By Austin Okolie

The name Senator Ike Ekweremadu needs no introduction in the Nigerian political firmament – former chairman of his community’s age grade association at the young age of 10, former President-General of his community’s (Mpu) town union, pioneer elected chairman of Aninri Local Government Area, first ever Chief of Staff to a governor in Nigeria, former Secretary to Enugu State Government, five-term Senator, three-term Deputy President of the Senate (including as an opposition), former Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, and the list goes on.

A compendium of projects facilitated by Ekweremadu as Senator, published by an online news portal literally broke the internet. Running into thousands, the projects/interventions clearly stand him out among his peers across the country.

But apart from projects attracted, thousands of scholarships and bursary awards, Ekweremadu has been instrumental in the making of a good number of political office holders, including governors. As I wrote several weeks ago, even when the highest office in the land wanted Senator Ayogu Eze delivered at the PDP primary in 2014, it took Ekweremadu’s intervention to ensure that Ugwuanyi clinched the PDP gubernatorial ticket to emerge governor in 2015. And the struggle continued up to the Supreme Court. The rest is history.

Today, the erudite professor wants to be governor himself to apply the wealth of experience, local and global contacts gained over the years to the service of his native state, and all the chained demons appear let loose from hell.

While Ekweremadu’s popularity continues to soar, as his enthusiasts, supporters, and objective people see an Ekweremadu governorship as the best news to Enugu State and Igboland at this time, the naysayers, elite conspirators, and their radilcaised anti-Ekweremadu’s lynch mob, believe an outright intimidation and disqualification of the Senator from the governorship contest is the only solution.

First, they embarked on publications and multi-million naira zonal rallies to advocate the zoning of power to Enugu East Senatorial zone in 2023. When the lie that our founding fathers laid the foundation for the zoning arrangement couldn’t fly, as they couldn’t tell Nigerians when, where, and which elders met to agree on the zoning order, they switched to the fallacious claims that Enugu PDP Caucus in 2013 zoned the governorship to Enugu North and Enugu East in 2015, and 2023, respectively. But it took them nearly two years to come up with forged minutes of meeting. Their minds did not tell them that even if the oven-baked document were authentic, no portion of PDP constitution authorises state or national caucus of the party to zone offices. The ridiculousness of claiming that Agbaja brothers alone moved, amended, seconded, and presided over a zoning decision supposedly binding on a multi-clan state like Enugu did not occur to them. Neither did the stupidity of claiming that they suddenly “zoned” the governorship seat to Enugu North in 2013 when Enugu East and North already tasted the governorship seat occur to them.

To their shame, former Governor Sullivan Chime, the man they claimed presided over the meeting, have come out for the umpteenth time to state that there is no formal zoning arrangement/agreement in Enugu State. Chime’s stand further validated my piece entitled “No Zoning Arrangement in Enugu”. I urge all truth-seekers to Google-up and read it.

Meanwhile, shocked to their marrows that all their propaganda emboldened rather than cow Ekweremadu, as he declared for governorship race on March 11, 2022, they filed a frivolous lawsuit at the State High Court to stop him vide a midnight injunction. In the suit marked E/254/2022, the Applicant, Chief Oforma Mbannaji from Nike, wanted Ekweremadu stopped based on a zoning agreement supposedly reached at an “expanded Caucus” meeting of the Enugu PDP in 2013.

But in their desperation, they forgot that no court would stoop so low as to grant such deny a Nigerian his constitutionally guaranteed right to vote and be voted for. They equally forgot that it is no longer business as usual as the Electoral Act 2022 had expressly precluded State High Courts from having anything to do with state and federal elections. Besides, there is no organ like “Expanded Caucus” in PDP constitution. Therefore, when the Ikeoha Campaign Organisation brought their foolhardiness to their notice and the knowledge of the world, they ran to the courts to quickly withdraw the lawsuit, tail in-between their legs.

Today, the State House of Assembly, Local Government Council Chairmen, Town Unions, and the Enugu State Council of Traditional Rulers, etc. have all been needlessly dragged into induced and compelled issuing of communiqués upholding an inexistent zoning arrangement all in the bid to stop Ekweremadu. Those who resisted have been threatened and or sanctioned.

Recall that majority of the royal fathers protested the unauthorised communiqué endorsing zoning, which their Chairman, HRH Igwe Lawrence Agubuzu, issued in their names despite the uproar and rejection of the proposal during their meeting. Chairmen of the Traditional Rulers Councils in some local governments have consequently been replaced and membership of the Enugu State Council of Traditional Rulers consequently adjusted. Monthly allowances of Chairmen of the body of Presidents-General of town unions at local government level, who refused to sign a prepared communiqué they brought to their state meeting, have had their suspended.

Last March, the Ikeoha Campaign Organisation alleged the intimidation of Ekweremadu’s supporters by agents of state, including the present detention in prison of Paulinus Ugwu, the PDP Ward Chairman for Okpatu; the detention and subsequent charge to court for baseless offences of Joshua Ogbonna, Francis Akpa, and Obi Mamah, using the late Deputy Inspector General of Police, Joseph Egbunike; ostracisation of Barrister Emeka Asogwa, Engr. Armstrong Agbo, and Chief Charles Mbah for their association with and commitment to Ekweremadu; nocturnal meetings and alleged fetish practices against Ekweremadu; and the appointment of known deadly thugs and cultists into state and local government offices all aimed at intimidating and stopping Ekweremadu.

Those who saw these as possibly some politically motivated allegations were shocked to read about the attack on Ekweremadu’s supporters and associates during the last monthly meeting of the Aninri LGA chapter of the PDP, which led to life-threatening injuries and hospitalisation of many, including Hon. Chinedu Okwuß, who is the Member representing Ekweremadu’s Aninri State constituency in the House of Assembly. Gory pictures and videos of the attack, which trended on the social media showed these men in pools of their own blood with broken heads and horrible machete cuts. But rather than bring the culprit to book; rather than have the security agencies question the Council Chairman, Bennete Ajah and the local government party chairman, all the government did was to invite Ekweremadu’s men to the governors office to embrace those that allegedly attempted to kill them.

This then raises the question: Who is afraid of Ekweremadu? Easy. Some are misguided folks, especially from Enugu East, think Ekweremadu has come to disrupt a purported zoning arrangement to take their “birth right”. Some believe he wouldn’t be anybody’s godson. To some, he has overstayed in the public office, and therefore should retire into oblivion. Ironically, it is okay by them if someone, who has done 12 years in the House of Representatives, finishes eight years as governor by 2023, and returns to the National Assembly as Senator. Or if someone, who had done eight years as governor, doing eight years as Senator, returns to Senate in 2023. Hypocrisy.

Closely related to this group is the clan of the envious, who feel diminished by Ikeoha Phenomenon and accomplishments as a lawmaker and feel they would be eclipsed from Enugu’s book of remembrance by his accomplishments should he lay his hands on executive powers. They don’t care what promises an Ekweremadu administration holds for Enugu. As far as they are concerned, if Ekweremadu is the door to paradise, they would rather perish in hellfire.

So, apparently, the anti-Ekweremadu gang-up isn’t driven by altruism or common good. None of them have accused him of ineptitude, bad record of service or poor performance. On the contrary, they attest to his experience, competence, worldview, outreach, and global contacts. Yet, as far as they are concerned, he nothing short of stopping him would make them happy.

But Ekweremadu is not new to such machinations. He has seen, endured, and overcome all manners of political treachery, but God had seen him through it all. Somehow, he always emerged victorious. Surely, 2023 wont be an exception because the voice of the people is the voice of the gods.

My exhortation to those opposed to Ekweremadu’s governorship ambition is to seek and obtain the policy document and the implementation strategies he has fashioned creatively to chart a “Pathway to a New Enugu State”, which is trending and resonating in political and social spaces in Enugu and beyond.

If they are still not satisfied, they should either obtain forms to contest the primary election, unveil their own policy documents to avail the electorates and other citizens the opportunity to interrogate and comparatively analyse what each aspirant has to offer or throw their support behind their preferred aspirant. But by all means, let all eschew the path of violence, exclusion, and intimidation.

Dr. Okolie is a Senior Lecturer, Senior Research Fellow, and Former State Director, National Orientation Agency, Enugu State

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