Ekweremadu: Who Will Love My Country? Ideas For Building The Nigeria Of Our Dreams

By Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia

A review
Given the towering stature of Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, PhD, CFR, (Ikeoha) within and outside Nigeria in terms of statecraft, transparent leadership, profound intellect, legislative dexterity and compassionate mien any book authored by him will certainly evoke intense curiosity. Why the curiosity, one may ask? The answer is not far-fetched. The first point of curiosity stems from the title of his book: “Who will love my Country?” this is not a rhetorical question. It is a question that pricks the conscience of rational minds in a country with awesome but unfulfilled possibilities and yet it does appear nobody loves her. Seeing through the maze and haze of treachery, debauchery and cheap manipulations, Sen. Ekweremadu seeks to redirect our thinking about Nigeria, hence the question: who will love my country?

Second, the inability of African countries to get their politics right has led to assumptions in developed democracies of the West that Africans are atavistic and incapable of producing a world class leader. Starting from the mid 1950s when fervent nationalist agitations by most African societies led to the emergence of politically independent African States till date, virtually all countries in Africa, Nigeria inclusive, appear to have been condemned to leadership deficits and vicious circles. Apart from the incandescent and avoidable social conflicts and human tragedies, which have bogged down the continent, there is also a preponderance of intensive extractive economic and political institutions in the continent and which tend to abort the African possibility.

Another possible source of curiosity is that Sen. Ekweremadu is a rare gem; a man of immense capacity and of many parts. From a humble background, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu has garnered immeasurable experiences as a Town Union President, Local Government Chairman, and Chief of Staff to a Governor, Secretary to the Enugu State Government, Ranking Senator; Speaker, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament and a three-time Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate. In all the offices he served, he left impeccable track records of integrity, accomplishments, splendour and panache. He is deemed by most to have seen it all.

Fourth, in addition to the foregoing, African, nay Nigerian politics have had a paucity of intellectual content. Not too long ago, many people would have concluded that politics should be left for bullies or those who can shoot their way to power. But Sen. Ekweremadu, a reflective scholar, teacher and quintessential grassroots leader sees political leadership as a call to serve; a call to use the apparatus of state for the “good life” of the people. Thus, he is one of the few erudite scholars in Nigerian politics who have given depth, content, form, logic and direction to our political process.

Fifth, Publius Syrus, the great Greek thinker once remarked that “anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. But one who holds the helm in moments of turbulence is the master”. Ekweremadu, no doubt, is that man who in times of tempest holds the helm. He stays on course even in stormy seas. On the other hand, the author manifests an extra-ordinary and profound mystique in various fronts.

It is the profundity of this Ekweremadu mystique that could account for the huge presence of the members of diplomatic community, the ECOWAS Community, the presidency, almost all the members of the National Assembly, state legislators, serving and former governors, judges, religious leaders, emirs and traditional rulers, captains of industry, academics, defense corps, politicians of all colours, council chairmen, journalists, etc to the public presentation of his book titled “Who Will Love My Country-Ideas for Building The Nigeria of Our Dreams”.

The humble background of the author, his vast experience in government and humanistic lifestyle has enabled him to wallow in the labyrinth of the poor, hugged the orphans, walked the portals of prestigious universities and smelled the rose in the high places. In other words, Ikeoha has the palate of both the poor and the kings. The book depicts a politician who truly understands the heartbeat of the society. The 150-page book, published by Goldline and Jacobs, has 13 incisive chapters written in lucid English Language. The book presentation was chaired by General Yakubu Gowon, GCFR while Prof. Isawa Elaigwu reviewed the work.

In the introductory chapter of the book, Ekweremadu robustly espouses that God endows man with the infinite capacity to re-order society for the benefit of all. According to him, “if we create the right environment and conditions, democracy will become strong and durable in Nigeria. He posits that leaders make policies that shape the future of any country in the sense that such policies will “determine the prospects for social equilibrium and prosperity in Nigeria”.

Having set the tone in the introductory chapter, the author went ahead to examine what he termed “Changing the Culture of Government” in chapter two. The kernel of his espousal here is that “bad governance is responsible for the social ruin that has disfigured Africa” He further lamented that “bad governance continues to inflame the fears of a nervous society’ and that if the trend is left unchecked will lead us down to a ‘’one way street filled with hopelessness, instability, poverty and economic stagnation”.

A firm believer in social justice and electoral transparency, Ekweremadu took on the Nigerian electoral process in chapter three of the book and argued for a no-holds-barred reform of the process. Giving a graphic illustration of the consequences of electoral injustices, the author depicts electoral fraud as the major promoter of hubristic incompetence that abounds in governance.

His argument here is that when a flawed electoral process throws up people who know next to nothing about representative democracy the tendency is that such political miscreants become “more aggressive and more brazen in their pursuit of selfish interests’’. Noting that the National Assembly has considerably reformed the electoral process, he asserts that “detecting and punishing those engaged in electoral fraud would have a restraining influence on politicians and their supporters and would dramatically affect the trajectory of elections in Nigeria’’.

In chapters four and five, the author looked at the twin issues of “Reforming Party Politics” and “Public Participation” respectively and highlights the need for internal democracy in our political parties and the need for independent candidacy in the electoral process. He made a case for the adoption of the United States model, in which every registered member can vote to decide who flies the presidential flag.

Also in chapter four, the author subscribes to the advantages of “proportional representation, whereby political parties are represented in government on the basis of their aggregate performance, as opposed to the first-past-the-post system” where the winner takes all.

Ikeoha captures correctly the existing divergence between those in government and the masses. He notes correctly that public support is earned, lost or sustained principally as a result of what leaders do. He maintains that it is only good governance that can serve as an energizing force that can break through the crust of indifference and apathy that prevents citizens from participating fully in the democratic process.

“Revamping Public Institutions” took the author’s attention in chapter six, wherein he noted the very pathologies that weaken our public institutions and recommends the necessary and sufficient co-efficient for desired strong public institutions. Some of the maladies identified include the grip on the public institutions by the inept, dictatorial leaders, biased mode of recruitment that sacrifices merit on the altar of ethnic sentiments and mediocrity; irresistible influence and manipulation by corrupt political actors. According to him, “the public servants, most times, are exposed to pressures that can overpower even the strongest human beings, thereby disorienting their moral compass as they watch their bosses luxuriate in ill-gotten wealth”.

Chapter Seven focuses on “Improving our Educational System”. Ekweremadu admits that “the present learning environment, with its decrepit, dilapidated and ill-maintained facilities; and its lack of amenities should shame us all”. He notes correctly that a “defective educational system will likely produce what it was meant to prevent: youth without hope, discipline or character; who yield easily to the temptations of crime, violence and unethical behaviour”. The problems in our educational system, according to him, are caused by two major factors (external and internal): inadequate funding and widespread lapses in standards.

In chapter eight, the author examines “Inadequate Resource Sharing” and notes that concentration of capital resources in a few hands creates distinct classes of “haves” and “have-nots”. This unfair distribution of resources among the component units, he argues, provides the impetus for dysfunctional and illegal conduct that threatens both the social and democratic consolidation, not only in Nigeria but in Africa as a whole. He cautions that “the nation’s wealth which should be used to solve its problems does not instead become a major source of problems”.

“Rethinking our Security System” is the focus of chapter nine. He insists that “the major problems with the internal security can be traced to problems with policing in Nigeria”. He cited the policing architecture in Canada, United States of America, Australia, Brazil, etc; and enumerates the advantages in decentralized policing system; to even the community levels. He contends that each community knows best how to navigate its peculiar topography and apply the understanding of its unique sociology and culture in tracking crimes and acts of terrorism.

“Curbing the Menace of Corruption” takes a robust place in chapter ten. He laments the depth of corruption in the country and attributes it as the bane of most African countries. He criticized the structure and funding of the anti-corruption agencies and doubts the possibilities of its efficiency. He cited Kenya, Pakistan, Philippine, Slovakia, Croatia, etc and observes that a corruption case in Nigeria remains unresolved for several years. He then espoused the creation of Anti-Corruption Courts in Nigeria.

The power theory of poverty is the major thesis of chapter eleven aptly titled “Reducing Poverty and Unemployment in Nigeria”. He recommends the review of the existing power structure that alters “the disproportionate distribution of resources, opportunities, income …..’’ among others.

Chapter twelve beams its searchlight on “Remaking Nigeria’s Federalism”. In this chapter, Ekweremadu traces the unique history of the warped Nigerian federalism in comparison to other federal systems in the world and recommends a re-federalization paradigm. According to him, the present feeding bottle federalism encourages ineptitude, indolence and corruption. He presents a table of Distribution of Mineral Resources in Nigeria which reveals that all the 36 states in Nigeria and Abuja are richly endowed with sufficient mineral resources and yet “these abundant resources lie fallow and the nation continues to run on petrodollars”. Among his several espousals here, he robustly recommended a return to the regional arrangement with the six geopolitical zones as federating units.

The last and passionate chapter thirteen advocates “cooperation between leaders and citizens”. He notes a palpable disconnect between the leaders and the government and contends that “whenever the stewards of power act unjustly, they undermine public trust in the whole system and engender public apathy”.

In conclusion, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu makes a clarion call in Who Will Love My Country. He believes the Obama maxim that “we can shape our individual and collective destinies, so long as we re-discover the traditional virtues of hard work, patriotism, personal responsibility, optimism and faith” He therefore beckons on the courageous, patriotic, detribalized visionaries and coordinates with the moral obligation and commitment to collaborate in sincerity, hard work, equity, rationality, morality and transcendence in order to “hand over to the next generation, a country superior in every way to the next generation”.

The book presentation lived up to the curiosity and expectations attached to it with dignitaries such as President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President, Sen. Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, Prof. Pat Utomi, Prof. Sam Egwu and several others in attendance.

The Chairman of the event, General Yakubu Gowon (Rtd.) commended Sen. Ekweremadu for his sterling qualities,self-discovery, the thoughts espoused in the book; and his patriotism and love for Nigeria. Gowon and other speakers could not with hold their admiration for the humility, profound intellect, courage, vision and impeccable integrity that reside in Ikeoha.

Who Will Love My Country is a book that will surely outlive ages; a touch with history, present and future. It is recommended to all the literate Africans in general and all patriotic Nigerians in particular.

Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia is the Special Adviser (Public Affairs) to the Deputy President of the Senate

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