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Canny and crafty deputies

By Emmanuel Aziken
The collaboration between Senate Presidents and their deputies in the fourth republic has until the Mark – Ekweremadu dispensation been a cat and mouse affair.

Senators Evan Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo Anyim Pius Anyim, Adolphus Wabara and Ken Nnamani in their days as presiding officers of the Senate had many reasons to be suspicious of their deputies.

The basis for suspicion was cemented on the fact that Senator Ibrahim Mantu and the late Senator Haruna Abubakar who were the only two deputies in the period between 1999 and 2007 at one time or the other played decisive roles in the removal of their bosses.

Senator Abubakar was a pillar behind Okadigbo up till about June 2000 when the pro-impeachment Senators reportedly “blackmailed” Abubakar using his records at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to hound him.

Haruna Abubakar had before his entry to the Senate headed a subsidiary of the NNPC that was responsible for fuel imports including the toxic fuel imports during the Sani Abacha regime.

In those interesting days of the Okadigbo era it was alleged that the most decisive factor in the removal of Okadigbo was the late Senator Haruna Abubakar who changed camp to join the anti-Okadigbo forces. Abubakar alongside some other principal officers of the Okadigbo Senate caused a tremor in the Okadigbo camp when they resigned as a way of forcing the recalcitrant Okadigbo to resign.

Senator Abubakar it was alleged had agreed with his new friends in the anti-Okadgibo camp that he would re-contest for the office of Deputy Senate President after Okadigbo had been removed.

However, the anti-Okadigbo forces did not keep to their own part of the bargain as they threw up Senator Ibrahim Mantu to replace him.

Once Mantu settled in he quietly built up a new political profile becoming one of the most powerful Senators in his time. Mantu served as deputy Senate President to Senators Anyim who succeeded Okadigbo and as deputy to Wabara and Nnamani.

It was a love-sour relationship at different times between Mantu and the three Senate Presidents he served as deputy to. They at all times had to watch their backs especially after Mantu transformed from an Obasanjo hater into the country’s most vocal praise-singer of Obasanjo’s good deeds.

More than six years after the Anyim–Mantu leadership slipped into history, Senate correspondents last Wednesday watched with some glee seeing the duo pay a visit to the National Assembly.

Anyim was at the head of a 41 man delegation of eminent statesmen who visited the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark in respect of the constitutional crisis sparked by the continued absence of President Yar‘Adua from the country.

It was refreshing seeing the duo of Anyim and Mantu and it meant that not too much bad blood passed between them while they were on the saddle.

Remarkably, many would imagine the circumstances under which some other Senate Presidents and their deputies would have related.

Of particular interest would have been Okadigbo and Haruna Abubakar.
The relationship between Senator David Mark and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu is, however, of a different sort.
Mark and Ekweremadu are the first to have been elected as Senate President and deputy Senate President on a joint ticket. All other occupants of the two offices had been elected in individual capacities.

The bond of cordiality between Mark and Ekweremadu is cited as one reason why insurgents have found it difficult to cause a stir in the stability of the Senate since 2007.

It was indeed alleged that few days to the leadership election in June 2007 that the Senator George Akume camp approached Ekweremadu with a tempting offer of millions to dump Mark and join the Akume camp with the offer of serving as deputy to Akume.

Ekweremadu was reported to have rejected the offer, hanging on to Mark. It is thus not far fetched that if the duo were able to weather the onslaught before they advanced to power that they are able to ward off the fiery darts that are coming towards them on account of the Yar‘Adua problem.

Indeed, the Yar‘Adua problem again returned to centre stage in the Senate last Tuesday as the Senate leadership buckled from its earlier stance of sidestepping issues relating with the ill-health of President Yar‘Adua.

Senator Mark had last week suppressed the agitation by a group of Senators styled as the National Interest Group (NIG) for a motion to urge President Yar‘Adua to handover to his deputy, Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan.

Senator Mark’s brush aside of the motion by the Senators, however, did not stop the agitation of the Senators who met severally to plot their strategies to achieve their aims.

It was thus remarkable that Senator Mark apparently seeing the handwriting on the wall reversed himself on the Yar‘Adua issue and gave vent to the agitating Senators.

It was the first time that Senator Mark would buckle under pressure!


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