Austin Okolie’s recent anthem, “Who is Afraid of Ekweremadu?” (ThisDay, 23rd April 2022) would stand out as one of the most atrocious obfuscations in his current career as a praise singer. Indeed, the essay may well have been titled the “Deification of My Master Ekweremadu”, for that is what it truly is. In seasons like this, when reward is mostly determined by the degree to which people without roots are all too willing to demean themselves and muddy reality without qualms, Okolie’s effusive language is not totally out of place.
An acolyte may actually choose to idolize his hero as the best news to humanity, but Okolie ought to have known that his efforts so far are not yielding the desired results. Evidently, he has failed to take notice of the prevailing mood among the Igbo and conscientious Nigerians. I do not know what news in Igboland that could be considered bigger at the moment than the prospect of an Igbo president in 2023. But whereas that is the prevailing debate among our reasonable brothers and neighbors, Okolie is irretrievably assailed by the manifestly outright rejection of his master’s supine hankering after a gubernatorial office. For a man the recent publication of his achievements allegedly “literally broke the internet” and who has been “instrumental in the making of a good number of political office holders including governors” Ekweremadu’s preoccupation at this time ordinarily ought to be at the national political canvas.
There is therefore really no need to imagine if anybody was afraid of an Ike Ekweremadu in the politics of our dear state. But in a curious twist of fate, Ekweremadu is seemingly afraid of his own shadows. He is simply haunted by the truth which he has serially desecrated in his vainglorious pursuit of power; haunted by his shadows that hover over him as a grim reminder of his utter disregard for integrity even in the most innocuous agreements. He is haunted by a career which has spanned several years without a modicum of principles, where everything is permissible in so far as it nourishes his avaricious appetite to remain in power at all cost. Where anything and everything can be sacrificed including his own testaments! This has been the defining trait of his political career. But as I have stated somewhere else, no matter how much he may seek to run away from his shadows, he bears a peculiar burden because there is no verdict more scathing than the words of a man standing in witness against himself!
A few months after the 2015 general elections, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), set up a committee to review the circumstances that led to the sobering defeat it suffered, and to recommend steps that would help the party to avert a repeat scenario in future elections. That post-election committee was chaired by Ekweremadu and their findings regarding the party’s loss was unequivocal: the major reason was its non-adherence to the principle of zoning/rotation that has guided the party over the years! Speaking after the submission of his committee’s report, Ekweremadu emphatically recommended that “the zoning principle, which has been the strength of the party, should be strictly adhered to as a matter of urgency AT ALL LEVELS!” This, the committee added, would mitigate injustice and feelings of marginalization in the PDP; (Vanguard, October 1, 2015)!
Today, Okolie and his co-travelers now denounce this noble pronouncement by their master and which he hailed as “the strength of the PDP”, all in a quest to burnish the hubris of his narcissistic indulgence. Without a doubt, this whimsical approbation and reprobation has one sole aim: to rationalize Ekweremadu’s attempt to scuttle the rotational governorship template in the state, and possibly deny Enugu East Senatorial Zone its rightful claims to the governor’s seat which should naturally shift to the zone in line with the state’s zoning arrangement.
According to Okolie, the “anti-Ekweremadu gang-up isn’t driven by altruism or common good”. But these accusations may well be levelled against his master too because his maddening ambition violates the rotational governorship understanding which has long fostered inclusion and sustained peaceful co-existence in Enugu State. What can be considered altruistic in a quest that has bred so much divisiveness and attempts to brazenly upend an existing political order?
Leadership is about legacy. A leader who apparently has little qualms about the political and cultural division that his ambition will foster should never be trusted. Integrity is the immutable currency that drives the wheel of every noble endeavor including politics. Unfortunately, Ekweremadu has scant regards for its ethos and his streak on this path of infamy is beginning to unsettle keen observers. For instance, it is an incontestable norm in every democracy that the party with the majority seats naturally produces the principal officers of the legislature. But this principle was unabashedly disregarded by Ekweremadu when he re-emerged as the deputy senate president by some political sleight of hand of the most egregious form in 2015, despite being a member of an opposition party. Suffice it to say, the no-love-lost relationship between the 8th National Assembly and the executive that virtually crippled governance in the 2015 – 2019 period had its roots in that egregious conduct engineered by Ekweremadu.
But in a pervert celebration of feats, that unconscionable act is regretably regularly cited by people like Okolie to burnish his credential as a democrat. As if the political shenanigans that fostered that ill-conceived contraption in 2015 wasn’t atrocious enough, Ekweremadu tried again in 2019 without compunction! There is nothing edifying in an action that merely portrays a politician as a power-hungry individual who covets a political office solely for its sake. It was nothing but greed personified. His interest in the 2023 governorship election in Enugu State is no less coloured by the same narcissistic and self-serving instincts. It presents an unfortunate visage of a man who has had it all but who has scant regard for common good, and who suffers from a paralysis of conscience. No amount of sophistry can whitewash the self-seeking quest that his governorship ambition represents. To him, the social and political cost of his ambition doesn’t matter. What matters, apparently, is the crown – even if it comes at the expense of his reputation.
Yet, it must be restated that Ekweremadu still remains one very best beneficiary of this hallowed principle of zoning. His emergence as deputy president of the senate in 2007 was no less a product of zoning, as the PDP had zoned the senate president’s slot that year to the North-Central (won by Senator David Mark) and the deputy’s slot to the South-East. Even when he later assumed office as the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, it is important to emphasize that the feat was not so much a question of competence as the Parliament also runs a system that rotates the seat among the 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States. So, why would someone who had benefited from a principle that promotes inclusion speak in such scurrilous fashion against it?
But it could be asked as well why the former deputy Senate president often seems incapable of acting judiciously towards systems that had benefited him, or indeed, individuals who had been his benefactors. A vivid example was the uncharitable payback he gave the former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo, a man who literally plucked him from the labyrinths of obscurity to the limelight in 1999. Basking in his status as the godfather of a new governor, Chief Nwobodo peremptorily foisted him on Gov. Chimaroke Nnamani as his Chief of Staff, ostensibly to be his insider eye in the new government. But no sooner had he been sworn in than he would turn the battle axe in the hands of Gov. Nnamani against his Chief Nwobodo in the epic godfather war that engulfed the state that season. Needless to recall the fate that Dr. Nnamani would on his own suffer under him since his exit from office as governor.
At Ekweremadu’s personal machinations, he ensured that the ebeano leader was ‘defeated’ repeatedly by no less a person than the little-known Senator Gil Nnaji.
Or need we recall the fate of the Nwodo political family and the Ekweremadu perfidy? The betrayal that led to the ouster of Okwesilize Nwodo as the National Chairman of the PDP in 2010 dealt a telling blow on the reputation of the family and the ignominy of Nwodo’s dismissal was too coldly served that the scar is still very much fresh. Neither need we dwell on the irreparable harm the Senator Ayogu Eze gubernatorial agenda suffered in 2015 as a consequence of a misplaced faith in his friendship. In effect, Ekweremadu has dealt indelible blows at almost every political figure you can imagine in the state! Thus, while the likes of Okolie would mindlessly invoke the name of God in a manner that suggests Ekweremadu’s ambition were divinely-ordained they seemingly forget that God is not an author of confusion; that he abhors pride and often humbles those who exalt themselves!
Ekweremadu and his followers should realize that no festival is as perennial as the river Niger, and no masquerade is celebrated forever. Sagacity is being able to draw the necessary lines between venal brinkmanship and inevitable realities. In the political circle, the moment a certain masquerade begins to see himself as a god, some ethereal forces often emerge to unmask and reduce it lower than a human being. And the day a man begins to mock at himself, others will join. Besides, the Okolies of this world should be reminded that the outrage that has greeted Ekweremadu’s vaulting ambition is by no means a wallow in self-pity. I believe they all know that the Nkanu people, nay Enugu East Senatorial Zone which turn he seeks to upend, are not known to ever beg for that which they have the power to earn!