When South-East, South-South Rallied Behind Ekweremadu | Independent Newspapers Limited
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When South-East, South-South Rallied Behind Ekweremadu

Posted: Jul 28, 2015 at 12:29 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The argument over whether the election of Ike Ekweremadu as the Deputy Senate President is constitutional in a National Assembly dominated by the All Progressives Congress (APC) has continued to generate heated debate in the Nigerian political space. 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 a peaceful 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 the number two man in the Senate 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”.

The senator’s election has however received the backing of a concerned group of citizens from the South-east and South-south zones under the aegis of the Eastern Region Assembly (TERA). The group endorsed Ekweremadu’s election in a statement by its Protem Secretary, Mr. Tony Uranta, noting that it “is worried about the ongoing crisis in the National Assembly” about two months after its inauguration.”

The statement said the election of Ekweremadu, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator, in a Senate with the APC majority, “should not raise any legal or constitutional eyebrows, because it is not new, unique or unusual in the politics of Nigeria, for such to happen!” It added that the law “is that senators will elect among themselves, irrespective of political party, a Senate President and a Deputy Senate President. That applies also to Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representative, as well as Speakers and Deputy Speakers of State Assemblies.

“This has been the law and practice since 1999 when we adopted the presidential system of government. Following this law and practice, an APP member became Speaker of Cross River House of Assembly in 1999, with a PDP majority of the membership of the House. The PDP produced the Deputy Speaker,” the statement said.

The statement reflected on what played out in the Second Republic, noting that Chief Edwin Umezoke of Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives in a National Party of Nigeria (NPN) dominated House.

The statement added that NPN produced the Deputy speaker, also citing the case of the Senate in the same Second Republic when Dr. Wayas of NPN was Senate President, and NPP a minority party produced the Deputy Senate President.

It cited another example in the present dispensation, noting that on June 8, a day before the inauguration of the present Senate, APC “produced the Speakers in Benue and Plateau State assemblies where the PDP have majority in both assemblies and PDP produced the d Deputies respectively in the two states.

“No self-respecting pundit of Nigerian politics can claim to have forgotten that in 2014 then-Speaker Tambuwal of PDP moved over to APC while the PDP was still in the majority within the House. He retained his position because it is constitutional and usual. One remembers many praising the development as democracy in action”.

“Has democracy in action developed new definitions because some powerful interest groups are not comfortable with the person or zonal background of Ekweremadu? Or, is the publicly-averred intent to negatively perceive/treat certain zones, because of voting patterns to be taken seriously by Nigerians and other citizens?

“We pray that wisdom prevails, and that every Nigerian enjoys all equity rights and democratic freedoms, irrespective of ethnic background, political affiliation and religious beliefs, so that this nation can achieve its optimal greatness in peace and unity,” the statement said.