The longest serving Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu while celebrating his 57th birthday said he won’t contest the Enugu West Senatorial District seat again. NNAMDI MBAWIKE writes on how domineering the lawmaker has been in his zone
Last week, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu announced that he would not seek re-election into the Senate in 2023. He acknowleged that God had been kind to him, raising him to address enormous challenges faced by his people.
Going down memory lane, he recalled that he emerged chairman of his age grade association at the age of 10, served as president-general of Mpu Town Union, pioneer elected chairman of Aninri LGA, chief of staff of Enugu Government House, Secretary to Enugu State Government, fourth term Senator, third term Deputy President of the Senate, and the first Nigerian Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament.
Expectedly, those who have been consistently kicking against his long stay in the National Assembly perceive the announcement as a sigh of relief while beneficiaries of his 16 years representation of Enugu West Senatorial district, especially from his home town Mpu, might have received the announcement with shock.
Although Ekweremadu has unarguably contributed immensely to the development of his Senatorial Zone especially in the areas of infrastructure and poverty alleviation, some of his constituents are not happy that he has spent 16 years in the Senate, excluding the additional four years he will spend from 2019.
Enugu West senatorial is made up of two federal constituencies-Udi/Ezeagu and Awgu/Oji/Aninri, with 40 and 41 wards respectively. The 40 wards in Udi-Ezeagu are shared between the two component units, with each of them getting 20 wards respectively.
Out of the 41 wards in Awgu/ Oji River /Aninri, Oji River has 20 wards, Awgu 11 while Aninri, Ekweremadu’s local government Area has 10.
Those who are clamouring for shift of power to other local government areas are arguing that by staying 16 years in the National Assembly, Ekweremadu has successfully denied other local governments the opportunity of occupying the position hence the need for shift of power.
Apparently irked by the continuous stay of Ekweremadu in the Senate, the director general of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr Osita Okechukwu vowed to put an end to Ekweremadu’s long political reign at the last general election.
Okechukwu, who has been close political ally of President Muhammadu Buhari for a long time and a chieftain of the APC, vowed to retire Ekweremadu from the Senate, assuring that when elected, he would render service to the Enugu West Senatorial District.
“After due consultations, may I seek your endorsements to Retire Senator Ike Ekweremadu from the Senate, I pledge to give the good people of Enugu West Senatorial district the following services, selfless, revamp Enugu Coal, Eastern corridor railway and Cassava and Rice Settlement,” he stated.
To lend support to Okechukwu’s aspiration, the APC Youth Circle (APCYC) Enugu West Senatorial APCYC said it was rooting for him to replace Ekweremadu.
They declared that Okechukwu had what it took to retire Distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu from the Senate.
“Mr. Okechukwu will revamp Enugu Coal to be used to generate electricity and provide employment to thousands of youths. Distinguished Senator Ekweremadu never mentioned the huge coal deposit in the district in his 16 years sojourn.
“Okechukwu has been on this mission and it is elementary knowledge that he will facilitate the revamping of the coal deposits in Inyi, Amansiodo, Onyeama and Okpara mines, better as a senator.
“Mr Okechukwu as a Buharist no doubt as a senator will easily hook up with President Buhari’s RRAP Projects – Roads, Rails and Agriculture – to facilitate the Eastern Corridor Railways, which will cover the Port Harcourt, Umuahia, Owerri, Abakaliki, Awka, Makurdi, Lafia, Akwanga, Jos, Damaturu, and Maiduguri.
Eze noted that Okechukwu had already initiated integrated cassava farm at Olo in Ezeagu and integrated rice farm at Aniri local government rice belt, hence hooking up to Buhari’s RRAP.
“It is elementary knowledge that he (Okechukwu) will facilitate the integrated farms better as a senator, rather than buying Okada motorcycles for our youths.
“In sum, we thank Distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu and wish him a successful retirement from the senate. Enough is Enough!” Eze said.
Unfortunately, Okechukwu, who made the declaration last year while speaking about his interest to contest for a sit in the Senate under the APC in the 2019 general election, was denied the opportunity during his party’s primary.
Similarly, immediate past Governor of Enugu State, Barr. Sullivan Chime, came hard on some elected politicians in the state for staying too long in office, a statement many saw as an attack on Ekweremadu.
Chime, who is from Udi Local Government Area spoke at Ngwo-Uno ward in his local government Area where a former Chairman of PDP in the council area, Chief Donald Nnadi, defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC.
He tackled politicians in the state, who he said had occupied a particular elective position for too long due to greed and fear of the unknown.
“The problem of our people is insatiability. If you serve, give way for others to serve. I heard that somebody has been in the senate for 14 years; next two years will make it 16 years.
“Where that kind of thing happens is where you don’t have people, but if there are other capable people, then one should serve and give way for others to serve.
“It is because they have reached the end of their capacity that they are running around like mad dogs. They are agitated and threatened, feeling that what they are holding for long is about to be taken away from them.
“Anybody who cannot survive outside politics is not fit enough to be in politics,” he said.
Chime said some people being sponsored to castigate him were fond of telling people what he did not do as governor without telling them what he did.
But, despite the opposition against his intention to go back to the senate for the 5th tenure, the Deputy Senate President last year accepted the requests of some of his constituents to return to the Senate, assuring that they would never regret the decision.
Ekweremadu was endorsed by the Enugu State branch of Apex Igbo Social Cultural Organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and the people of Enugu West Senatorial Zone for a 5th term in the Senate at an event that took place in his house last year.
Apart from the endorsement, they also bought the nomination form for the senator which was presented to him by the Enugu State chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonna at a gathering held in the Enugu residence of the Deputy Senate President.
Among those who participated at the event were legislators, youth groups, traditional rulers and widows.
They insisted that Ekweremadu must accept their request that he returns to the senate and do their bidding.
While acknowledging the numerous constituency projects he attracted to the zone as well as the yearly scholarship to students of the senatorial zone and beyond, they urged him to continue with the quality representation as they have never had it so good.
Responding, Ekweremadu told the group that their support for him was one of the greatest moments of his political career.
He added, “Few weeks ago, I have been at a crossroads of what to do with my political career. I reflected about my past engagement with the people of Enugu West and I was happy that we achieved a cohesion, we are one. I believe in expanding the political space.
“I have accepted most humbly to return to the senate as requested. You will never regret this decision. I want to pledge to you that I will continue to represent you in the senate effectively and qualitatively. Those boasting that they will use the Federal might to chase us out do not know that there is God.”
Surprisingly, Ekweremadu announced last week that he would not seek re-election into the Senate in 2023, noting that God had been kind to him, raising him to address enormous challenges faced by his people.
He made the announcement at an event to mark his 57th birthday and to appreciate God and his constituents for his re-election and triumphs.
“My life and political odyssey are products of divine grace working through destiny helpers like you, for I know where I am coming from. I also know how far the Almighty God has brought me.
“I have also looked back on the last 16 years, which I have represented Enugu West as their Senator and I can only thank God for our accomplishments. I have tried to count our blessings. I have tried to name them one by one. I must confess that I am truly surprised at what the Lord has done for us.
“Our road infrastructure has improved remarkably. The Awka-Ugwuoba-Oji River-Nachi-Udi-9th Mile-Abor-Ukehe-Opi Road, which is our latest intervention in this regard, has just been awarded.
“We have made progress in electricity and water supply to our various communities. We have built, rebuilt, and we are still building and rebuilding schools, churches, health and civic centres, among others.
“Our human capital development projects are on the upward trajectory. We have assisted several of our young people with employment in public service. Through the Ikeoha Foundation, we have supported 3,843 undergraduates with bursary awards, 87 with full scholarship, while over 12,155 women and youth have received basic education courtesy of Ikeoha Foundation Adult Literacy Programme”, he told his people.
“However, my dear brothers and sisters, you must admit that no matter how melodious a song may be, it will definitely have an end. Therefore, as I thank you for these 16 memorable and splendid years as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; as I thank my distinguished colleagues for honouring me as the Deputy President of the Senate for three consecutive times; as we recall the accomplishments of the projects of my representation in the last 16 years; as I acknowledge your kindness in keeping me in the Senate for these 16 years; and as I prepare to further represent you by your mandate for the next four years, let me seek your understanding and indulgence to now announce that this will be my last term as your Senator.
“As we get set for the 9th Senate, be assured that I will focus on the completion of all ongoing projects we attracted and ensure that communities that are yet to benefit from our vision in infrastructure adequately benefit,” he said.
Now that Ekweremadu has decided to bow out of the senate in 2023, the question on the lips of many, is, who will occupy the Senatorial Seat of Enugu West Senatorial Zone in 2023? Without a doubt, posterity will answer the question.
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