â€œIt is always better for us to get close to know somebody because in our meets in the 7th Senate, we were far apart, but in this current Senate, I am the first person to tell people that Senator Ekweremadu is a perfect gentleman, and I repeat that many times. He is the type of Nigerian that we will want to continue to serve because he only sees things for the good of Nigeriaâ€ – Senate President Bukola Saraki
The man, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, is like an elephant explored by nine blind men. You appreciate him from the point of his personae that you have experienced or explored.
To his teachers; former students at the Faculty of Law, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he taught Constitutional Law and Labour Law; to those who have listened to him present his many public lectures or read his books, he is an intellectual.
To those accustomed to the arrogance that goes with power in Nigeria, Ekweremadu is humility personified. I went in search of his teachers to interview them for his 50th birthday documentary. Prof. Charles Ilegbune (SAN), his lecturer at UNN, said that besides being intelligent, Ekweremadu had maintained an uncommon humility despite his achievements.
To especially the beneficiaries of his life-saving interventions through free medical care or beneficiaries of Ikeoha Adult Literacy Scheme, Ikeoha Scholarship and Bursary Scheme, youth empowerment scheme, widow outreach and empowerment programmes, etc, he is one man who has an overflowing milk of human kindness.
Those aware of his charity and empowerment outreaches were therefore not surprised when the video of a widow, with an open bible in her front, invoking divine intervention for Ekweremadu emerged on the day he was arraigned with the Senate President on trumped up charges of conspiracy and forgery of Senate Standing Rule. It was like the story of Tabitha in the Bible. The widows, orphans, and poor, practically compelled Peter to bring Tabitha back to life because her death would spell doom for the countless less-privileged, whom she fed and clothed.
Meanwhile, to those who have followed his legislative odyssey, he is a lawmaker per excellence. Nominating Ekweremadu for re-election as the Deputy President of the 6th Senate in June 2011, Senator Zainab Kure (Niger South), described him as â€œa legislative wiz kidâ€.
Elected Senator for four consecutive times since 2003, Ekweremadu who had served as Local Government Chairman, Chief of Staff at Enugu Government House and Secretary to Enugu State Government, also emerged as Deputy President of the Senate for a record third time in 2015. Next, June 2017 marks his 10th anniversary as a presiding officer of the National Assembly, making him the longest serving presiding officer in the history of the national parliament.
He is like an old broom that knows every corner of the house and has brought this wealth of experience in governance at all levels and the legislature in particular to bear in his service to the nation. For instance, the quest for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution appeared jinxed until he took over the process in 2007. He piloted the First, Second, and Third Alterations of the 1999 Constitution in that 6th Assembly alone. The amendments resulted in far-reaching electoral reforms such as financial and administrative autonomy for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), timeframe for determination of election petitions, etc. The credit for the emergence of the opposition as ruling party today substantially goes to those amendments that freed INEC from the apron strings of the presidency.
To the people of South East in general and Enugu West Senatorial District in particular, Ekweremadu is quality representation personified. His role in bringing to fruition an international airport for the South East is well known. As for his Senatorial District, the President of the University of Ibadan Alumni Association, Dr. Kemi Emina, captured Ekweremaduâ€™s factor in the development of his part of the world most vividly during the last annual lecture of the Association delivered by his the Senator in Ibadan.
He said: â€œMany years ago when I got there, it was like the end of the world, but when I got there again recently it was as if it was the gate to heaven.â€ Such is the transformational touch of Ikeoha phenomenon.
Ikeoha West Africa, as some prefer to call him for his splendid tenure as the Speaker of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS Parliament), brought the hitherto little known parliament to the consciousness of the peoples of the sub-region. He traversed the lengths and breaths of the sub-region, meeting heads of states, national and regional parliaments, building partnerships and vigorously canvassing the enhancement of the powers of the Community Parliament. Today, ECOWAS Parliament has transformed from a mere talk shop to a semblance of a parliament because Ekweremadu passed through it.
Even more endearing is that in an environment of do-or-die politics, Ekweremadu represents hope that politics of common good, principle, and without bitterness is possible in our clime.
For instance, many expected Enugu to go up in flames ahead of the 2015 general election, but the Ekweremadu factor ensured it was politics of wits, not one of guns, bows, and arrow. Two issues particularly raised the political temperature. One was the false story that Ekweremadu was scheming for the gubernatorial seat. The other, which could be an offshoot of the former, was the decision to, therefore, unilaterally retire him along with some ranking members of the National Assembly from Enugu State.
Indeed, in retrospect, the political faceoff ahead of the 2015 general elections, which started as early as 2012, was totally avoidable. For instance, since we are in a democracy, all that was needed to retire whomever the system wanted to retire was simply to vote them out in a free and fair primary. That would have been the real test of their popularity. Going by way of decree, was tantamount to a battle line and political humiliation.
So, for Ekweremadu, it was a battle for political survival. If somebody brings war to your doorstep and right into your bedroom, you do not run away from your house because you donâ€™t like war. In fact, it is a kind of war your ancestors and God of Heaven would fight for you.
However, in one of our conversations ahead of the elections, Ekweremadu made three statements that earned him my respect the more. And they underline his political philosophies. One, he said it was going to be a battle of wits, not gunshots. Two, he said that no matter how we tried, if God said his days at the National Assembly were over, there was nothing we could do about it. At the same time, if God decided otherwise, then nobody would be able to stop him. Three, he said that the Ikeoha political family would nevertheless make the necessary sacrifices to ensure that the Enugu PDP went into the 2015 election united if it eventually had the upper hand.
To underscore his firm belief that power comes from above, he thereafter kick-started his reelection bid with visits to major churches in the state to seek the face of God. Those who still remember would readily agree that the events that followed were nothing short of miracles. The rest is history.
Although there were immense pressures on him by many of his supporters and associates to take total control and also ensure that some persons from particularly his senatorial district used to fight him did not get PDP ticket, Ekweremadu maintained that since an understanding had been reached to forgive, he would not be a party to forgiving some, while nailing others on political cross. That is the kind of heart he has.
Indeed, besides special grace, Ekweremaduâ€™s kind of heart is one reason Heavens always intervenes and wrought for him political feats, which his return as Senator and most unimaginably, Deputy President of the Senate against all odds represent.
Importantly, Ekweremaduâ€™s brand of politics, as captured by the Anglican Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Emmanuel Chukwuma, during the Senatorâ€™s family thanksgiving at Mpu in December 2015, is one driven by national interest and loyalty to constituted authorities. That national interest underlines his continued clamour for true federalism, genuinely convinced that it is the surest route to a united and prosperous Nigeria.
The Bishop said: â€œEkweremadu is not a threat to anybody. I want to say to Mr. President (Buhari), there is no need to fear him. Ekweremadu will neither say you are PDP nor that you are APC. He does not discriminate against any religion. He is not tribalistic. He is a perfect gentleman who has a heart to serveâ€.
Instructively, although Senator Saraki who later spoke at a civic reception organised for Ekweremadu by his kinsmen the same day was not at the church service, his testimony (used as opening quote above), collaborated Bishop Chukwumaâ€™s statement. And according to the holy book, by the testimony of two, the truth is established.
Born May 12, 1962 in the rural community of Mpu, Aninri LGA, Ekweremadu is a living testimony that good things can come out of Nazareth.
Happy birthday my master, brother, mentor, kindhearted leader, and the calm river that wears off the mighty rock.
Anichukwu is Special Adviser (Media) to Deputy President of the Senate