By Majeed Dahiru
The period between 2015 and 2019 can perhaps be said to be the most difficult in the political life of Nigerians of south east origin since the return to democracy in 1999. Having invested enormous emotional, financial and moral political capital in the candidacy of the former president Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP in the 2015 presidential election, which was won by APC’s Muhammadu Buhari, the south east geo-political zone of Nigeria will face a severe political repercussion.
In practical terms, President Buhari’s doctrine of 97 per cent and 5 per cent of votes given to him in 2015 presidential election by respective sections of the country as a direct proportion of patronage to be received meant the south east geo-political zone will be left with the short end of the stick. In Nigeria’s murky politics of ethno-geographic and religious identity, Nigerians of south east origin who mostly identifies as ethnic Igbo will be systematically marginalized in the Buhari administration. As though being punished for exercising their constitutional rights of freedom of democratic choice, Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo was excluded from president Buhari’s powerful kitchen cabinet, inner cycle of power brokers and associates on the corridors of power. This systemic marginalization will see Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo completely exempted from appointments into the headship of any security agency in the ministries of interior and defence respectively.
President Buhari’s political scorched earth policy of winner takes all not only reversed the modest gains of the preceding sixteen years at nation building but sharply polarised the polity with Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo crying out loud against their mistreatment in Buhari’s Nigeria. The clamour for justice, equity and fairness from Nigeria’s south east geo-political zone will throw up new dynamics in the polity of the Nigerian state. In the face of a defiant hardliner president Buhari who was unapologetic about his exclusivists’ leadership style and refusal to redress the numerous glaring cases of systemic marginalization of Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo the twin demands of restructuring or dissolution became heightened. Whereas the clamour for the dissolution of the Nigerian state with the revival of Biafra secessionists’ agitation was championed by Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB, the option of restructuring through a renegotiated Nigerian federation, which guarantees justice, equity and fairness to all constituent peoples, was championed by Ike Ekwerenmadu from within the governing establishment.
A veteran community based politician, administrator, lawyer and a federal lawmaker from the south eastern state of Enugu, Ike Ekwerenmadu as one of the longest serving senators after securing a record fifth term will emerge from the shadows to chart a clear political course for his ethnic Igbo people. Occupying the sixth most important position of the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate and highest political office holder among Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo, the burden of leadership of his people in a most difficult time fell upon his shoulders.
While the burning flame of Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB, fuelled by President Buhari’s failure of statesman like leadership was ravaging the hearts and minds of Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo, Ike Ekwerenmadu skilfully explored the inexhaustible mechanisms inherent in Nigeria’s constitutional democracy to seek redress for his marginalized people. In the short term, Ike Ekwerenmadu used his position of relative influence as the Deputy President of the Senate to press for a more inclusive governance structure wherein no Nigerian is left out on the basis of ethno-geographic, religious or partisan basis. On the national stage, Ike Ekwerenmadu will become a vocal voice in demanding equity, justice and fairness for his ethnic Igbo people within an inclusive pan Nigerian framework of integrated socio-economic development. To evolve a sustainable good governance structure for the Nigerian state wherein the egalitarian principles of equity, justice and fairness are guaranteed to all in the long term, Ike Ekwerenmadu strongly advocated for a renegotiated federation through restructuring. To underscore his convictions on the issue of restructuring, Ekwerenmadu’s PhD thesis on the subject matter of fiscal federalism. The issue of restructuring will eventually sign post the electoral campaign promise of the opposition PDP in the 2019 general elections with President Buhari himself making a commitment to fiscal federalism in his second term. For these and more efforts in the defence of the political and economic rights of Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo, Ekwerenmadu is fondly referred to as the ‘’Ike Oha Ndigbo ’’[ strength of the people], by his kinsmen to the admiration of the entire non Igbo Nigeria.
Therefore, it came to the entire Nigeria as a rude shock, the visual images of the physical assault of Ekwrenmadu in the hands of his own kinsmen at an Igbo cultural event in the historic German city of Nuremberg. In taking responsibility for a dastardly action, which appropriately qualifies as an abomination was made more absurd when Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB clearly lacking any sensible reason for their unexplainable actions, justified the attack on Ekwerenmadu on his purported support for Operation Python Dance. As matter of fact, Ekwerenmadu not only fought for the release of Nnamdi Kanu from detention and helped arrange his impossible bail conditions, he made a passionate appeal to President Buhari to call Operation Python Dance, which was launched by the military to crush the IPOB secessionist movement as in his words ‘’it was creating tension in the south east’’.
However, the real problem is not the fraudulent fugitive Nnamdi Kanu and his fellow group of IPOB retards, but those Nigerians especially of Igbo ethnicity, that are trying hard to justify a sacrilegious act of cowardice. Ekwerenmadu was not assaulted by members of his Enugu west senatorial district on the basis of poor performance but by an irate mob of thoroughly brainwashed charlatans that are high on the opium of Nnamdi Kanu’s Biafra utopia. It is a fallacy to attempt to twist a clear of cowardly ambush of a man who let down his guard believing he was in commune with his own kinsmen on the basis popular uprising against bad leadership. The grouse of IPOB against Ekwerenmadu is his unalloyed loyalty to the Nigerian state without any iota of Biafra separatist agenda. As far as these IPOB extremists are concerned, you cannot be Igbo and Nigerian. Enugu west people, to whom Ekwerenmadu is directly answerable to as their elected senator has returned a verdict of confidence on his quality representation for the fifth term as seen in his unprecedented feat off attracting the largest concentration of federal government intervention projects in the 20 year history of the fourth republic. The office of Deputy Senate President he occupied in the 8th national assembly was not zoned to the south east geopolitical zone as the victorious APC was determined to shutout the zone from the epic centre of government.
At the risk of his life and huge personal cost, Ekwerenmadu had to fight to clinch a position he used to effectively provide leadership for his ethnic Igbo people at a most difficult time in their political history. To now turn around and applaud or justify this unfortunate incidence will be akin to the majority of Ndigbo taking ownership of IPOB’s cowardly act of terrorism against the biggest political brand east of the Niger in contemporary times. To successfully navigate the labyrinths of the murky waters of Nigeria’s identity politics, decorum, self-respect, ethnic solidarity and support for leadership is essential for the political survival of Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo. In the eyes of the rest of non-Igbo Nigeria, the assault of Ekwerenmadu, the Ike Oha Ndigbo is a humiliation of the entire Ndigbo ‘’worldwide’’. This reprehensible act of base ignorance if not condemn unequivocally by those who should know better, will become a permanent scar of disrepute on the entire Ndigbo as a difficult to please people with possibilities of alienating the political solidarity of liberal non Igbo Nigeria in the near future. A community that strips naked its biggest masquerade in the market square only demystifies its strength hence perpetually rendered vulnerable to external attacks.
Dahiru, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through email@example.com
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily