Ekweremadu: Praxis of Persistent, Consistent Loyalty
By Sufuyan Ojeifo
On May 12, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu will be 52 years. He will be celebrated by his colleagues in the Senate. He will be celebrated by his party-Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He will also be celebrated by his friends in and outside government. The celebratory tributes will sum up the man's quintessence and the praxis of his loyalty since he stepped in the saddle as Deputy Senate President on June 5, 2007.
His good nature will be espoused and celebrated in newspaper advertisements. I am sure that his good nature has not changed from the first institutional assessment by the Senate on May 12, 2008 when he turned 46. The senate had, in a letter signed on its behalf by the then Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin, stated in part: “…often, our dear nation finds itself thrusting its fate in the hands of young men like you. It is not an accident of history; therefore, that at 46, and indeed, (as) one of the youngest members of this Senate, you occupy the exalted position of the Deputy President of the Senate. For us, it is a mark of great honour for which we hereby renew our resolve.
“You have enormous responsibilities and challenges of nation building placed on your shoulders. History will eminently remember you for bringing honour and respect to the Office of the Deputy President of the Senate. You have confined yourself to building confidence in the leadership of the Senate, supporting without flinching the chair of our chamber, bringing unequalled camaraderie to our members and standing by our resolutions and decisions. Without doubt, your leadership style and moderation is something to emulate.
“We recall that early in life, you have shown remarkable leadership in your community, Local Government Area and your state. Your antecedents in both the private and public sectors are strong strands of bold commitment to service. Indeed, as far back as 1997, for a tenure of just sixteen months, you earned for yourself the Best Local Government Chairman in Enugu State. In the Senate since 2003, you have shown immense courage to stand for the truth and what is best for our country….”
It was a revealing Ekweremadu's portrait lucidly painted by his colleagues. The assessment has stood the test of time. In the last seven years, he has demonstrated practically his commitment to leadership in followership; the praxis of consistent, persistent loyalty. I posit without any fear of contradictions that nothing has changed negatively to taint the beautiful narrative of his work relationship with his boss, the Senate President, Senator David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark. Rather, the story has been very positive and inspiring.
The narrative about the increasing unity in the Senate, which is a product of the accommodating leadership style of Mark, has understandably rubbed off, positively, on Ekweremadu who has the privilege of occasionally presiding in plenary whenever Mark is not around. Sitting in for Mark is conventional and finds accommodation in the extant rule of congress (parliament). The usual cooperation and respect accorded to Mark are transferred to Ekweremadu.
He enjoyed the overwhelming support of his colleagues, first, on June 5, 2007 when the Senate was inaugurated. That day, he did not have any opposition in his bid to become Deputy Senate President. After the tension-soaked election of the Senate President, which saw Mark defeat his opponent, Senator George Akume, with a wide margin, the election of Ekweremadu, who was a product of the same political decision that produced Mark, was therefore an icing on the cake. The same process repeated itself for the Enugu-born politician in 2011 when he was re-elected as Deputy Senate President for another four-year term.
Ekweremadu is a man of destiny. In the fifth session of the Senate, some powerful forces had favoured him for the position of Senate President then ceded to his southeast geo-political zone. But that did not crystallize as Senator Ken Nnamani beat him to the coveted position. He was thus content with his chairmanship of the Committee on Federal Character and Government Affairs. Before his appointment, he was Chairman of the Committee on Housing and Urban Development. He was also a member of other committees such as Committees on Internal Affairs; Capital Market, Judiciary and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
As a ranking member of the Senate, who discharged his legislative mandate creditably in the fifth session without any negative incident, it was thus easy for his candidature to enamor the National Caucus of his party (PDP), which anointed and adopted him unopposed for the position of the Deputy Senate President in the sixth Senate. He had applied himself to the demands of his office. He was evidently supportive and loyal to the leadership of Mark. He demonstrated this during the legal battle by Mark to validate his mandate after it was “annulled” by the Benue State Election Petition Tribunal. While some people were reportedly plotting to replace Mark in the event that he lost the court case, Ekweremadu did not waver. He remained, persistent, consistent and steadfast to the end.
A brilliant legislator, Ekweremadu has continued to deploy his background or training as a lawyer to advantage. He understands the rules of the Senate and he has the capacity to intervene through constitutional points of order to change, redirect or guide Senate-in-plenary on knotty constitutional issues. He is a good example of how to flourish in the Legislature. He has been largely instrumental to the sponsorship of many bills, including, among others, the State of the Nation Address Bill which has been passed into law; Private Investigators and Detective Bill and the Amendment of River Basin Authority Bill. He also played a leading role in the pushing through of the Doctrine of Necessity that empowered Goodluck Jonathan, who was then Vice President, to act as President with full powers when President Umaru Yar'Adua (now late) was incapacitated.
The list of his accomplishments is long. He has been very active in the ECOWAS Parliament. He was appointed the first Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of the ECOWAS in September 2007; he is currently Speaker of the sub-regional legislative body. He has also in recent times emerged a forceful presenter of papers and keynote speeches on critical national and international issues bordering on the political economy. He is Chairman of the Board of Trustees/Founder of Ikeoha Foundation, a platform with which he engages his people for development through award of educational scholarship for student from Enugu West Senatorial District and micro-credits to farmer groups in the zone.
He has garnered a good number of awards, honours and commendations, to wit: Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFR); Knight of the Order of the Good Shepherd, Diocese of Enugu , Anglican Communion; and Dr. Kwame Nkurumah Africa Leadership Award (2005), among others.
Holder of traditional chieftaincy titles of Ochiagha Ndigbo (Prime Minister of Igbo land or the custodian of Igbo culture and tradition), Ikeoha of Aninri Enugu and Ikeoha of Ebonyi State, and indeed Ikeoha Ndigbo, Ekweremadu, who was legal practitioner and Lecturer in Law at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (where he studied as a student), had begun his political activism and engagement in 1997 when he was elected as Executive Chairman of the Aninri Local Government Council on the platform of the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP). His imprimatur was evident on the development of infrastructure in the area and was voted the Best Local Government Chairman of the Year. He has continued to use the instrumentality of his senatorial seat and position to influence infrastructure development in his senatorial district.
As friend and associates would toast long life and good health to him on the occasion of his birthday, I believe that Ekweremadu must have, long before then, reflected deeply on his political odyssey thus far and projected, yes, prayed for the unfolding journey that is ahead. This is wishing the Dike Eji Eje Mba (Worthy Ambassador), a title recently conferred on him by the Oduma Community of Enugu State, good political fortunes in the years ahead.
Ojeifo, journalist and publisher of The Congresswatch Magazine, sent this piece from Abuja.
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