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Ekweremadu's rightful place in Enugu politics
By Chimdi Ekwusigo
Monday , March 15 , 2010


Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu must surely be counted among the few persons in the country who have immensely enjoyed the favour and patronage of the gods of politics or better put, those unseen forces that determine and propel the political fortunes of mere mortals.

Indeed, Ekweremadu's rise to political prominence can best be described as meteoric.

An unsuccessful second term bid for the Chairmanship of the Aninri Local Government Area in Enugu State had paved way for his appointment to the then novel position of Chief of Staff to former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani.

A couple of years later, following the rift between Nnamani and his uncle, Onyemuche Nnamani, that cost the latter his job as Secretary to the State Government, Ekweremadu was quickly drafted to fill the position.

Shortly afterwards, when it became obvious that the senator representing Enugu West district, Chief Collins Ndu, was not reading the same path with Governor Nnamani, Ekweremadu became the ready choice to replace him as PDP candidate and subsequent winner in the 2003 elections.

After his re-election in 2007, Ekweremadu was surprisingly endorsed by his peers to step into the position of Deputy Senate President – the position having been zoned to the South East. On emerging as Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu suddenly found himself in a superior position to his former boss, Chimaroke Nnamani, who had by then joined the Senate and was rumoured to have eyed the position. Senator Ekweremadu thus effectively became the number six citizen of Nigeria and with the current political situation (where we have the Acting President), the number five. He is also the highest ranking elected Igbo man in the country - a position which the state unreservedly celebrates.

However, even with such towering credentials the news coming out of Enugu about Ekweremadu's political intentions ,if true, can be nothing but disturbing to both his friends and admirers. It is now an open secret that the Deputy Senate President is actively working towards engaging his friend and ally Governor Sullivan Chime in a battle for the governorship of Enugu State. Any insightful observer of current Enugu politics would immediately raise questions as to why someone so well heeled in politics would want to embark on such an apparently suicidal mission.

Before now, when rumours had started making the rounds early last year, that he was interested in the governorship of the state in 2011 and that he was even talking with his former boss and now fellow senator, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani on how to upstage Governor Sullivan Chime in the next polls, Ekweremadu had done his best to deny the allegations, but politicians in the state had continued to insist that the regular meetings being held in his house were all about his gubernatorial ambitions.

Sources had hinted that Ekweremadu being very much aware of the Governor's popularity among the people had secretly been working on getting the Peoples Democratic Party to deny him (Chime) a second term ticket so that he (Ekweremadu) would quickly come in. However, after apparently finding out that his calculations were not going to yield the desired result, the Deputy Senate President had effected a withdrawal. At a well attended rally of the Enugu West Senatorial zone of the PDP held at Oji River, he publicly declared his lack of interest in the state's gubernatorial contest and pledged to support Governor Chime in the pursuit of whatever political office he chose to run for. Many observers had thought that this would have put an end to the rumours and restored the Deputy Senate President's profile and standing within the state party's structure.

However, recent events are proving such conclusions either premature or faulty. Last December, in the pretext of offering assistance to the needy through his Dikeoha Foundation, Ekweremadu ended up distributing motorcycles and other goodies to political figures in all the wards, in the state going far beyond his Enugu West Senatorial Zone. Yet-to-be disputed reports indicate that he has set up structures in all corners of the state and appointed full time staff, including a Press Secretary and Liaison officers in different local governments of the state to help concretise his plans.

Even the most die-hearted doubters of Ekweremadu's intentions would have shifted grounds following the active role the Deputy Senate President played in the campaign to make Vice President Jonathan Goodluck the Acting President. It came to be known that he had acted less out of any affection for Jonathan and less β€œin the greater interest of the country,” than the necessity to secure a strong foothold within the new dispensation in furtherance of his ambition. His calculations as deduced by analysts, is that, having vigorously supported the Acting Presidency campaign, Jonathan would repay the favour by helping to influence his (Ekweremadu's) choice as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate for the 2011 elections in Enugu State.

There are even strong rumours that Ekweremadu may have finally sealed a deal with an embittered former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani (whom he had earlier dumped to join forces with Chime), to pursue his quest.

But much as his calculations may look appealing, there happens to be many reasons why Ekweremadu's gubernatorial bid can be regarded as suicidal and one ultimately bound to fail.

First and foremost is the fact that, even the PDP would have learnt the stiff lesson from its experiences in some other states that, it can ill afford to work against a Governor or any officer whose popularity among the people is overwhelming. Without sounding hyperbolic, there is no gainsaying the fact that as of today, Governor Sullivan Chime's popularity among Enugu people is close enough to hero worshipping. This is traceable to no other cause than the unprecedented, far reaching, verifiable and undiscriminating programmes and projects executed for the benefit of the people since he came into power.

Having passed through horrendous times in the recent past, most Enugu people would prefer to be sent to a gulag than to have anything happen to Governor Chime. Thus, in the unlikely event that the PDP contrives to supplant the Governor even with an angel, it would practically have to stick guns to the peoples' head to make them dump Chime. With the benchmark set in Anambra for elections, even that extreme situation is not likely to work where the governor is concerned.

Another very salient point is that it would be virtually impossible to convince the people from the Enugu North zone of the state to accept an arrangement where someone from Enugu West would replace another from the same zone, knowing full well that the second fellow would also wish to do a second term. They would certainly prefer a second term for Governor Chime that would offer them an almost automatic chance of producing the next Governor than accept to hand it over to Ekweremadu or anyone for that matter, who would certainly further stretch and postpone their own day.

Given the foregoing scenario, many in the state consider Ekweremadu's political future to be standing precariously if it is not approaching an unwanted and even premature end.

Incidentally, there are actually some who believe that fortune had been too kind to him and that the time is right for him to give others space to rise. Proponents of this view readily point at the Deputy Senate President's rise from obscurity to become the Chairman of Aninri Local Government Area and then to his current position through many quirks of political fate.

Many people readily agree that a gubernatorial ambition under the circumstances outlined above, would likely amount to a vainglorious and ultimately self-destroying venture for the distinguished Deputy Senate President.

Ekwusigo, a political analyst, writes from Lagos.