By Hyginus Eze
From time immemorial, the struggle to evolve a democratic political model is a struggle to enthrone the common people as the decider of their political future. Ideally, democracy places sovereignty on the people through the power of the ballot. This is why Francis Fukuyama argued (exaggeratedly though) that democracy is the evolutionary zenith of all political systems, and that human beings may never be able to evolve something better. When Robert Filmer (1588 – 1653), an English Philosopher, pioneered the theory of the Divine Right of Kings, and argued that kingship is a divine award, and to oppose the king was to oppose God, he was confronted by the likes of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean Jacque Rousseau, Immanuel Kant etc. These philosophers largely pioneered constitutional government through their theories on Social Contract: a contract between the leader and the led that depends on a ‘common consent’ in which power lies with the people. The impact of the Social Contract theories on American Republicanism and on British Parliamentary System is inestimable. Well, so much for theories.
The recent rallies in Enugu State in support of zoning indicate that, in the final analysis, political sovereignty rests with the people. The three senatorial zones of the state, Enugu North, Enugu East and Enugu West organised their rallies in support of zoning on November 21, 2020, June 17, 2021 and August 7, 2021 respectively.
However, the rally at Enugu West (the birth-place of Senator Ike Ekweremadu) turned out to be the mother of all rallies. Apparently worried by the deft moves of the Senator to grab PDP ticket for the 2023 gubernatorial election, the people of Enugu West organised what some pundits have described as a say-it-as-it-is rally. The crowd at Awgu LGA Secretariat for the rally was mind-blowing. It was an opportunity for Enugu West Senatorial Zone to re-affirm their solidarity with the zoning arrangement, in which the governorship ticket rotates among the three senatorial zones of the state. It has moved since 1999 from Enugu East to Enugu West and is currently in Enugu North. And the pendulum now swings back to Enugu East. Flanked on the one hand by political stalwarts such as Hon. Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi, Senator Hyde Onuaguluchi, Hon. Cecilia Ezeilo, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, Amb. Fidelia Njeze, Chief Anayo Onwuegbu, Chief Festus Uzoh, and on the other by young dynamos like Hon. Chima Obieze, Hon. Chidi Ilogebe, Hon. Mark Onuoha, and several others, Senator Ben Collins Ndu stood before the crowd to read the minutes of the meeting, where the people of Enugu West endorsed zoning, and covenanted with the other zones that the governorship ticket would rotate among the three senatorial zones of the State. It was, as Senator Ndu phrased it, a covenant of justice and equity. If the deafening ovation that followed the speech by Senator Collins Ndu was anything to go by, it was clear that he had spoken the minds of the people of Enugu West. Expectedly, Senator Ike Ekweremadu was absent at the rally since he himself is gunning for the governorship ticket.
Of course, Senator Ike Ekweremadu is a towering figure in Enugu politics: A fourth-time Senator, a three-time Deputy Senate President, former Secretary to the Government of Enugu State, former Chief of Staff to Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, former Chairman of Aninri Local Government Area etc. Unfortunately, the stiffest opposition to Ekweremadu’s ambition comes from his own zone, Enugu West, where he is seen as burning the bridges for the entire zone, and consuming the future of the youths. The ill-feelings towards him among his own kiths and kins are so intense that even kids with little or no idea of politics are also flexing their tiny muscles. Those who have felt the pulse of the people of Enugu West have noted that the general feeling is that the Senator is treating his zone as though his political office is a divine right and his people are his political vassals.
One Onyedikachi from Greater Awgu, (Ekweremadu’s purported strong-hold) was so personally irritated by Ekweremadu’s ambition that he posed some questions: ‘Why would the same Senator Ekweremadu, who is championing the zoning arrangement between the North and the South at the national level come back to his state to oppose it?’ And this is indeed true. For example, on Tuesday 10, 2017, in New York at an event organised by Centre for Media and Peace Initiative, Senator Ekeremadu himself declared thus: ‘it is time to re-visit the idea of rotational presidency that was first muted in Nigeria by late military Head of State Sani Abacha.’ Again on Tuesday 19 January 2021, at Bende Abia State, Senator Ekweremadu led other South-East political leaders to urge all political parties to zone presidency to ‘the South East for the sake of justice, fairness, and equity’. Yet Senator Ekeremadu returns to his state to reject the same zoning that he is proclaiming at the national level. Are the values of equity and justice a handful of clay in a porter’s hand to be manipulated to any shape?’ But it is said that every cloud has a silver lining. There seems to be a group favoured by the ambition of Senator Ekweremadu: a coterie of young men who are now all over the place digging boreholes to boost the Senator’s political capital. What is causing concern, however, is the hurry with which these boreholes are springing out; the boreholes may end up, as some observers have noted, as a crash-programme, shallow, makeshift water outlets that may not achieve their intended aim.
Those of us who have long-standing respect for Senator Ike Ekweremadu are still praying and hoping that he will summon the courage to resist the gimmicks of opportunists who are goading him on even when they are aware that the odds are too heavily stacked against him. And it appears that the greatest odd is the collective will of a people who have resolved to promote and protect the values of justice, equity and peace. One of Senator Ekeremadu’s hatchet men has boasted that if the Senator was able to outsmart Sullivan Chime, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi would not be a problem. I am not the political umpire in the state; I am just an observer of events. But it does seem to me that things have changed. In the build-up to 2015 election Senator Ekweremadu was up against Sullivan Chime, but this time around Ekeremadu may be up against the collective will of Enugu people, with Enugu West and Greater Awgu leading the charge. Some observers have also noted that Senator Ekweremadu is desperate because he is racing against Time since if he waits for the rightful turn of Enugu West, he might have been too old to contest. That may well be true. But Nature will not arrest Time just to suit our whims and caprices. After all, Enugu West, including Greater Awgu has thousands of vibrant youths who can be mentored for leadership.
Dr. Eze writes from Independence Layout,