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Ekweremadu In Eye Of The Storm

Posted: Jul 11, 2015 at 1:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Temidayo Akinsuyi  –  Lagos

 

The argument over whether Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, should resign from his position has continued to dominate the political space for some time and is unlikely to go away soon. Ekweremadu who was re- elected as senator on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is battling hard to weather the storm generated by his emergence as the number two man in a Senate dominated by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).  And it is not certain whether the Enugu-born lawmaker will easily emerge victorious given the latest allegations of fraud that has been leveled against him consequent upon which he was invited for questioning by the police authorities.

 

Third Time Lucky

Ike Ekweremadu

Ike Ekweremadu

Having served as deputy to former Senate President, David Mark, for two consecutive terms (2007- 2015), nobody could have thought that Ekweremadu, who was first elected a senator in 2003 will retain his position in the 8th legislative assembly. Having lost to the APC in the just concluded general elections, the PDP is widely expected to be in the minority while key positions in the upper and lower chambers are expected to go to the APC. But the ruling party could not manage its affairs properly in the choice of who gets what in both chambers. The decision of the party to field Senator Ahmad Lawan as Senate President and Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker of the House of Representatives did not go down well with some lawmakers who preferred a former governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker respectively.

Though the APC conducted a primary where Lawan and Gbajabiamila emerged as winners, the aggrieved lawmakers believed that the election was stage-managed to favour the duo who are widely believed to be the candidates of a national leader of the party. The angry senators decided to stage a coup de tat against the leadership of the party. In so doing, they teamed up with some PDP lawmakers who were already waiting in the wings to scuttle the plan of the APC. The PDP, apparently in a move seen as payback for the APC over the circumstances leading to the emergence of Aminu Tambuwal, in 2011, reportedly agreed with a condition that one of their own will be given the number two position in the Senate. Saraki, who was willing to do all it takes to become the number three man in the country was said to have accepted the conditions paving the way for Ekweremadu’s emergence.

 

Saraki Denies Sell-Out Allegations

Saraki has however denied allegation that he bargained with the PDP to sell out the position of Deputy Senate President to the party in exchange for bloc votes from PDP Senators. Noting that the emergence of an opposition member as Deputy Senate President was not only unfortunate but also painful, he rejected a situation where his party men would hold him responsible for what happened saying his party would have emerged, had members not abandoned the inauguration exercise for a meeting with the President at the International Conference Centre (ICC).

According to him, “What I am saying is that PDP Senators had announced to the public that they were supporting me without meeting me. PDP as a party told the public at about 10pm Monday, June 8, that because in their own meeting, majority of their Senators had told the party that ‘this is who they are going to vote for’, they decided to agree with them. So, even in their own interest strategically, they decided that since 30 of their Senators were going to vote for me anyway, the remaining had better joined and concurred.

“It was not until 2am that they called us to tell us that this is what they had decided, and when they said that they had a candidate, we also told them we had a candidate in the name of Ali Ndume. After our meeting, it was our own thinking that after we finish the Senate President’s election, the two groups in APC would meet and agree on a candidate. We never in our own team thought the other group would not turn up. By the time we got to the Senate, we were 25 while PDP Senators were over 40.

“For any APC member, it is unfortunate that we have a PDP man as a Deputy Senate President. It is painful for any APC member. When we went through all these struggles, that was not what we signed for. It is unfortunate. It has happened, but it should be unfair to put all these blames on one side because it was a combination of our miscalculations that led some of our Senators to go to another place instead of being at the National Assembly.

“So, to suggest that it was out of desperate act to emerge, is the fact that I reject completely and those who had followed the event knew that I did not need that kind of deal to emerge and as I said, if we had had Senate elections second, Ekweremadu would not have emerged Deputy Senate President. The problem would have been in the House of Reps. My view is that we will see how to work with it and how we would be able to move on as a party and still push in through our agenda.”

 

APC, PDP Bicker Over Ekweremadu’s Resignation

To the APC leadership, Ekweremadu is a usurper and should honourably vacate the position even though it was clear that he was elected by his colleagues in an election that was televised live and watched by millions of people.  The party’s national chairman, John Odigie- Oyegun, recently told journalists that the resignation of Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President will be a major step to ending the crisis the party has fallen into as a result of rebellion against it by its members who refused to accept its suggestions on the candidates for the principal offices of the National Assembly.  According to him, “If he wants to resign, we would be very, very glad, but for now, as at today, our mission is to get the senate settled to get them at work. We are in charge; we are in control. There’s no question about that. The aspect of an Ekweremadu may be an aggravation, but we have to continue to work until things resolve themselves and things would resolve themselves.”

There are also discordant tunes among senators over the issue. While some aggrieved APC senators under the auspices of the Senate Unity Forum, the group backing Lawan, insisted that Ekweremadu’s resignation was one of the conditions that would make the faction to recognise Senator Bukola Saraki as President of the Senate, some members of the PDP senators, who nominated and voted for Ekweremadu on June 9, have vowed to resist any unconstitutional or illegal means by the APC senators to remove their member as a principal officer.

In her reaction, the PDP member representing Ekiti-South Senatorial District, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, said since the senators in attendance on the day of inauguration had overwhelmingly voted for Ekweremadu, “no back-door arrangement could remove him.” She challenged the aggrieved APC senators to either go to court or initiate an impeachment moves if they wanted to sack the deputy senate president.

Olujimi said: “The APC senators should stop making such demands, because it is an effort in futility. How do they think that they could ask someone who won an election overwhelmingly among his colleagues to resign in order to satisfy some interests within their party? They should not say that at all. The Nigerian senators have chosen their leaders. If they have any issue within their party, they should go and sort themselves out or go to court. Better still, they can start impeachment process, if they think they have the figure. Nobody will resign, Senator Ekweremadu was duly elected and he won’t resign. He cannot resign”.

 

Lawmaker Vows To Fight On

Speaking against the backdrop of invitation extended to him by the Nigeria Police to explain his alleged forgery of Senate Rule, Ekweremadu has said no amount of intimidation from any quarter would deter him from carrying out his legislative functions. In a statement through his Special Adviser, Media, Uche Anichukwu, the lawmaker also alleges that his life is being threatened by some desperate politicians who are uncomfortable with his position.

He said: “Senator Ekweremadu wishes to assure all Nigerians and concerned members of the international community that everything is under control and that all democratic steps are being taken to preserve the nation’s democracy and protect the independence of the legislature.

“The Deputy President of the Senate further wishes to assure Nigerians that necessary steps are being taken by the security agencies to beef up security around him. He appreciates the nation’s security agencies for their professional handling of the situation so far, and acknowledges with a deep sense of gratitude the numerous youths across the country who have volunteered to provide additional security around him.

“In all these, however, let it be known that no amount of intimidation or harassment will deter Senator Ekweremadu from carrying out the constitutionally prescribed duties, which on June 9, 2015, PDP and APC Senators willingly elected him in the full glare of the world to perform.”

 

People’s Parliament Divided

Speaking on the development, Igbo think-tank, Aka Ikenga, earlier this week said no amount of threats or intimidation will make Ekweremadu resign from his position. President of the group, Goddy Uwazurike in a chat with Daily Independent said Ekweremadu’s election stands since he was duly elected on the floor of the senate by his colleagues in a tightly contested race. He therefore warned those he referred to as ‘meddlesome interlopers’ to steer clear of the affairs of the lawmakers.

According to Uwazurike, the senators calling for Ekweremadu’s resignation are being sponsored by some individuals outside the senate for their personal ambitions.

“The deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu was elected by the senators freely on the floor of the Senate. He was not elected outside of parliament. So, what is the business of meddlesome interlopers outside who wants to dictate to the senators on how to go about their affairs? They should bow their heads in shame. Ekweremadu must not resign because he was duly elected by the senators in a keenly contested election.”

Also rising in defence of the senator, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Monday, warned that Ndigbo would resist any attempt to malign Ekweremadu over his election as the Deputy President of the Senate.

The Secretary General of the organization, Dr. Joe Nwaorgu, who made this known while reacting to media reports regarding the allege threat on the life of the senator, said Igbo people were fully prepared to defend him.

The organisation said anybody threatening to harm Ekweremadu on account of the position he currently occupies should be ready to face the consequences as he enjoys the strong support of his people who are ready to defend him anytime and any day. He said: “We are watching closely what is happening at the national level and we want to let the world know that we are solidly behind our son, Senator Ike Ekweremadu. I am saying it loud and clear that Senator Ekweremadu, who was duly elected by his colleagues as Deputy President of the Senate, is owned by a people and his people, Ndigbo, are solidly behind him because they (Ndigbo) voted for the PDP.”

Also speaking, a Lagos-based constitutional lawyer, Ikechukwu Ikeji said calling for Ekweremadu’s resignation has no legal basis. According to him, “Calling for Ekweremadu’s resignation has no legal or moral basis. If they want him out, let them play the politics of mustering 2/3 majority to impeach him. They should stop dragging us back. They are like PDP. Only that they are more belligerent, noise making and too intolerant,” he said.

A socio-cultural group, the Concerned Diaspora Enugu West, an organization of indigenes from the area in the Diaspora based in the United Kingdom however asked Ekweremadu to stand down from his position. The group, in a statement signed by Ignatius Nwabu Ozoilo, said that it is “deeply worried about the outcome of the leadership contest in the Senate Chamber of the National Assembly on Tuesday 9th June 2015, in which Senator Ike Ekweremadu representing Enugu West senatorial zone put himself forward for the post of the Deputy Senate President (DSP).”

The group’s position was however countered by another Igbo group in the diaspora, The World Igbo Congress, which declared that anyone who is asking Ekweremadu, to resign his position is an enemy of the Igbo people. In a statement signed by the Secretary-General of the WIC, Dr. Agatha Anosike and the Media Director, Dr. Acho Orabuchi, the body said: “We congratulate Dr. Ike Ekweremadu for his selfless service to the country, as well as his unparalleled leadership in the Senate and ECOWAS. We are strongly behind him and will do everything to support him in office.”

For now the Senators are on recess till the later part of July. This according to many political analysts will afford Ekweremadu the opportunity to reach to out to those against him so as to secure his position. To the opposing group, it remains to be seen if it will have its way in compelling him to step down or muster the required number of senators needed to oust him from the exalted position. Also the forgery allegation of Senate Rules petition dangling over his head will also prove a decisive factor in determining if Ekweremadu will be the first political casualty in the 8th Assembly.