All through history, there has been the endless contention as to whether great men and leaders are born or made.
There is a general belief among Africans, for instance, that a man’s life is preordained and ruled by the gods. This belief finds expression in so many proverbs, folklores and names in Igbo land.
For example, it is said that a man whose Chi (personal god) is awake does not fall into a pit and that one in good terms with his Chi does not run after witch doctors. It is further said that a man who decides to lead or run faster than his Chi ends up in misfortune. In addition, prefixes/suffices like Chi, Chukwu, Nna, Olisa dominate Igbo names.
Yet, in affirmation of the Biblical parable of the talent, Igbos acknowledge that God is not a Santa Claus, hence the saying “Onye kwe, Chi ya ekwe”. Transliterated, it means that if a man says yes, his Chi also says yes and vice versa. Men walk their In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, for example, Unoka, the loafer father of Okonkwo, typifies the abundant instances of men who never said “Yes” in form of determined efforts to make success out of life. Unoka clears the farmland when others are already planting, preferring instead to flute away his time. Expectedly, he pines away in penury and debt, without a single traditional title to his name or a place of honour among real men in Umuofia. He dies a man whom Okonkwo is so pathologically resentful and ashamed of as his father.
Conversely, like the great men of Umuofia, Senator Ike Ekweremadu whose cap is already drooping with feathers of titles and accomplishments, is not just a man on a rendezvous with destiny, but even more importantly a man with the recipe of a perfect cocktail of destiny, determination, vision, and industry in perfect proportions.
For instance, one of his relatives, Esther Ekweremadu, narrated how Ike Ekweremadu as a little boy would, with a chalk, write “Barrister Ike Ekweremadu” on their entrance door. The secret of his meteoric rise to power and influence lies in the fact that each time destiny leads opportunity (even if disguised in humble responsibilities) to his door, it has always found in Ekweremadu a willing and well prepared partner.
Not many who know Ekweremadu today as Deputy President of Senate and Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament remember his humble beginning as an age grade leader at a very young age. He did so well that he eventually progressed to become the town union President of his Mpu community.
Those who know the place of age grades and town unions in socio-political development in the South East would readily understand how much these experiences must have prepared him for his leadership positions today.
His growth from the ranks also showed so much in his presentations and great inputs towards the actualization of Aninri Local Government Area such that the elders of the new Local Government approached him to take up the challenge of putting the new entity on a sound footing as its pioneer elected Chairman in 1997. Though his tenure in that position was short-lived by the sudden collapse of Abacha’s transition programme, Ekweremadu’s achievements remain unbeaten. He put in place a brand new Local Government Secretariat in record time even with a monthly allocation of less than N2 million!
Given the superlative performance, one would have thought he should naturally have had an easy ride back to Office as Chairman during General Abdulsami’s transition programme. But that was not to be as he was blocked by an unprecedented electoral violence that nearly cost him his life.
Not given to ‘Do or die” politics, he had almost quit the political scene. But the disappointment too proved to be a design of destiny to put him on the right track. When approached by Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, he accepted to run his campaign organisation and was appointed Chief-of-Staff at the Government House in 1999 following their electoral victory. Again, Senator Ekweremadu distinguished himself so well that he was elevated to the Secretary to the Government in 2001 where he also brought his tremendous administrative, managerial, and technical depth to bear on that engine room of government before progressing to the Senate in 2003.
However, it does appear that the Senate was all Ekweremadu’s leadership qualities and experiences needed to blossom fully. His achievements have attracted accolades among his colleagues, constituents, Nigerian media and public. For instance, at the conferment of the Landmark Achievement on Constitution Amendment Award on Ekweremadu by the NUJ, the Senate President, Senator David Mark had this to say about him: “I worked very closely with Senator Ike Ekweremadu from 2003 when he first came into the Senate and I recognize him as a very brilliant young man; he was a Committee Chairman on and off, but he was never discouraged even when he was not in a very important Committee or when it appears as if he was not being given a chance, he still maintained that calmness; a very courageous person, anytime he spoke on the floor of the Senate, it was obvious he was very conversant with the rules and was a very knowledgeable, articulate and erudite speaker.”
Senator Mark was not flattering him, for in that 6th Senate alone, Ekweremadu not only spearheaded the breaking of the jinx of constitution amendment and the consequent electoral reforms, he had 5 Private Member Bills to his credit, with the State of the Nation Address Bill and the River Basins (Amendment) Bills passed. He also co-sponsored 7 Private Member Bills. He sponsored 5 Motions and co-sponsored 2 others.
A former Associate Lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he had earlier bagged Bachelor of Laws and Master of Laws Degrees, Senator Ekweremadu was able to squeeze out time to deliver over 11 public lectures in and outside Nigeria on themes of democracy, governance, and the economy, etc. Senator Zainab Kure summed up his pedigree in the Senate while nominating him as the Deputy President of the present Senate in June 2011. She described him as a “lawmaker’s lawmaker…who has proved himself cerebral, hard working, result-driven, a man of integrity, a pan Nigerian and patriot of unequaled measures”.
It is imperative to note that despite his preoccupation with national governance, it is also on record that his development strides in his immediate constituency as well as Enugu State and indeed the South East in terms of federal projects and personal efforts on the platform of the Ikeoha Foundation have become reference points in quality representation.
Add these to the vibrant leadership he is already unleashing as the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, bringing it to the limelight and working assiduously towards the enhancement of its powers, then one can only conclude that at 50, Distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu truly has the golden touch.
Uche Anichukwu, Special Adviser (Media) to Deputy President of Senate