For the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, the kindred spirit was at play recently as the people of Enugu State trooped out in the number to show solidarity with him over his travails. KENNETH OFOMA reports
The Gathering was spontaneous and the outpouring of emotions electrifying. Thousands of indigenes of Enugu State, especially from Enugu West senatorial district recently thronged the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu and major streets of the state capital to give a heroic welcome to Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and demonstrate their solidarity and support for him over his recent ordeal, during which he was subjected to house arrest at his Abuja residence by security operatives.
It was not the first time the people will display such solidarity. In 2016, at the wake of Ekweremadu’s prosecution for alleged forgery of Senate Rules that produced the leadership of the 8th National Assembly, his people rose in solidarity with him and warned that no harm should come upon him. He was later acquitted by the court.
Ekweremadu, a third-time Senate President, who represents Enugu West senatorial district in the National Assembly, could be described as a cat with nine lives. Ever since his emergence as the Deputy Senate President in the current 8th Assembly, he has been subjected to endless litigations and what his supporters alleged as harrowing official intimidation.
The recent siege to his residence on a day similar siege was laid at the residence of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in apparent ploy to prevent them from presiding over the upper legislative chamber and possibly forestall the defection of some All Progressives Congress (APC) senators to the main opposition party – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – was one too many.
His supporters had had enough! Hence on getting the wind that he was coming home, they mobilised and marched through the major streets of Enugu and the airport in solidarity with him. Ekweremadu, while addressing the people later at his residence, vowed to continue the struggle to redeem the country from the hands of anti-democratic forces.
The senator said he will never be intimidated by federal might, saying that at 56, he has surpassed the average life expectancy in Nigeria which is 51. He asked the APC-led Federal Government to stop chasing shadows and face the real task of addressing myriads of security, economic and other challenges facing the country. Ekweremadu insisted that he would not relent in ensuring that the PDP and in conjunction with other progressive forces take over governance peacefully from APC in order to save Nigeria’s democracy. His words: “I am 56 years this year and the average life expectancy is about 51, so I have taken more than average life expectancy.
So I am not worried, I am not afraid of any situation, I am psychologically ready to go through this trauma; I know it’s not over, but I am ready for it. I am prepared psychologically, I will not be intimidated, I refused to be intimidated. So I am going to do my work for which my people have sent me. “But I am asking that there is no need overheating the system because you to bring down the system, you want to bring down an institution and you want to bring down certain people in government.”
As to why his people came out on a peaceful demonstration and to welcome him, he said: “What is special about it was that on Tuesday as you are aware there was a major assault on our democracy and this is the second time this happened around the National Assembly, especially the Senate.
“Earlier in the year, you are aware of the removal of the Senate mace by some hoodlums. And so for my people, this is the second time this sort of assault in democracy is happening. And so they believe that they need to wake up and say that enough is enough.
“We have had enough violence in Nigeria, we have had enough of death, and we don’t want to have it any more. Our attitude is that we need to peacefully have a change of this government, so that Nigerians will have the benefits of democracy and the dividends of democracy will be all over the country.
“We want a country that we can live peacefully; we don’t want a situation where people will find it extremely difficult to go from Abuja to Kaduna; that is unacceptable. So, we are looking for a situation where we live happily and are conscious of the fact that there is a government responsible enough to protect them and be able to ensure that their lives and property as enshrined in the constitution and the primary purpose of government is enthroned. We want to see a situation where there is rule of law, where the government will take it for granted that court orders need to be obeyed without any protest by people in losing it.” Speaking about the solidarity, he said:
“The solidarity march you saw this afternoon is indeed an example of how Nigerians should be able to protest to pass their message without any kind of violence. We want to see a country that is peaceful, that is united; where there is rule of law, where there will be no dividing line between the North and South, between the Ijaw and Effik, and between Berom and Fulani.
“So this is the type of country we are looking at and you will believe me if I say that this is not existent in Nigeria today. The whole world looks up to Nigeria to be a leader in Africa. Africa looks up to Nigeria to be a leader to show the way and that was why Nelsaon Mandela said that if Nigeria is not respected, if we don’t earn our respect, we will not be respected in any part of Africa. “So, we must be conscious of that so that people will understand that we have a bigger responsibility not only to ourselves but to the whole world that is looking up to us to be leaders in Africa.
That is why we believe that the struggle we are in now to ensure that democracy stays and is sustained in Nigeria. That it doesn’t die is a worthy fight.” Ekweremadu further advised the Federal Government to ensure that human rights are respected. “There is justice to all, there is fairness, there is equal opportunity for everybody in Nigeria. If we do that Nigerians do not care whether you come from the North or South, anybody can be president in Nigeria.
What they want is an environment where everybody will thrive, especially for the Igbo who are egalitarian and who go about everywhere.” Speaking at the solidarity rally, the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Enugu State Chapter, Dr. Alex Ogbonnaya, said the Igbo are a very patient, dynamic, persevering and tolerant set of people, but they should not be pushed to the wall.
“The highest person the Igbo have in government today is Senator Ekweremadu and ever since he took up the office of the Deputy President of the Senate through election by his fellow senators, he has faced a lot of persecutions. In the first place, he was dragged to the court on the false allegation of forgery of Senate Rule. Later on, they sent policemen to ransack his residence in May last year.
The other time, they attacked him on the highway and there have been a lot of other persecutions. “We trouped out in our numbers to welcome him because we want the powers that be to know that Senator Ekweremadu has a constituency. We want to let them know that when they make him unhappy, we are unhappy. We want to let them know that anything that happens to him, Igbo will not take it lightly.” Also speaking, the Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province of the Anglican Communion, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma said: “We are here to tell the world that you are a true child of God, who nobody should find a way to rubbish.
As far as we are concerned, with your credibility and integrity, we have not heard since you started your journey as a local government chairman, moving to becoming Chief of Staff, Secretary to the Government of Enugu State to what you are now, there is no record, and nobody has ever heard that you stole money anywhere. “When we had the list of those published over money meant for the 2015 elections, we didn’t find your name there and so we were embarrassed when they said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is looking for you.
EFCC should please leave Ekweremadu alone because his name was never mentioned anywhere. “We feel that this is a vindictive act; a jealous spirit against the leadership of Igbo politicians and against us as Christians. EFCC should stop intimidating people if we are going to have a good democracy in this country. They should stop this idea of witch-hunting. In the government of Muhammadu Buhari are those they should witch-hunt and nobody can force you to join APC if that is what they want.
“You have been a stakeholder in PDP and you have remained firm; you have not cross-carpeted and you will never crosscarpet, so they should leave you alone. As far as we are concerned as the Anglican Church, we stand behind you. We call on the Federal Government to leave Senator Ekweremadu alone and stop witch-hunting him for nothing. This is witch-hunting and we have no apology for the Federal Government. What we say is that they should leave us alone. All we want is peace in Nigeria, and you cannot continue to stand firm in fighting for the unity of Nigeria and somebody is trying to intimidate you.”
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