Although he has yet to openly declare interest in the 2023 governorship in Enugu State, supporters of the former deputy president of the senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, have been making strenuous efforts to present him as the best candidate. In a latest bid to project him as the heir presumptive, supporters of the senator who currently represents Enugu West Senatorial District published an opinion poll conducted by a hitherto unheard group, which placed Ekweremadu top of a list of would be governorship aspirants.
Rather than convince, the poll seems more like an embellishing project for the putative, nay self-serving, ambition of Ekweremadu. And being more or less a validation-seeking project commissioned by the senator’s own supporters, the poll calls to mind these wise words by Williams James, an influential scholar of the 19th century often regarded as the “father of American psychology”: “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”
It wasn’t only through the phoney poll that the prejudices of Ekweremadu’s supporters have been laid bare; it shows also in very stark details in their demonization of zoning of the governorship. And like it is when prejudices are not reined in, reason suffers, sometimes even hurting the cause being championed to benefit their idol, ironically. This is because denouncing the principle of zoning is an implicit condemnation of the premise on which Ekweremadu’s attainment of the deputy presidency of the senate derived.
In 2007, the Peoples Democratic Party zoned the senate president’s slot to the North-Central and the deputy senate president’s office to the South-East, which were eventually clinched by Senator David Mark and Ekweremadu, respectively. A similar format was adopted in 2011, enabling the latter to further bolster his political influence. It is important to reiterate that Ekweremadu attained this exalted office on the basis of that office being limited to legislators from the South-East geo-political region, effectively shutting out others who may have ordinarily aspired for the position. There had also been a bid for the senate president’s seat in 2005 after the slot fell to Enugu, with each of the four other states of the South-East having produced a senate president who would later be impeached.
Barring the fact he was outmaneuvered by Senator Ken Nnamani, with the support of mostly legislators from opposition parties, Ekweremadu may have ascended the ultimate legislative office. Of course, that feat would have been on the altar of zoning, a concept that Ekweremadu and his acolytes now revile. His latter day revulsion is not because the idea conflicts with any noble principle; it is for the simple reason that an application of zoning as has been the case in Enugu State puts his putative governorship ambition in peril.
By 2023, Ekweremadu will have spent 20 years cumulatively in the senate, and a total of 24 years in public office during which he has occupied prime positions such as chief of staff to a governor and secretary to the state government. Such long years in office have apparently bred in Ekweremadu the delusion that years spent in public office should necessarily culminate in a bigger political office. When elected public officers succumb to such narcissistic mindset, service becomes the first casualty because self interest and public interest are always mutually exclusive. This is one of the bane of politics in Nigeria.
It is this self interest that explains Ekweremadu’s ambition to run for the governor’s seat in 2023, which is clearly a brazen defiance of a long established order of power rotation among the three senatorial zones in Enugu State. This understanding has fostered a pervading sense of inclusion and given Enugu State years of political stability, a critical factor that accounts for the wholesome peace for which the state is noted. It is this existing peaceful order that Ekweremadu’s vaulting ambition threatens.
Fortunately, the idea of rotational power has been embraced across partisan divide in Enugu State as a unifying imperative. This point has been overwhelmingly reaffirmed in recent times by key stakeholders – including statesmen and former governors – in the state. It is, in fact, no less so even in Ekweremadu’s Enugu West Senatorial Zone.
But what really is the argument that the former deputy senate president hopes would convince the electorate to jettison this political tradition that has endured for years? According to his supporters, given that a governor have emerged from each of the three senatorial zones, a fresh governorship rotation could indeed begin from any zone. That is just a euphemism for “we’re okay with anyone who can muscle their way to the throne as long as he is our son”. So what if a new governor emerges from the same senatorial zone as the incumbent in 2023? It’s easy to infer that the former deputy senate president and his supporters will baulk at such outcome, unlikely as it were.
Even when his supporters try to mask their self-serving campaign under an intellectual banner, the attempt is just as pathetic and casts Ekweremadu as largely presumptuous. The argument that merit should be the sole factor that determines the next governor rests on the presumption that Ekweremadu is the best candidate. But the length of time spent in public office does not equate with competence.
Besides, this push implies there has been some leadership deficit in the governance of Enugu State, which is certainly not. If that were the case, then it amounts to a verdict of self-indictment on Ekweremadu, who has been an influential figure in every administration in Enugu State since 1999.
The length of time spent in public office might not make one an excellent public servant committed to the ethos of selflessness. But it does however make the holder of such office increasingly reluctant to step aside away from a life of perks and influence. That is the dilemma Ekweremadu currently faces. It is a difficult choice to make. But a statesman would choose an option that nurtures inclusiveness than grab one that promises fleeting personal glory at the expense of cohesion and peaceful co-existence.