By Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia
It is my conviction that I am not alone in my thoughts on the skewed nature of African political behaviours, in the sense that frequently disturbing and bizarre news on the rape of democratic values such as inclusive governance, accountability, transparency etc., dominate global media reportage on shoddy governance in the continent. The common trajectory in African governance is a vicious circle that commences with jubilation after the “electoral victory”; the incumbent then surrounds self with incompetent ethnic officials who know next to nothing than self aggrandizement and their perfidies are often overlooked; then follows a mass despondency and loss of faith in the administration; a downward spiral with a collapse of public institutions and utilities; the civil society and the press are viewed as enemies of the government; jobbers are rented to support the “good works” of the regime; then costly elections marked by whipping ethnic and religious sentiments; violence and loss of lives etc Africa therefore has remained in a suspended animation.
The above scenario remains a common feature of African politics partly because most of the African leaders lack vision, passion, intellectual prowess, insight and charisma, thus often relying on ethnic and religious sentiments to sustain support and followership. Perhaps, the most devastating syndrome of African incumbents is the exhibition of arrogance in power. Once elected, they display a nauseating hubris, megalomania and false consciousness that tend to disconnect them from the electorate.
I have taken a studied assessment of the squandered opportunities for democratic growth in Africa and I can conclude without any fear of contradiction that sustainable democracy anywhere in the world is a function of the presence or the lack of heroes or noble men of conscience, selflessness, patriotism and transcendence; and their will power to pursue the ideals of common good in spite of the base impulses to the contrary. Some argue in favour of strong political institutions over the role of men in society-building; but I know that institutions of all categories are created by men, either of good or ill will. Emphatically, institution-building requires leaders of strong ethical persuasion and impeccable moral stamina
On the other hand it has always been the role of heroes since history to transform societies. The commonest definition of a hero is “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities”. A deeper meaning of hero lies more in vision, courage, frontier spirit, selflessness, tenacity, integrity, passion and sacrifice. The hero loses support if there is a deficit in any of the above qualities. The hero is like the Titan of Rhodes, a trail blazer that does not tread the beaten paths. Thus, Abraham Lincoln, J.F Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jnr., Winston Churchill, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, etc can be numbered among noble men in history who braved all odds and remained focused even in adverse circumstances.
I believe that God endows in every human the innate capacity for good or evil and also the freewill to choose between the two polar ends. So, there is always a battle in the heart of men. It is a cosmic pendulum that oscillates between the vices of hate, revenge, greed, arrogance, vainglory and the worthless on one hand; and the virtues of forgiveness, peace, loving kindness, selflessness, humility, empathy and the worthwhile on the other hand. It is a selection- elimination dynamic; and the one we incubate and nurture finds full expression in the individual personality. While it lies in the domain of the exceptional genius to develop a formidable will power to ignore the base elements and vices, and embody the godly virtues, it is not all heroes that can resist the devouring impulse of vices. Therefore, whereas all the godly are heroes, all heroes cannot, in every definition of it, be godly.
It is therefore very heartwarming to find in our clime an exceptional hero; a rare quintessence of humility in power; a reflective intellectual giant; humane and selfless courageous leader, moral edifice, great political thinker and navigator, philosopher and visionary who in spite of his length of time in government remains accessible. That exceptional hero persona is Senator Ike Ekweremadu, PhD, CFR,Ikeoha Ndigbo, the three-time Deputy President of the Nigeria Senate. He is the author of Who Will Love My Country: Ideas for Building the Nigeria of Our Dreamsand the lead author of Constitutional Review in an Emerging Democracy: The Nigerian Experience
Who Will Love My Country excavates all the pathologies in Nigeria, and robustly proffered lasting solutions. In that seminal book, he bemoaned the level of corruption in Nigeria and the need for special Anti-Corruption Courts; the unfair distribution of resources; and recommended a re-federalization of Nigeria on a six geopolitical structure, the need to seek alternative revenue sources against thefeeding bottle federalism and a decentralized policing system. He canvassed for proportional representation in government whereby political parties are represented in government based on their aggregate performance. According to Akin Osuntokun, a situation in which a loser “gets completely alienated from the political system and deems himself as having no vested interest in the survival and stability of such system” is unhealthy for fledgling democracies. Ikeoha during the book presentation asked the audience the kind of country we shall hand over to our children.. “Are we going to bequeath to them a banner stained by corruption, bad governance, ineffective leadership, ethnicity, slacking moral values, decadence, mediocrity, and sloth?” Based on the issues raised and solutions offered, every patriot will know that in the book lies the key that will unlock Nigeria and create a society premised on rationality, integrity, accountability, transparency and selflessness.
The Ikeoha Leadership Paradigm resonates with the observation made by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987) that only the deep can call to the deep. Awolowo adds that while his contemporaries engage a full liaison with strong alcohol and women of easy virtues, he is busy reflecting on the problems and solutions surrounding Nigeria. Our heroes past were thoughtful and cerebral as can be found in the Path to Nigerian Greatness and the Thoughts on the Nigerian Constitution; books written by Awolowo or Ideology for Nigeria: Capitalism, Socialism or Welfarism?, written by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. Such personages are what Plato(428-348BC ) would qualify as Philosopher Kings. It strikes the psyche that the foresight, passion, depth and ingenuity with which the likes of Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, etc tried to solve the Nigerian problems are in sharp contrast with the present day provenance of shoddiness
According to an observer, Nigeria has selected/elected its leaderships based on the narrow sentiments of tribe as in the case of Olusegun Obasanjo from the South West; Goodluck Jonathan from the South-South; Musa Yar’Adua/Muhammad Buhari from the North-West ;but most unfortunately none seemed to be working. He contends that Nigeria can only be salvaged from her chains of catastrophe by detribalized men of ideas; the Philosopher King archetype.
Furthermore, there is a maxim that heroes are thrown up by the burden imposed on them by the circumstances of their environments but no matter how they emerge, what is paramount is the set of virtues such as skill, passion, commitment, perseverance, wisdom, courage, candour, charisma, etc with which the heroes confront their challenges, especially in extreme adverse conditions. This is how and why the likes of the heroes mentioned above win the heart of men, women, youth and even the posterity. Ikeoha met his Mpu community, Aninri LGA, and several parts of Enugu West, including my community Ugbo, in an inconceivable labyrinth of darkness and backwardness. He used legislative power and social skills to lift them far above the standards among the average Igbo communities. When such sterling performance as a senator was to be truncated in 2015 using Enugu government machinery, the masses wept but like all heroes, he was undaunted. Indeed, the Ikeoha Mystique abhors hate but uses soul force and love to overwhelm hatred and animosity. And like Phabius Maximus Verucossus, alias Cunctator (the Delayer) a General of the Roman Army during the epic war between Rome and Carthage, his subalterns would at extreme provocations expect him to fight but he would tactically stay put. But when the Ikeoha chose to fight, as a political colossus, he deployed his intellect, vast knowledge and experience; mastery and astounding sophistication; and decisively defeated his opponents such that those who had misrepresented misunderstood and underrated him “turned round to shower him with praise: Unos homo nobis, Cunctator restituit rem”
When again his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost to the opposition party, the All Peoples Congress (APC), the South South and the South East of Nigeria appeared to be the worst hit. The remarks by President Muhammadu Buhari with respect to patronage according to the voting pattern during the 2015 general election and the caustic triumphalism displayed by the APC did not help matters. Almost all the elite and the masses of the old Eastern Region extraction agonized in pains. In face of such despondency, Ikeoha remained courageous, unflappable and focused. The Ikeoha, rising from the ashes, like the phoenix of the Greek mythology and with an unprecedented political geometry clinched the position of the Deputy President of the Senate from a minority party. The incredulity, amazement, tears of joy and jubilation galore that greeted his emergence across the globe in general and the South South/South East in particular reinforced the belief that the exceptional heroes are God-sent.
Ike Ekweremadu was born of a very humble background on May 12,1962 at Mpu, Aninri LGA of Enugu State, attended the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka(UNN) Enugu campus for both the LLB and LLM degrees, was called to Bar with a BL. He holds the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Law from the University of Abuja. He also acquired leadership trainings both at the Harvard University and the Oxford University. He served in the UNN as a lecturer in the Faculty of Law; was elected the Mpu Town Union President, Chairman Aninri Local Government; the Chief of Staff, Government House, Enugu; Secretary to the Enugu State Government; elected senator in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015; three times Deputy President of the Senate; First Deputy Speaker, ECOWAS Parliament, and later; the Speaker, ECOWAS Parliament.
He has been decorated with various honours by universities and colleges; e.g. Doctor of Laws, LLD (Honoris Causa), University of Nigeria; Doctor of Laws, LLD (Honoris Causa); etc; several traditional titles such as the Ikeoha Ndigbo by the Council of Traditional Rulers, South East of Nigeria; the Ochiagha Ndigbo(Generalissimo) by the Nri Kingdom, etc.
Ekweremadu is happily married to Nwanneka Ekweremadu, PhD, whose inner feminine qualities play an archetypal role in the Ikeoha sub-conscious. The marriage is blessed with four lovely children.
Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia is the Special Adviser to the Deputy President of the Senate on Public Affairs.