The South East chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, has expressed outrage at the statement credited to the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, that he vied for the position in order to help the region avoid marginalization.
Mr. Ekweremadu, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, emerged Deputy Senate President in a controversial election where 51 of the 109 senators were absent. His election confounded observers as the PDP is a minority in the Senate and the absent lawmakers at the inauguration all belonged to the APC.
In a statement on Tuesday by its spokesperson, Osita Okechukwu, the South East APC said it was outraged by “the crass and unimaginative propaganda dished out by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, on why he re-contested for his former office.
Mr. Okechukwu quoted Mr. Ekweremadu as saying that “it was when we saw that it appears that the South East and South South were being marginalized in the scheme of things, we decided to take a shot so that our people will be part and parcel of government, so that every Nigerian will have a sense of belonging.”
The spokesperson said, “Whereas, we do not begrudge our dear brother Senator Ekweremadu for his re-election as Deputy Senate President; however it beats our imagination that the Distinguish Senator relied on gossip-terrorists in reaching the conclusion that the South East and South South will be marginalized. It is miles far away from the truth.”
The party said there was no ground to posit that President Muhammadu Buhari would marginalize the South East, since he is yet to name members of his cabinet.
Also, it said the statement by Mr. Ekweremadu was capable of denying the region the position of the Secretary General to the Government of the Federation, a position many believe the region will clinch.
“For the avoidance of doubt, as of Saturday 13th June, 2015, and to date, when this unimaginative propaganda was riled out to hapless and anxious crowd by Senator Ekweremadu; President Muhammadu Buhari has not named the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Ministers, Advisers, Ambassadors, Boards etc. On which plank was this propaganda predicated?
“We are therefore at a loss, why the Distinguished Senator should choose this auspicious moment to play spoiler game, by wittingly or unwittingly throwing spanner on our wheel to clinch the coveted office of Secretary to Government of the Federation. Pundits may grab his unintended headline that we have been settled.
“May we ask, does the office of Deputy Senate President, in real political terms actually make South East and South South part and parcel of Buhari’s government? We do not think so.
“Or in other words we challenge Senator Ekweremadu to enumerate what he achieved for South East and South South with the office under President Goodluck Jonathan, his party man? Why didn’t we get additional state under their watch?”
“To us, without being immodest, one may amass wealth with the office; but Deputy Senate President in real-politics is more symbolic than substantial. Otherwise why the 2014 Constitutional Conference after our brother chaired the National Assembly Constitutional Amendment twice?”
The South East APC appealed that the zone as well as the South South zone “should not be denied any position due to us because of our brother’s unintended headline that we have been settled.”
Stating further, it said, “Contrary to Senator Ekweremadu’s submission, Ndigbo will not vote for Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) again, for impunity will no longer triumph. With President Buhari’s program to revamp Enugu Coal, build refineries, fix our roads, improve electricity among other projects, we see the South East and South South providing the critical supplement to President Buhari’s vote bank in 2019.
“In sum, we re-affirm our implicit confidence that President Muhammadu Buhari will not marginalize or penalize neither the South East nor the South South; for Mr President has repeatedly maintained that he belongs to everybody and that the past is prologue.”
However, in reaction to Mr. Okechukwu’s statement, the Enugu West Peoples Forum urged the spokesperson to “first address the issue of the N133 million campaign windfall tearing the Enugu State Chapter of the APC apart before seeking undue attention by delving into realms beyond his intellectual and political capacities”.
In a statement signed by the National Coordinator of the group, Paul Anikwe, and made available to newsmen in Enugu, the group, linked to Mr. Ekweremadu, said it regretted that Mr. Okechukwu could not tell the difference between appointive positions and substantive positions in the Federal Government, which Senator Ekweremadu referred to.
“We are surprised that the self-appointed spokesman of the APC for the South-East does not understand the difference between the first seven positions in the Federal Government, namely President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker, Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN), Deputy President of the Senate, and Deputy Speaker, none of which is in the APC’s plan for the South East and South-South.
“For all we know, APC’s official position for these offices are North West for President, South West for Vice President, North East for Senate President, North Central for Deputy President of the Senate, South West for Speaker, North East for Deputy Speaker in addition to the judicial arm of the Federal Government, which is headed entirely by the North East as CJN, President of the Court of Appeal, and Chief Justice of the Federal High Court”.
The Forum said such exclusion of the South East and South-South from these substantive positions despite the fact that the South East produced two APC Members of the House of Representatives in Imo State, while the South-South produced several Members of the House of Representatives and a Senator, could not be compensated by appointive positions, whose occupants could be sacked at will.
“Besides, the ministerial positions, which Mr. Okechukwu referred to are entitlements of every State of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory going by the provisions of Section 147(1), (2), (3) and Section 302 of the 1999 Constitution as amended”, the statement added.
The group also said that the Federal Character provisions in Section 14(3) and (4) of the Constitution as well as provisions against discrimination in Section 42 of the Constitution already covers the primary interest of the zones in the appointment of ambassadors and other appointive positions listed by Osita Okechukwu.
“Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari would only be deemed to have favoured the two zones if he appoints them into key ministerial, ambassadorial, and other positions”, the group added.
It however said it would continue to give the Buhari administration all necessary support to succeed in the interest of the country as urged by Mr. Ekweremadu if the administration was ready to work.
The Enugu West Peoples Forum congratulated Mr. Ekweremadu on his historic election as the Deputy President of the Senate for the third straight time, expressing satisfaction with his representation.