“A politician thinks of the next election, a statesman, of the next generation.” – James Freeman Clark
Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy President of the Senate, turned 55 this May. He is a statesman per excellence, a quiet achiever and a core intellectual in politics. If politics is for politicians, then statesmen and intellectuals will always feel like fish out of water in it. But Ekweremadu bestrides the two seemingly contrasting worlds pretty well and has continued to make his inputs, outputs and outcomes so sublime in Nigeria and beyond. The man has shown that patriotism, like a political thinker Mark Twain said, is standing with country and not with any public official.
Ekweremadu represents Enugu East and has attracted federal projects to that senatorial district perhaps more than any senator has done for his constituency in the present dispensation. He spearheaded the upgrading of Enugu Airport to its present international status, the first in South East Nigeria.
Penultimate week, Ekweremadu quietly led the Senate South East caucus and other Igbo leaders to negotiate the release of Nnamdi Kanu, the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). This deft move is believed by many to be part of the reasons he is being hounded by the EFCC and the Presidency.
But the main contributions of Senator Ike Ekweremadu should be in the area of lawmaking and constitutional amendment in Nigeria where he has provided exceptional leadership and classical inputs. In fact there is now a great need for the book, “Ike Ekweremadu and Constitutionalism in Nigeria”, where his indelible contributions in this important area would be chronicled.
Ekweremadu believes in good laws as the real foundation for any constitutional democracy and, in his capacity as the chairman senate committee on the alteration of the 1999 constitution, he has led the national assembly to a record 4 successful constitutional amendments since he became deputy senate president in 2007. When one considers the fact that all attempts by the national assembly to amend the constitution before 2007 failed, succeeding a record 4 times is no mean feat.
Though, constitutional amendment is not a one man’s affair, leadership is what matters the most in such legislative business. Ekweremadu provided the transformational servant leadership needed for the exercise to succeed.
The real problem is that the 1999 Constitution is far more unitary than federal. That is what is making its amendment to provide enough bases for federalism to thrive in Nigeria a matter of urgent national importance. The process of amending the constitution in Nigeria is really tedious and rigid. First, the proposal has to secure two-thirds support of the national assembly for each clause going for amendment (in some cases there are clauses that require four-fifths of the national assembly to scale through). Thereafter, the passed clauses are sent to the 36 states of the federation for concurrent affirmation by at least 24 states’ assemblies.
This rigid process coupled with the sharp disagreement between North and South Nigeria on matters of federalism, calls for astute leadership and political brinkmanship. Due to their differing comparative advantages, the North prefers a unitary system where all resources and political powers are centralized in the center, whereas the South wants decentralization of powers and true federalism. Bringing the two divides to agree is a herculean task. It is in the light of this that the 4 successful amendments achieved by the national assembly under the leadership of Ike Ekweremadu should be prized.
As a statesman and exceptional leader in politics, Ike Ekweremadu is bringing back that essential ingredient of politics, which appears to be in sharp decline in today’s democracy, and that is intellectual content. On the floor of the Nigerian Senate (and that of ECOWAS Parliament when he was its president), Ekweremadu makes his contributions by taking bearing from a well-researched, legalistic and knowledgeable perspective, which greatly enriches debates and legislative functions.
Statesmen and great leaders are merchants of hope and workable ideas. As genuine men working for the future of their country, they do not only understand the past but they are also fully in touch with the dynamics that forge the present. They also foresee the future. While the ordinary politicians worry about the next election, the fundamental preoccupation of statesmen is the welfare of the state and the welfare of the current and future generations. That is why Ekweremadu, though a leading opposition figure, has been more preoccupied with bipartisanship in the national assembly under the Senator Bukola Saraki Senate Presidency… that good governance may result.
From the works of Ekweremadu, we can see that statesman politicians tell us things we need to know: how politics and society work, what happened in our past, how to analyse issues, and how to appreciate the task of building a just society.
Dispositions of such rare politicians like Ekweremadu help to bring forth robust conversations and lend a hand to tap into the enduring wisdom of the past and provide a critical standpoint for assessing the limits of the current political affairs.
In his “Republic,” Plato put forward that the ideal state is best ruled by intellectuals who can combine comprehensive theoretical knowledge with the practical capacity for applying it to concrete problems. Although some other thinkers prefer to distrust the value of intellectuals in politics, Ekweremadu has proved their assumptions wrong. He has shown that although all good politicians need not be statesman, they should live a statesman’s life. He has become what a statesman would wish for in a politician and what a patriotic politician ought to be. He has shown what meaningful and crucial impact a statesman can make, particularly in today’s rapidly degenerate and cynical Nigerian society.
As one can easily see through him, statesmen are those who have diverse wisdom and passion for country, those who apply their intellect and forward-looking visions for the purpose of awakening and building a good society. They help to divert the masses from what is unwise and wrong and steer them toward what the righteous and the good.
There are key factors in nurturing statesmen and they are knowledge, ability and willingness to awaken society and lastly, eagerness to stand with country when it matters the most; and doing so for a noble cause or purpose. The lack of the last two of these elements is inconsistent with the definition of a statesman and a patriot. From this perspective, it is evident that discussing the role of statesmen like Ekweremadu is a discussion about the social responsibility of knowledgeable and patriotic citizens who stand with country in thick and thin.
Ekweremadu has shown that he finds a great deal of truth in Einstein’s words: “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing”. He has equally proved that a person with capabilities and knowledge bears this kind of responsibility and owes his or her world the benefits of their profound wisdom and understanding. He has further shown that a statesman politician uses his or her capacity to contribute to steering politics and society away from the negatively-impacting results that they foresee.
The preoccupation of Ike Ekweremadu in Nigerian politics therefore has been essentially safeguarding our democracy and building an egalitarian and just society. Generally too, Ekweremadu is aware that, like everyone else, he has his own limitations and therefore ever willing to remain open-minded.
Together with the responsibility to awaken society, he is also constantly aware of his own limitations. That is why the distinguished senator is constantly searching for knowledge in broadening his horizon. He knows that lawmaking requires well-reasoned deliberations for the laws so made to stand the test of time and serve the intended purpose. He holds a PhD in law in addition to his leadership certificates from Harvard University and Oxford University. He has delivered over 50 public lectures/papers both nationally and internationally on the themes of democracy, good governance, regional integration, security, economy, security, etc.
Ekweremadu remains deep, ponderous and focused in his approach to politics. He is more than a consummate lawmaker who studied law, taught law, and now making law for over a decade. Ekweremadu is the archetype of the change agents Nigeria really needed in the face of prevalent unjust and aberrant political behaviours in our polity.
Like Karl Marx said, the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point is to change it. A true Igboist and nationalist, Nigerians celebrate Dr. Ike Ekweremadu as an exemplary patriot, politician and statesman who has made his political participation so sublime and left large footprints on the sands of time.
- Law Mefor, Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist, is Director, Centre for Applied Psychological Research, Abuja; Tel.:+234-803-787-2893; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.