Ninth NASS poll: Ekweremadu’s political faux pas, By Ehichioya Ezomon
By Ehichioya EzomonThe most timid and lame excuse for entering into an elective contest – the exalted position of the Senate Deputy President for that matter – was offered by Prof. Ike Ekweremadu on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. It’s at the inauguration of the Ninth National Assembly.The 107 (of the 109) Senators-elect present had just chosen former Senate Leader, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, as the Senate President. He defeated his sole opponent and also a former Senate Leader, Mr. Ali Ndume, by 79 votes to 28 votes – a margin of 51 votes.The presiding officer for the inauguration and Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Mohammed Sani-Omolori, then called for nomination for the position of Senate Deputy President, and Mr. Ovie Omo-Agege was nominated.A call for any further nomination threw up Senator Ekweremadu, who relinquished the seat on June 6, 2019, when the Eight National Assembly was formally dissolved. He had held the same position for 12 years, from 2007 to 2019.Following the nomination, a hush fell on the noisy floor of the ‘Red Chamber’ – an indication of surprise by the Senators-elect, as Ekweremadu was never in the jostle for any of the leadership positions.So, how did it happen? It’s on the spur of the moment, as he supplied. According to him, his decision at the last minute was to redress alleged desecration of the “Hallowed Chambers” by Senator Omo-Agege on April 18, 2018.On that day, while Ekweremadu was presiding, “political thugs,” accusingly sponsored, and directed by Omo-Agege, invaded the Senate, assaulted some lawmakers and staff of the chamber, and made away with the Mace, the symbol of authority of the Parliament.In his nomination speech, and as he fielded questions from the press, Ekweremadu said he wanted his colleagues to use the election as a referendum on Omo-Agege.In other words, he wasn’t in the race to compete, but to stop Omo-Agege from being rewarded for his alleged sponsorship of thugs to invade the National Assembly. Fair enough! But it beggars the question: Would he have declined the seat if he had defeated Omo-Agege?Well, it’s clear that Ekweremadu’s untenable excuse was to cover up his “inordinate ambition” for an unbroken record four-time occupation of the office. But he didn’t bring this desire to his opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).The minority PDP in the National Assembly, relying on its assumed political adroitness, didn’t go to sleep, and allowed its bitter rival (APC) to have its way it couldn’t find in 2015.It threw its weight behind two APC “renegades,” Senator Ndume and Rep. Bago, who vied against the party’s endorsed candidates, Lawan and Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, for the position of Senate President and House Speaker, respectively.The PDP backing, conveyed on the eve of the inauguration, said the final resolution on Ndume and Bago was reached at the end of a “decisive meeting” of the party’s leaders, and urged that all senators and members-elect on its platform “are to be guided accordingly.”If Ekweremadu were in the picture, the party would have factored him in, and made it public. He appeared on a solo run and that, perhaps, explains his summoning of a meeting in his home at the Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja, after the PDP leaders had announced their backing for Ndume and Bago on June 10.Indeed, Ekweremadu said his resolve to vie was taken that Tuesday, June 11 – in the morning of the inauguration. As he told newsmen, the decision was made “because actually, we weren’t minded to run for any office, but we thought that our friends in APC will be able to come up with another candidate to replace Ovie Omo-Agege.”Definitely, Ekweremadu’s ambition was laced with malice! Because the APC, which isn’t his platform, failed to “replace” Omo-Agege with another candidate, he decided to force himself on the Senators-elect. Or did he have recourse to the PDP caucus?Evidently hiding under the canopy of the PDP, he joined other ambitious members-elect in the legislature to unnecessarily heat-up the polity with boastful campaigns, and resort to religious, ethnic and regional divides to gain undue advantage.They probably wished for a repeat of the 2015 scenario in which the majority political party, the APC, was ambushed by two of its “non-conformist” members and their allies in the party.Working in cahoots with the PDP, Senator Bukola Saraki and Rep. Yakubu Dogara denied the APC the joy of having its “preferred candidates” mount the rostrums of the Senate President and House Speaker.Having secured the posts for themselves, Saraki in particular, guaranteed that the minority PDP, unprecedentedly in a democratic setting, produced the Senate Deputy President in Ekweremadu.As it’s in 2015, the APC in 2019 has the majority in the Senate and House of Representatives to swing the votes in its favour – a factor that wasn’t lost on the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.The former governor of Edo State boasted that this time, the APC wouldn’t share, in whatever guise, the principal offices with the PDP, which, once again, wanted to muddy the waters for the APC.And he’s right. Besides having the majority, the APC was more cohesive, determined and energized to deliver the presiding officers’ positions to its contesting members-elect, as firstly demonstrated in the landslide victory of Senator Lawan over a boastful Senator Ndume.That sent a clear and unambiguous message. And yet, Senator Ekweremadu, for the fleetest moment, guessed that as many as the APC members, and even PDP members that ensured his “default” election in 2015, would repeat the same “mistake” in 2019. It’s a costly political miscalculation!The moral of the inauguration of the Ninth National Assembly is that in democracy, people should be allowed the opportunity to ventilate their aspirations, and test their popularity, such as has humbled Senators Ndume and Ekweremadu, and Rep. Bago.No wonder Oshiomhole summed up the poll as APC’s “finest hour, particularly when you bear in mind what happened in 2015. It is the mischief of 2015 that we have tried to correct, and I am happy that it has been settled!”* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.