Ekweremadu: Should The Cicero Return To The Senate? – By Law Mefor
There is an undeclared subtle debate in some quarters on the desirability of the quietly achieving Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, returning to the Senate. The antagonists say he has stayed rather too long in the red chamber and ought to yield the seat to another person. But the masses he is representing for a record 4 times will not have the lawyer-politician leave the Senate just yet.
Through crowd funding, the constituents gathered money to purchase the expression of interest and senate forms for Ike Ekweremadu to prevailed on him to seek reelection. Youth groups, market women, farmers, all segments of his senatorial district, real people. These groups have vowed to ensure a landslide victory and return of Senator Ike Ekweremadu to the Senate in 2019.
Since Ekweremadu joined the Senate in 2003, Enugu West in South East Nigeria has never been the same again. With the over 200 major projects, which he attracted to the Senatorial district and hundreds of scholarships up to postgraduate levels, among others, Ekweremadu is possibly the only senator in the entire country to impact so much on his people. A people who were once in relative obscurity have seen a wonderful light through one man.
For the avoidance of doubt, records have it that before he went to the Senate, over 70% of the communities in the Senatorial district had no access roads and electricity. But today, reverse is the case, as 70% of these communities now have access roads and electricity, courtesy of Sen. Ike Ekweremadu. The clamour for him to return to the Senate by his appreciative people is really understandable. As Americans would say, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it!
One cannot but be happy for Enugu West people. However, Ekweremadu’s superlative and unmatched representation is not really the essence of this treatise. Beyond Enugu West, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu has been one of the main brains behind certain strategic activities in the National Assembly.
For perspective, the legislature has 3 to 4 cardinal statutory responsibilities, namely: representation, legislation (including appropriation) and oversight. In a presidential democracy, the legislature is actually the first arm of government, for being the real assemblage of the people via their representatives, since all citizens cannot possibly gather in a single legislative assembly.
Of all the 3 Arms of Government in Nigeria, the legislature is the most stunted for the simple reason that the motley intervening Nigerian military regimes had always sacked the legislature. Even in 1993 when General Babangida held the legislative elections, he couldn’t proclaim the National Assembly because it required an elected president to do so and he was not one. This bizarre situation led to the hurried disbandment of the National Assembly and furtherance of the cul-de-sac that Babangida’s endless transition-to-civil-rule had become.
To wit, each time there was a return to civil rule, the legislature starts anew, completely lacking experience, institutional memory, reference points, and experienced legislators to guide the ones without any experience. This was the situation the nation found herself in 1999 when the National Assembly and State Assemblies were proclaimed again into existence.
What is more, each successive National Assembly, since the return, witnessed great turnover to the effect that, on the whole, less the 30% of legislators have returned in each chamber after each general election.
In Nigeria, only about 13 legislators can be said to have enjoyed relative longevity in the National Assembly, and only 3 have been there since 1999 in the entire National Assembly, namely: Senator David Mark (PDP, Benue, 1999-date), Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan(APC, Yobe, 1999-date) and Honourable Nicholas Ebomo Mutu (PDP, Delta, 1999-date). On the whole, the nation can boast of only a handful of about 13 law makers who have been in National for an average of 10 years and above.
This great attrition has been a major drawback to legislative business since each new set of law makers would have to start learning the ropes and before they know it, the 4-year term is over and the circle repeats itself.
Turnover is not the only problem bedeviling the legislature in Nigeria. The legislative practice that a succeeding National Assembly cannot inherit the uncompleted works of the former may be a global practice but it has a telling effect on the Nigerian law making process. Any Bill not completed or not signed into law by the President lapses with the National Assembly which initiated it. To cure this malady, the returnee law makers, really iconic, are the ones to fill in the new ones and facilitate their works. This, Sen Ike Ekweremadu has done since he first returned in 2007.
For Ike Ekweremadu particularly, since 2007, when he was elected a presiding officer in the capacity of Deputy Senate President, he has chaired the various National Assembly Committees on the alteration of the 1999 Constitution. Through his doggedness and that of some others, the Constitution has been amended a record 4 times. Recall that all previous attempts failed. The 5th amendment was not accented to by President Goodluck Jonathan (as he then was) for curious reasons.
The return of Sen. Ike Ekweremadu will no doubt benefit the nation greatly, as he would still lend his experience and expertise to further amendments, the level of experience no senator, past and present, has in constitutionalism in the National Assembly.
Most parts of the country are clamoring for restructuring because of unworkable structures, which throw up and guarantee unaccountable leaders at all levels. Come to think of it, restructuring can be achieved through deep and deft constitutional amendments. It would take negotiating and transferring substantial items on the Exclusive List of the Constitution to the Concurrent List, so that States can take charge of their developmental challenges and free themselves from want and shackles of underdevelopment.
A situation whereby a federal union as Nigeria claims, parades 58 items on the Exclusive List and only about 16 items on Concurrent List and no Residual List, is nothing but an aberration and living a lie. It is tantamount to running a unitary system in a clearly federal environment. The result has been disastrous as up to 30 States cannot pay salaries as at today.
Today also, only about 3 states, going by their internally generated revenue, can survive without handouts from federation accounts. What this presupposes is that the rest of the States are not viable, the way the country is structured. In other words, to make the States viable, the unitary 1999 Constitution has to be comprehensively reviewed to move items that would give willing States the impetus to develop as their endowments and visions dictate. Such items like electricity, ports, state police, solid minerals, LG autonomy, financial independence for the State judiciary and State Houses of Assembly, and more!
Every democracy needs experienced hands in the legislature. The US understands their role in quality law making, stability and development. Thus, the US parade at least 25 senators, past and present, who have stayed in their Senate for upward of 35 to 51 years (Senator Ellison D. Smith (D-SC) was there for 35 years, and Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) was there for 51 years). Currently, Senator Patrick Leahy of Democratic Party from Vermont has been in the US Senate since January 3, 1975.
Brilliant legislators, whose contributions to the national development are pivotal, need to return. The return of the expert law maker and Cicero, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu is a blessing. Those whose ambition of answering most distinguished is not served deserve our sympathy. But national expediency should not be sacrificed for the narrow ambitions of a few.
- Dr. Law Mefor, a Forensic/Social psychologist and Journalist, writes from Abuja; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; tweeter: @LawMefor1