Nigeria: The Roughing Up of Ekweremadu

Nigeria's Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu
21 August 2019
opinion

The roughing up of former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu in Nuremberg Germany over the weekend, has without doubt taken Nigeria to a sickening new low. Already, the Senator is safely back home in Nigeria to a lot of sympathy, and downplaying the attack and all it portends. He explains to journalists on arrival that the assault is the actions of "a few misguided individuals and not a representation of the character of the majority of Nigerians". Believe it or not, he adds that his attackers acted under the influence of alcohol, or drugs.

Indigenous People of Biafra who owned up to the attack obviously planned well in advance and were deliberate when they struck. The effect was measured. In Nuremberg Germany, Ekweremadu was billed to speak at the celebration of the New Yam Festival, an important calendar cultural landmark event for the Igbo, now being celebrated by their diaspora worldwide. "Miscreants" suddenly broke through the ranks and rough handled the unsuspecting former Deputy Senate President, tearing off his custom-made apparel, adorned with the Nigerian symbol of authority, the coat of arms. Over the confusion, and the pushing, you could hear the Senator being queried loudly - "what have you done for our people all this time? How have you advanced our cause?" It was a narrow escape for Ekweremadu, and a matter of greater luck for Senator Orji Uzor Kalu who was billed to have as well travelled to Germany for a medical check up, and could have been at the event. Both would definitely have suffered the same fate. IPOB through its leader Nnamdi Kanu has threatened that Igbo leaders in their engagements overseas would be subjected to the same disgrace.

Since 2003 Ike Ekweremadu, a lawyer from Enugu State has as Senator, been in the front seat of the socio-political experience of the Igbo, the Eastern Nigerian ethnic community. For this period, he has been in the centre of the struggles and the obvious frustrations of the Igbo in getting even a toehold into the Nigerian political power. Never mind that as Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu occupied a notable position in the power hierarchy of Nigeria, frequently acting as Senate President. In his own words, he had struggled to secure appreciable inclusion of the Igbo in governance over the period, noting that he was indeed instrumental to the procurement of bail for IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu, which bail, he has jumped. Since 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari became President with Prof. Yemi Osibanjo as Vice President, the Igbo nation had felt left out of the power equation. It is the Presidency, or nothing else but Biafra. Buhari himself put it brutally and succinctly when he explained their poor show in his governance as reflective of the fact that he scored a paltry 5% of votes in their land in 2015. Even at that, the Constitution practically allocates Ministerial positions to each State and President Buhari has felt satisfied that he had given the Igbo their fair share, which should include the position of Deputy President of the Senate, occupied by Ekweremadu until lately. Regrettably the political posture of the Igbo has been typical. Despite their massive cluster, they respect no voice in unison. They have taken every step to all by themselves diminish the status of anyone of their own elevated to a prominent national role in the structure of Government, in endless internal squabbles. In 4 years of the Buhari rule, the Ohaneze which is the body of leaders of the Igbo has vacillated over what the Igbo really desire in the long lingering question of belonging to the Nigerian project, providing its ruler, and who should lead them, in the gambit. The agitation for self determination has remained a dogged pursuit, even as the majority would prefer an opportunity for an Igbo President for Nigeria in 2023. But in the Igbo changing of the guards, the incoming lot shoot the outgoing. It begs the question among the even more fundamental - is Nnamdi Kanu the leader of the Igbo race, and is it to his type that the leadership of Nigeria or even the touted Biafra going to be handed over? In brilliance and steadfastness, the Igbo stand out, as academics, jurists, entrepreneurs, scientists, technologists, and industrialists, name a field, the global excellence of the Igbo, is legendary and difficult to equal.

What happened in Nuremberg has remained topical to this day, and will be a running thread in Nigerian political discourse even as President Muhammadu Buhari is set to swear in his new cabinet. It is a grim indicator of a further widened gap between leaders of Nigeria's various "republics", the Igbo mainly, and the ordinary people. But there is no doubt, the Igbo come out worse off. Yet no matter the political lingo we spin, to downplay the ominous significance of that embarrassment, due cognisance must be given that beyond the IPOB agitation, ethnic nationalities in Nigeria do not feel a sense of belonging to the Buhari Government. As much as we pretend that the issues do not matter, in truth, they do matter, and lie underneath the overall dissatisfaction in many parts of the land. President Muhammadu Buhari appears undeterred by the objections to his governance in which minorities feel politically marginalised, persecuted in the anti corruption fight, humiliated and dehumanised by the brazen terrorism of the phantom called "the herdsman", a disturbing narrative to our insecurity situation. We delude ourselves if we believe that it is only the IPOB that Is in angst. We can not ignore salient questions. Is it fair not to deliberately ensure that the appointment of headship of the main arms of Government, the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary is equitably balanced, reflective and satisfying of the regional and ethno-religious structure of the Federation? Should this balance not be deliberately attained also in the appointments of heads of security and intelligence agencies in the country, notwithstanding that Northern Nigeria though favoured by the appointments is the worst off in insecurity?

It can not be ignored that regional moderates like Ekweremadu stand the risk of bearing the Nuremberg type of brunt should they ever venture to travel out.The incident is disgraceful, uncalled for and should be roundly condemned by all well meaning Nigerians. It is needless to say, that this regrettable act only further tarnished the image of Nigeria, but will not in anyway, advance the cause of the Igbo nation.

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