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Opinion: Ekweremadu, Enugu and 2023
Ike Ekweremadu
Opinion

Opinion: Ekweremadu, Enugu and 2023 

Opinion: Ekweremadu, Enugu and 2023

By Raymond Okechi

In 2023, the good people of Enugu State need to get it right on who governs them from that year. There are many, who are jostling, but they have a better candidate in Ike Ekweremadu. Ekweremadu is someone other parties and states are begging to have.

In 2023, it will be 26 solid years since he shot into political limelight. And that was a few years after he had become a lawyer. For those who didn’t know, Ekweremadu started as chairman of Aninri Local Government Council on the platform of the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) in 1997, and won the best council chairman of the year award. Before he was appointed secretary to the state government in 2001, he served as chief of staff to the governor of Enugu State, between 1999 and 2001.

 

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In 2003, he was first elected to the Nigerian Senate to represent Enugu West and was made vice-chairman of the Senate Committee on Information. His attempt to be Senate President in 2005 did not materialize, as Ken Nnamani, his colleague from Enugu East, got the coveted seat. Known for brilliant performance at the National Assembly and constituency level, Ekweremadu was returned in 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. Only a few people have that kind of political resumé in this country. In 2015, he was elected Deputy Senate President even in opposition and he was saddled with the challenge of ensuring that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not go under. His bid to continue in the same position in 2019 was not fruitful as Ovie Omo-Agege was elected.

 

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Ekweremadu has indicated his resolve to retire from the Nigerian Senate by not running for the seat in 2023 and the people of Enugu are in for a prosperous state, if he is allowed to take over from the incumbent governor, His Excellency, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who will be completing his two terms in office in 2023.

On all fronts, and without being disrespectful to those who have come out and those who have not come out to signify interest, Ekweremadu is the most qualified of them.

Beyond Enugu West, Ekweremadu has always extended support to people in Enugu East and North senatorial districts. He is of the belief that Enugu is one, if not for the constitutional division into senatorial districts and federal constituencies. Before he became senator in 2003, the five local governments in his senatorial district: Aninri, Awgu, Ezeagu, Oji-River and Udi were not developed in terms of urbanization and provision of modern infrastructure. It was lamentations upon lamentations under successive administrations. Good roads, potable water and electricity were scarce resources in most of the communities. A ready-to-perform leader, Ekweremadu swung into action, made solid friends, deployed them and, within a short while, he has, to the glory of God, facilitated the construction of roads, erosion control, water and electricity projects across the five local government areas in his Enugu West senatorial district. In fact, some of his many projects were also sited in Enugu East and Enugu North senatorial districts.

Lest I forget, Ekweremadu led a delegation of South East senators to the meeting with President Umaru Yar’Adua, which resulted in designating Enugu an international airport. He played a major role in the political and legislative interventions that the facilities at the Akanu Ibiam Airport were ultimately upgraded. He played a major role in the award of contracts for the expansion and resurfacing of the airport. Besides, each time I hear what he has done for Ndigbo and kept it under wraps in his usual humble disposition, I wonder what manner of politician he is because these are things an average politician would do and quickly go to town and the press with them.

Therefore, it is not surprising that prospects of Ekweremadu’s governorship are resonating with Ndi Enugu. It is equally noteworthy that those who are opposed to Ekweremadu’s emergence as Enugu’s next governor have only a purported zoning formula, not a better candidate, to flaunt.

However, analyses by persons versed in Enugu politics clearly show that there was never a zoning arrangement in Enugu. Instead, everybody always vies for it, and one person from one zone or the other ultimately clinches it. Importantly, the governorship seat has gone round the three senatorial districts and the incumbent governor would have completed two terms of eight years by 2023.

Also, comments by people regarded as authorities in their own rights on this matter have also clearly shown that there ought not be any zoning impediment on the path of Ekweremadu. One of those instructive comments came from a former governor of the state, Barr. Sullivan Chime.

In an elaborate interview in the November 23, 2018, edition of The Sun newspaper, where he gave the background to Governor Ugwuanyi’s emergency, Sullivan said: “In 2013, when we were holding a town hall meeting in Nike Lake Hotel, one journalist asked that, since I was leaving office, which zone would succeed me as governor? When Chimaroke Nnamani became governor, it wasn’t zoned to Nkanu, he won against somebody from the West, even in his re-election bid. When I contested, it was free for everybody, people from the North, from the East, from the West, the same thing during my re-election. Then I said fate had made it that the East had done their two terms, myself in second term at the time, I said it would only be fair that we take it to the North to reduce tensions and I promised to work towards it. That was how it happened. We zoned it to the North, not that there was any agreement; it was common sense to reduce problems. I was the leader and I took that decision.”

Possibly, for emphasis, the reporter asked: “So, the people of Enugu never sat down at any time to agree on zoning of positions?”

To this question, Chime, in his characteristic self, retorted: “Which people? I was the leader and I took a decision, which was very easy to sell. Everybody that heard it supported that decision.”

Likewise, at the Ife-Emelumma rally, ironically organised by some Enugu West political stakeholders to slam the door against Ekweremadu’s emergence on the grounds of an inexistent zoning arrangement, one of the chief organisers/financiers and a former governorship candidate in the old Enugu State, Senator Hyde Onuoguluchi, surprisingly rained on the parade of the naysayers with irrefutable facts.

Turning to Ugwuanyi, Onuaguluchi said: “Don’t mind those after their own pockets trying to mislead you by claiming that there is zoning in Enugu State. It has never been so.

“In 1990/1991, when I contested for governorship, there was no zoning.

In 1999, when Chimaroke Nnamani from Enugu East, Victor Nduka Agu from Enugu West and Gbazueagu, also from Enugu West, contested, there was no zoning. In 2003, Hon. Fidel Ayogu from Enugu North, Ugochukwu Agballah, Anayo Onwuegbu and Alex Obiechina, all from Enugu West, contested against then incumbent, Chimaroke Nnamani. There was no zoning. In 2007, it was Okey Ezea from Enugu North versus Sullivan Chime and Ugochukwu Agballah from Enugu West. In 2011, it was Okey Ezea from Enugu North and then incumbent, Sullivan Chime, from Enugu West. It has always been so.

“My father was a major political player and he was not aware of such. Myself, I have been involved in Enugu governorship politics before any of you here.”

Meanwhile, it is interesting that Ekweremadu, who wouldn’t hesitate to say “God has been faithful to me,” believes he is a child of destiny and that is why he has not shown desperation for the plum job. So, it won’t be out of place if Ndi Enugu rise up and rally round Ekweremadu to continue the developmental strides in the state from 2023.

 

Ekweremadu is prepared and Enugu needs to get this man into Government House at this auspicious time in the state’s history. He is coming with a track record of performance and national and international contacts and goodwill.

 

Besides, I cannot wait to see a Professor Chukwuma Soludo as governor of Anambra State, Professor (Senator) Ekweremadu as governor of Enugu State, and other men like them taking charge of Abia, Imo and Ebonyi states. Igbo need their best hands on the plough at this time. Once Ndigbo get it right in leadership recruitment at home, the sky becomes their steppingstone.

•Okechi writes from Ibadan

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