “this would be my last time as a senator,” Ekweremadu sought the support of his colleagues to become the Deputy Senate President for the fourth term. In a bid to rationalize his gambit, Ekweremadu explained that his disappointing 37 to 68 votes loss to Senator Ovie Omo-Agege was predicated on his protest aspiration against the Delta State-born Senator for engineering the invasion of the Senate on April 18, 2018.
What Ike Ekweremadu failed to explain was, had his gamble paid off, would he have renounced the position in a symbolic gesture of political altruism, even if for the first time? If indeed it was a protest aspiration, why did the striker not pass the opportunity to another, preferably a female candidate to challenge Omo-Agege?
Having stalked every elective opposition, Ekweremadu had to acknowledge in his failed attempt: “I think that God has just given me that opportunity to have a rest. For over 20 years, I have been very busy with politics, with leadership, with governance. So I think this is an opportunity for me to have a rest and reflect on so many other things.”
There is no guess work that the quicksilver politician was served a humble pie, because in his defeat the words that came out from his lips were not those of compunction: “I believe that there must be a referendum looking at what happened when I was presiding when the Senate was invaded.
“It would have been very embarrassing that somebody who led that operation would just be asked to take a bow and be endorsed and we all walkover as if it doesn’t matter. So, I wanted a situation where Nigerians, especially through their representatives, will be able to present a referendum in respect of what transpired and then be able to either endorse or condemn it.”
And capping his presentation with a final display of doublespeak, Ekweremadu added: “We weren’t minded to run for any office, but we thought that our friends in APC will be able to come up with another candidate.”That maybe okay, but the argument flies in the face when placed side by side the fact that had APC not prevailed on Senator Francis Alimikhena to step down, Ekweremadu would have smiled home with the underserving laurel, not knowing that the circumstances that predisposed his emergence in 2015 have long evaporated.
All said and done, it is clear that in just one sitting of June 11, 2019, Ekweremadu has consummated his fifth term. And having decided to end his serial contests for positions, the former Deputy Senate President has merely reinforced the fact that he has been walking the path of political infamy all his life.
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