By Zacheaus Adebayo
Without knowing it, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has virtually made a super human out of this man called Senator Ike Ekweremadu. It is not because he defied all odds to become the Deputy Senate President in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), much as it is a display of cross-party acceptance and political sagacity. It is mainly because it appears to me that there is an entrenched guiding paranoid as far as this government is concerned- the fear of Dr. Bukola Saraki and Ekweremadu is the beginning of wisdom.
It appears that whenever Ekweremadu sneezes, the ruling party catches cold. They have tied all manner of milestones around his neck. But, like a typical cat with nine lives, the Enugu-borne lawmaker, lawyer, author, and Professor has so far refused to drown. The same goes for the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
This sense of insecurity sold to or engrained in the presidency is largely responsible for the intractable executive-legislative face-off. And just when the hope of a new executive-legislature rapprochement appears on the horizon, following the recent meeting between the two arms at the Aso Villa, the FG filed a Motion Ex-Parte for forfeiture of assets allegedly not declared by Senator Ekweremadu.
The Senator has, however, insisted that he declared all his assets. He accused the Okoi Obono-Obla-led Special Presidential Panel on the Recovery of Public Property of relying on petitions by the dismissed former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezulike of the Chicken Impeachment infamy. Ekweremadu had earlier accused Umezulike of stealing, and doctoring his will in connivance with some politicians, inserting imaginary properties. He accused the panel of refusal to undertake a “thorough and independent investigation” because it was more out on a smear campaign spurred by the politics of 2019.
Without prejudice to the responsibility of the FG to fight corruption, there is something that is called common sense and public perception. One, the petitions by Umezulike (whatever the petitions by an ex-Chief Judge disgraced out of office by the National Judicial Council for corruption and is standing trials in two courts is worth), were written in 2016. Why did the FG have to wait till now that the politics of 2019 is already heating up? How come a government, which sees anti-corruption as a priority couldn’t conclude an independent investigation (as admitted by the FG admitted), thus resorting to Motion Ex-parte? Why did the current move have to come just on the heels of Ekweremadu’s recent unsparing criticism of the executive excesses by the FG and some APC states like Kogi, Kaduna, Kano, etc., which he warned could truncate our democracy?
Furthermore, although not a fan of the PDP, I agree with the posers it raised on the current travails of Ekweremadu. Why rush to court when FG admitted it was yet to complete investigation, whereas functionaries of the government indicted by the National Assembly and even panels constituted by the president himself or his ministers are yet to be prosecuted? PDP cited the examples of the former Secretary to the Government, Babachir Lawal, Ikoyigate scandal, and those responsible for the reinstatement and double promotion of Abdulrasheed Maina.
I agree with the PDP that “Now that the FG has gleefully inundated the public with the imaginary assets of the Deputy Senate president, it should now also publish the full assets of the President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo, and its Ministers and Governors, who have all failed to make public their assets as promised during the 2015 election”. It is called coming to equity with clean hands.
I also wonder whether it is auspicious at a time efforts are on to smoothen the rough relations between the two arms, which has stalled a lot of things, such as the budget, presidential nominees, etc. It could be viewed as further effort by the executive to intimidate and undermine the legislature. The House has already passed a resolution to probe the legality and operations of the Obono-Obla-Presidential Panel. It argued that the Obono-Obla panel arrogated to itself the constitutional responsibilities of the Code of Conduct Bureau. Ekweremadu severally referred to the panel as “so-called panel” in his reaction to the forfeiture suit too.
Meanwhile, it suffices to add that Ekweremadu’s travails can best be understood against the backdrop of the emergence of the leadership of the 8th National Assembly. Rebuking APC Senators over to Ekweremadu’s emergence, APC’s spokesman at the time, Lai Mohammed, said “There can be no higher level of treachery, disloyalty and insincerity within any party”.
The party also insisted: “Senator Bukola and Hon. Dogara are not the candidates of the APC and a majority of its National Assembly members-elect for the positions of Senate President and House Speaker…. The party is supreme and its interest is superior to that of its individual members”.
Obviously, the party failed to consider Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution and the multi-party nature of the National Assembly. It assummed an absolute and divine right to handpick the leadership of the legislature. The party also forgot the role it played in opposition to thwart the emergence of Hon. Adeola Akande (South West) as Speaker and ensure the emergence of Hon. Aminu Tambuwal (North West) against PDP’s zoning arrangement.
Its position on Ekweremadu is also soaked in duplicity when some pre-2015 events are replayed. On the 29th October 2014 when Tambuwal defected to the APC, retaining the speakership, Lai Mohammed said: “I must say that this historic development means that our democracy is growing by the day and it is dynamic…. We think that having the head of the legislature from the opposition party makes for a balanced setting in government and it’s good for democracy” Muhammadu Buhari said, “We will like to thank Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal for what he did yesterday. We were overwhelmed”.
But the same Mohammed told Channels TV on Ekweremadu: “If you understand how the National Assembly works and the kind of power the leadership has, you will understand the danger of what happened yesterday. For instance today, we can no longer talk about having leadership caucus in the National Assembly today because the leadership is made up of both the PDP and the APC”. Dr. Chris Ngige, then an aspirant to the Office of the SGF, said the APC had many ways of killing a rat.
Ever since, there has been no respite for Ekweremadu. On 17th November 2015, the nation was shocked to hear about a failed attempt on Ekweremadu’s life in Abuja, although he never accused the APC, anyway. He recently alleged that the security agencies were yet to investigate the matter despite his full reports to them.
On 27th June 2016, he was arraigned alongside Saraki over alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rule. Curiously, the police report (itself a subject of litigation), which the FG relied on, neither mentioned, let alone indict Ekweremadu or his boss. The same government eventually withdrew the charges in October 2016 because it was a road to nowhere.
On 27th May 2017, the Inspector-General of Police’s Special Squad raided Ekweremadu’s official guesthouse in Abuja. The police initially denied it, but eventually admitted it and blamed whistleblowers. To save face, one Ahmed Echoda was docked for “wrong information”. He was granted bail at the next hearing; end of Act one, scene three.
So, who would blame many Nigerians, who have described the current assets palaver as a continuation of an endless, absurd drama or another trick from the magician’s bag? But, the question remains: Is a man whose house is on fire supposed to be chasing after rats?
Adebayo, a political analyst, writes from Ibadan