EKWEREMADU AS SYMBOL OF IGBO UNITY
In the last few weeks, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu has been in the news mostly for salutary reasons. Apart from the propaganda against his person that he opposed the emergence of an Igboman as President in 2015, a position his media mangers have denied, the lawmaker has been lapping honours. His re-election as Deputy Senate President was historic.
His emergence as the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament was merited. And his recent award of honourary doctorate degree of University of Uyo was most deserving.
However, unlike many prophets who are not honoured at home, Ike Ekeremadu has become an exception given the elaborate reception and honour being planned for him by Igbos from the five South East states. The ceremony which holds on November 26, 2011 in Lagos is perhaps the highest honour being given to an Igbo public office holder in recent times. But the questions have been asked whether Ike Ekweremadu actually deserves the honour and why the ceremony is holding in Lagos and not in Igboland.
Secretary of the organizing committee, Chief Declan Mbadiwe Emelumba insists that Ekweremadu not only merits the honour but should be seen as a rallying point of Igbos being the highest political office holder from the South East part of Nigeria . He explained that the reception is being put together to reassure the Deputy Senate President of the support of his kith and kin with a view to gingering him into discharging his responsibilities not only to the Nigerian state but Igbos whom fate has made him their political leader.
'Senator Ekweremadu is being honoured for his sterling qualities as a team player and level headed leader, rare attributes which have sustained him as Deputy Senate President twice and seen him become Speaker ECOWAS Parliament', he noted in a statement.
Emelumba may not be far from the truth. The reality of today's political realignment in Nigeria is that Ekweremadu is not just a senator for his Enugu people but the entire Igbos both at home and in Diaspora. He represents the voice of a race that has tasted marginalization and is in the process of reinvention. He represents the resilience and enterprising spirit of the Igbo man who craves freedom and opportunity to express his ingenuity and resourcefulness.
For sometime, Igbos have been seeking a political leader to advance their cause and assuage their fears. Bickering and self centeredness have always been the bane of politicians of Igbo stock. This divisiveness was accountable for the instability that attended the senate presidency between 1999 and 2007. The position which was zoned to Igbos (South East) exposed the race as uncoordinated, individualistic and anachronistic. The perception wrongly projected to Nigerians was that Igbos can't handle leadership position.
But Ekweremadu through his conduct as Deputy Senate President has shattered that perception. Through collaborative approach with his colleagues in the National Assembly, he has been able to form a synergy that appreciates cohesive leadership based on mutual understanding. This has engendered a new spirit in the National Assembly among Igbo legislators. The credit should go to Ekweremadu.
Apart from dousing the credibility crisis that dogged Igbo leadership in the past, Ekweremadu has earned the confidence of his colleagues in the Senate such that there was no single opposition to his candidature for reelection. Even his immediate boss and Senate President, Senator Davis Mark sees him as a dependable man who commands respect and has deployed his office to building bridges of understanding.
He also learnt quickly from the mistakes of the past whereby top placed people in Abuja exploited their exalted positions to fight the government at home. It happened between Senator Anyim and Governor Egwu, Chuba Okadigbo and Chimaroke Mbadinuju and Adolphus Wabara and Orji Uzor Kalu. The Deputy Senate President has not only be supportive of Governor Chime and even went ahead to champion the cause of the State at Abuja.
For a man whose antecedents have shown that he could be relied upon and trusted to protect group interest, the Deputy Senate President has earned the respect of both Igbo intelligentsia and the political class.
It is therefore understandable why Igbos should honour Ekweremadu as a man who has grown beyond his Enugu constituency. According to the chairman of the organizing committee and former information minister, Mr Frank Nweke JR, Ekweremadu is now looked upon as the apex Igbo political leader who ought to be conscious of his responsibilities to the people. That means that the Deputy Senate President's precedent in canvassing the betterment of Igbo society stands him in a good stead for the current leadership of the political class.
The essence of the honour which former Imo State commissioner for information, Chief Elvis Agukwe described as deserving should not be lost on Ekweremadu. With the involvement in all the town unions in Lagos , the Ohanaeze and other sundry Igbo organizations which have endorsed the reception of the Deputy Senate President, there is no doubt that the missing cohesion in Igbo leadership is now being provided. The cream of the political class, businessmen, professionals and traditional rulers ought to use this occasion to rally round Ekweremadu in the quest to have a fair deal for Igbos in the Nigerian federation.