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Speaking the “truth”: From Mantu to Ayogu Eze

By Emmanuel  Aziken

The practice of appointing spokesmen for the Senate can be traced back to the very first Senate of the fourth republic. In appointing spokesmen the various leaderships have with the notable exception of the Adolphus Wabara Senate picked from among their kitchen cabinets.

The very first spokesman was the loquacious Senator Ibrahim Mantu who as chairman of the Senate committee on Information in the Enwerem Senate doubled as the official voice of the Senate.

Mantu was succeeded by the equally effusive and politically dexterous Senator Jonathan Zwingina. A former academic, Senator Zwingina probably brought an intellectual dimension to the art of political exploration. Zwingina was succeeded by Senator Tawar Wada the lankily framed and generous lawyer from Gombe South. Even though almost as gifted in oratory as his predecessors, Wada coming just after Zwingina was a letdown in the practice of political gimmickry.

Wada in the opinion of almost all journalists was not cut out for the job of Senate spokesman as others before him. Where his predecessors could paint white as black without a flinch, Wada confronted with the truth on issues would look at the camera and betray himself with a dispossessing smile! Wada’s seeming sincerity was, however, not acceptable to his colleagues. The Adolphus Wabara leadership in no time replaced him with Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN).

Even though a learned man as lawyers describe themselves, Ndoma-Egba’s humble disposition and rejection of the razzmatazz of the Zwingina style won over many Senate correspondents. Ndoma-Egba would tell you the truth in very innocuous ways that removed every possibility of harm.

Like Zwingina before him, Ndoma-Egba after his first term became the Senate Deputy Majority Leader and as such dropped the information portfolio.

His successor is Senator Ayogu Eze, a former journalist who practiced long ago in The Guardian. Now completely consumed in the language and artistry of politicians after eight years of extreme politics under former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani in Enugu State, Senator Eze has become a notable politician deftly involved in directing the underlining currents and intrigues that characterize the David Mark Senate.

Among all the Senate spokesmen of the fourth republic only Zwingina could be said to have been closer to the leadership of his time than Senator Eze.

Eze’s initial access to the leadership was through Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the deputy Senate President. But today, he has developed his own mechanism over time in serving the purposes of the Mark leadership.

But to what extent he serves the desires of the leadership and the Senate indeed came into question this week after he reiterated his assertion of the week before that politicians were not as corrupt as imagined by the general public.

At a press briefing this past Tuesday, a reporter yet to recover from Eze’s assertion confronted him as to what would have propelled his assertion that bankers were more corrupt than politicians.

Easily undermining his claim was the conviction for corruption handed out to the erstwhile national deputy chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George.

Maintaining his stand, Eze asserted that the allegations raised against George were not reflective of the political class even as he maintained that the judgment should not be seen as conclusive.

“You cannot say that the character of one individual is the character of the party,’’ he said.

There were reasons for congratulations this week. The President of the Senate alongside members of his delegation to The Sudan survived an air emergency over Chadian airspace last Monday when the Sudanese authorities turned away their plane from landing at the Khartoum Airport.

Among those on board was Senator Chris Anyanwu who survived to witness her 58th birthday. Mrs. Anyanwu had in the past survived the deep lethal hostility of the Abacha junta which caused her imprisonment for more than three years for accessory after one of the the fabricated plots against it.

Mrs. Anyanwu’s place in media history is etched among others in her uniqueness as the only journalist to have seamlessly crossed over from the drudgery of being a Senate correspondent to the comfort and style of a Distinguished Senator.

As a reporter with NTA in the early eighties she was credited with the concept of the long running news programme, Newsline. Now as Senator representing Imo East she has in two years given voice to a constituency that was until recently largely unheard from.

The sometimes coy or reserved woman has done that with charming grace and sense of purposefulness!


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