The contentious issue of national security received the attention of the eighth senate under the leadership of Dr. Bukola Saraki as Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu hinted of plans to quit the red chamber in 2023, reports Deji Elumoye
At the inception of the Eighth National Assembly in June, 2015, the escalating incidence of insecurity across the country was the order of the day. The upper chamber of the National Assembly moved swiftly to intervene with a view to ensuring that necessary moves were made towards guaranteeing the security of an average Nigerian.
The Senate engaged the heads of military and para-military agencies in the country on how to ensure that adequate security was provided in all the nooks and crannies of the nation.
With the commitment shown by the Senate in tackling the nation’s insecurity challenge, the Police High Command until recently appeared not bothered about the issue. It is on record that the immediate past Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, for three solid years refused to honour the invitation of both the Senate and House of Representatives to shed some light on the challenges facing the Police with a view to assisting accordingly.
But Idris’ successor, Mohammed Adamu, moved swiftly to address the situation. In less than six months in office, Adamu not only paid a courtesy call on Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, he also appeared before the Senate at plenary to canvass for more legislative support for the Police to solve the myriad of security problems across the country.
The Acting Inspector General of Police, while appearing before the Senate alluded to the fact that Nigeria was under-policed, adding that the federal government had approved the recruitment of 10,000 additional policemen this year.
The Senate, on its part, passed both the Police Trust Fund Bill and Police Reform Bill to enable the Police carry out its statutory functions.
The Senate had in February, 2018 convoked a National Summit on National Security aimed at intervening in the escalating insecurity in the country. The Summit provided a platform for service chiefs and heads of par-military organisations to make submissions to the National Assembly.
The Summit came up with 20 recommendations to the Executive on the strategies to boost national security. The recommendations practically boiled down to adequate funding of the security forces by the Executive. Over a year after the Summit, the security agencies are still being underfunded and the security agencies keep complaining of insufficient funding. The Executive might need to revisit the recommendations of the Security Summit with a view to implementing them to the letter.
Saraki’s Deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who is also passionate about the nation’s security and sponsor of state police bill before the Senate, has however hinted of plan to quit the Senate in 2023, when he would have served for 20 years in the upper legislative chamber.
Ekweremadu shocked his constituents and the Nigerian polity, when he publicly announced at his 57th birthday celebration in Enugu last Sunday that he would no longer seek re-election as Senator representing Enugu West Senatorial District at the end of the 9th Senate in 2023.
The Senate number two man recalled how he became the Chairman of his age grade association at age 10, and served as President-General of Mpu Town Union, pioneer elected Chairman of Aninri LGA, Chief of Staff of Enugu Government House, Secretary to Enugu State Government, fourth term Senator, third term Deputy President of the Senate, and the first Nigerian Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament. He confessed that god had been kind to him, even as he expressed happiness over the developments his representation had brought to his people.
“My life and political odyssey are products of divine grace, working through destiny helpers like you, for I know where I am coming from. I also know how far the Almighty God has brought me.
“I have also looked back on the last 16 years, which I have represented Enugu West as their Senator and I can only thank God for our accomplishments. I have tried to count our blessings. I have tried to name them one by one. I must confess that I am truly surprised at what the Lord has done for us. Our road infrastructure has improved remarkably. The Awka-Ugwuoba-Oji River-Nachi-Udi-9th Mile-Abor-Ukehe-Opi Road, which is our latest intervention in this regard, has just been awarded.
“We have made progress in electricity and water supply to our various communities. We have built, rebuilt, and we are still building and rebuilding schools, churches, health and civic centres, among others. Our human capital development projects are on the upward trajectory. We have assisted several of our young people with employment in public service. Through the Ikeoha Foundation, we have supported 3,843 undergraduates with bursary awards, 87 with full scholarship, while over 12,155 women and youth have received basic education courtesy of Ikeoha Foundation Adult Literacy Programme”, he told his people.
Despite the achievements, however, Ekweremadu said it was time to call it quits with the Senate come 2023.
His words: “However, my dear brothers and sisters, you must admit that no matter how melodious a song may be it will definitely have an end. Therefore, as I thank you for these 16 memorable and splendid years as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; as I thank my distinguished colleagues for honouring me as the Deputy President of the Senate for three consecutive times; as we recall the accomplishments of the projects of my representation in the last 16 years; as I acknowledge your kindness in keeping me in the Senate for these 16 years; and as I prepare to further represent you by your mandate for the next four years, let me seek your understanding and indulgence to now announce that this will be my last term as your Senator.
“As we get set for the 9th Senate, be assured that I will focus on the completion of all ongoing projects we attracted and ensure that communities that are yet to benefit from our vision in infrastructure adequately benefit.
“I will work with other patriotic Nigerians within and outside the National Assembly and across party, ethnic, and religious lines to address issues of disunity, insecurity, and poverty currently threatening our nation. I believe that together we can pioneer a new order characterised by peace, justice, unity, prosperity, egalitarianism, and boundless opportunities for all”.
The ranking Senator was quick to add that it had not been an easy ride, stressing that God and the goodwill of his constituents and well-meaning Nigerians had seen him through “the evil intensions of wicked souls in high and low places of our society”.
Ekweremadu had faced a turbulent tenure in the last four years that included two assassination attempts, arraignment alongside the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki in June 2016 over alleged forgery of Senate Rules, a crime he vehemently denied even and which charges the Federal Government eventually withdrew following national outcry. He also had a running battle with security and anti-corruption agencies, which he has variously slammed as sheer political persecution.
“We are assembled here today to mark the awesomeness of God in my life and to thank you all for standing by me over yet another year of trauma in my politics, including the attempt on my life and lives of my family members, the assault on my liberty, and all the evil designs of the evil people in our society against my person and politics.
“I have been through the valleys of the shadow of death. I have been scorched and bruised for my political beliefs and determination to defend the principles of democracy and uphold justice for every segment of this nation,” Ekweremadu told his constituents.
Despite his political battles, Ekweremadu is highly respected among his colleagues across party line.
Those who don’t like him for his political party like him for his unarguable brilliance. Those who don’t like his brilliance like him for his detriblised nature.
While nominating him for a second term as Deputy Senate President in the 7th Senate (2011), Senator Zainab Kure described Ekweremadu as a lawmaker’s lawmaker and a legislative wizkid. His boss, Dr. Saraki, has also variously described him as the brainbox of the Senate, an assertion also affirmed by Senator Dino Melaye, who recently described Ekweremadu as “the intellectual bank of the Senate” in a tribute to the Senator on his 57th birthday.
“Senator Ike Ekweremadu has been a very loyal and committed Deputy President of the Senate. He has excelled in filling the gaps. Whenever there was need for him to come in and preside, all of us in the 6th and 7th Senate and in fact, in this current senate, had to look for our helmets because definitely, skills and speed will come into play”, said Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, while paying tribute to the Senator at plenary on his 56th birthday last year.
Lawan went ahead to urge Ekweremadu to crossover to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as the party was in dire need of his type in the South-east and national politics.
Instructively, Ekweremadu is one of the few lawmakers, who have not changed political party since the inception of the current democratic dispensation and those, who may not like him for any other thing might as well like him for his principled style of politics and his courage.
“We will stand by our democracy. We will defend our democracy. We are going to stand together to ensure that we continue with the assignment Nigerians gave us to represent them. We will go through everything on our order paper for today, even if it takes us till 6 o’clock today. We will conclude everything here because that is what we are being paid to do”, a defiant Ekweremadu, who presided on the day armed hoodlums invaded the Senate and carted away the mace told an awed nation.
Ekweremadu has chaired the Senate Committee on Constitution Review for 12 out of the 16 years that he has served as Senator and it was in his first term as the pilot of that Committee that the jinx of amending the 1999 constitution was broken in 2010.
The amendments led to the financial and administrative autonomy for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the National Assembly as well as wide-ranging electoral reforms, including the timeframe for disposal of election petitions, increased timeline for the conduct of election, reduction in the number of judges on Election Petition, abrogation of the disqualification of candidates by Administrative Panels.
The amendments in the current National Assembly brought about reduction in the age requirement for the presidency and other political offices; timeframe for the determination of pre-election matters, financial autonomy for state legislatures and judiciaries, among others.
The Enugu-born Senator has sponsored some good motions including the one entitled “Absence of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, which triggered a chain of legislative interventions that steered the nation away from palpable constitutional crisis in 2010. In fact, the former Minister of FCT, Bala Mohammed, once described him as the author of the Doctrine of Necessity.
He also has several Bills to his name, including the Constitution Alteration Bill for the Establishment of State Police Bill, Presidential Inauguration Bill, Federal Polytechnic Mpu Establishment Bill, State of the Nation Address Bill, among a retinue of others.
Ekweremadu, who holds both Bachelor of Laws and Master of Laws degrees from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN and a Ph.D in Law, University of Abuja with a thesis on fiscal federalism, was appointed Professor and Mentoring Scholar of E-Governance and Strategic Government Studies, by Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA in 2018.
He has put his experience in public service in books. He is the author of the book “Who Will Love My Country: Ideas for Building a Nigeria of Our Dreams” and lead author of the book “Constitutional Review in an Emerging Democracy: The Nigerian Experience”.
He has delivered over 25 public lectures, mainly on the subjects of good governance, constitution making, and the principles of federalism at both local and international fora such as the Osgood Hall Law School, York University, Ontario, Canada; Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, USA; Parliament of the United Kingdom as well as several Commonwealth and ECOWAS fora.
He has also spearheaded the actualisation of some landmark infrastructure for the South-east such as the naming and upgrade of the Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu to an international airport.
For a man believed to have done so well for his people and country, it is not surprising that his decision not to run for Senate again has elicited protests by his constituents.
Responding to Ekweremadu at the event, the President, Enugu West Peoples Parliament, Hon. Paul Anikwe, told the lawmaker that it was not a decision for him alone as they contributed money to procure his nomination form and co-sponsor his re-election in the last general election.
Also, at 57, age is obviously still on his side. Would he retire from politics entirely or he is eyeing other political offices? What is his next move like? Only time will tell.