The man Senator Ekwerenmadu, who is easily the biggest political brand out of Nigeria east of the Niger, is made most distinguished by the fact that his long years in public service has been without the blemish of corruption or financial malfeasance. As he adds another year in life, my wishes for my dear Senator Ike Ekwerenmadu is a long life of continuous public spirited service to the people and government of Nigeria.

The prolonged medical vacation of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua in 2010 and his seeming inability to transmit a letter to the National Assembly transferring presidential power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, in acting capacity in line with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution, had created a power vacuum. For a leader who preached and practiced the gospel of the due process of the rule of law, presidential historians are yet to dig out the truth behind the fact of President Yar’Adua’s uncharacteristic constitutional indiscretion. As such, ten years after, the circumstances surrounding former President Yar’Adua’s failure to transmit power to then Vice President Jonathan remains an unresolved mystery.

It was widely speculated that before he left Nigeria on November 23, 2009, for his last foreign medical trip on earth to treat pericarditis in Saudi Arabia, President Yar’Adua may have transmitted a letter to the National Assembly through his presidential liaison officer, Senator Abba Aji. Unfortunately, this letter never got to the National Assembly, as it was believed to have been intercepted by the infamous power mongering cabal within his administration that exploited his illness and the power vacuum it created to further their parochial self-interests.

However, what is clearly known in the public was that a certain Senator Ike Ekwerenmadu from Enugu State, South-East Nigeria, who was also the deputy president of the Senate of Federal Republic of Nigeria at the time, was the first to draw the attention of the his colleagues to the constitutional aberration of President Yar’Adua’s prolonged absence from his duty post without notifying the National Assembly and handing over power to then Vice President Jonathan in acting capacity. By this time, there was a ground swell of dissatisfaction among Nigerians about the violation of the Constitution in a manner that left the ship of the Nigerian state without a captain, hence rudderless. Ekwerenmadu’s timely intervention on the floor of the Senate was to trigger a chain of legislative reactions thateventually culminated in the famous Doctrine of Necessity.

To dispel the widespread rumour of his death, a voice note attributed to President Yar’Adua was broadcasted on the BBC network reassuring Nigerians that he was alive but on medical vacation. It was this broadcast that the Senate relied on to break the ice and wriggle Nigeria out of a constitutional crisis through the famous Doctrine of Necessity. In coming up with the doctrine on February 10, 2010 in an extraordinary time in the life of Nigeria’s constitutional democracy, the Senate essentially activated the spirit and intention behind the letters of the relevant laws of the Nigerian state, when it deemed the president’s broadcast to Nigerians as a communication to the National Assembly about his medical vacation; a move which eventually paved the way for then Vice President Jonathan to act as president. This averted an impending political crisis. Senator Bala Mohammed, one of the prime movers and promoters of the Doctrine of Necessity in the Senate later revealed Senator Ike Ekwerenmadu as the author of the Doctrine at a public event organised in his honour by his colleagues, upon his appointment as the minister in charge of the Federal Capital Territory.

Whilst Ekwerenmadu turned 58 on May 12, I have decided to celebrate him, less for the love, faithfulness, truthfulness, fidelity, kindness, warmth and generosity that defines my personal relationship with him. I shall instead focus on his accomplishments in public-spirited service to the Nigerian people. As a lawyer, legal scholar, administrator, politician and parliamentarian, who has served Nigeria in various capacities, from local government chairman of his native Ani Nri council to chief of staff and Secretary to Enugu State government, before his election to the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for a record fifth term, since 2003, Ekwerenmadu would be remembered more for his legacies in public service and much less for his good deeds to his family, friends and associates.

As the longest serving presiding officer in the history of Nigeria’s parliamentary democracy, having served as the seputy Senate president of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for twelve unbroken years between 2007 and 2019, Ekwerenmadu’s most enduring legacies as a legislator has been deploying his streak of legalistic ingenuity to spearhead a holistic legislative re-engineering of the military decreed 1999 Constitution into a truly “we the people” legal document. In his role as the chairman of the National Assembly Constitutional Review Committee between 2007 and 2019, Senator Ekwerenmadu has pushed the frontiers of Nigeria’s constitutional democratic development through a series of amendments aimed at improving the defective structure of the Nigerian federation in order to achieve good governance.

A constitutional purist and legal scholar, whose PhD thesis in law was on fiscal federalism, Senator Ekwerenmadu can be rightly considered as one of the fathers of Nigerian constitutionalism, for his commitment and uncommon passion for strengthening the federating units of Nigeria by way of systemic devolution of powers from the centre, as a condition preceding the attainment of fiscal decentralisation, to spur the competitive socio-economic development of the Nigerian state through deliberate legislations. But for the decline of accent by the executive branch of the Nigerian government to some critical amendment bills passed by the National Assembly, the demands for a restructured Nigerian federation would have been substantially met.

As the deputy president of the Senate between 2007 and 2019, Senator Ekwerenmadu occupied the highest political office zoned to the South-East geo-political zone of Nigeria; a position that bestowed on him a heavy burden of the political leadership of Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo within Nigeria’s elite power equation. Shortly after he became deputy Senate president in 2007, Senator Ekwerenmadu led a delegation to then President Yaradua, to appeal for the release from detention of Biafra separatist leader, Ralph Uwazurike, as a demonstration of rapprochement between Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo, who were feeling marginalised in the country and the Nigerian government at the centre. To solidify this rapprochement, Senator Ekwerenmadu also led a delegation of the South-East caucus of the National Assembly to President Yar’Adua and secured his approval for an international airport in the South-East zone of Nigeria. And to his eternal credit, in 2009 former President Yar’Adua appointed a Nigerian of South-East origin, Ogbonna Onovo, as the inspector general of Police for the first, after Louis Edet in 1966. For these, the amnesty programme for Niger Delta militants and other genuine gestures at peace and reconciliation of the Nigerian people, Senator Ekwerenmadu, nominated his beloved friend, ally and compatriot, President Yar’Adua for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Whereas, the principles of zoning and rotation of political leadership of a plural country like Nigeria may have deviated from the original intention of the equitable distribution of resources to the equitable distribution of loot by Nigeria’s ruling elite, it would appear as though Senator Ekweremadu has managed to remain faithful to the original ideals of this stabilising power affirmative action. On a visit to his country home in his native Mpu village in Ani Nri Local government of Enugu West senatorial district in December 2018, I drove on several kilometres of asphalt nylon tarred road with bridges across many villages, right to his door step. But I also observed the road network stretched beyond his house for as far as my eyes could see in different directions. This network of quality road infrastructure across his senatorial district and some other parts of the South-East geo-political zone, including electricity, dams and vocational centres are Senator Ekwerenmadu’s constituency legacy intervention projects. Ekwerenmadu’s Enugu West can easily pass for the senatorial district with the largest concentration of constituency projects in Nigeria. His re-election into the Senate for a record sixth term is a resounding vote of confidence on his quality representation of the people of Enugu West Senatorial District.

Over the years, Senator Ekwerenmadu has remained one of the most influential voices championing and defending the political and economic interests of Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo within an integrated framework of socio-economic development of a united Nigeria. Senator Ekwerenmadu has also redefined personal integrity and strong political convictions when he remained firmly in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), even when it was no longer fashionable, by resisting the temptation to join the ruling APC, like most politicians without principles did. Despite his personal challenges, trials and tribulations as the leading opposition figure in Nigeria after the fall of PDP from power in 2015, Senator Ekweremadu has not only remained resolutely firm and steadfast to his ideals and principles, he has helped nurse a dying opposition back to life to keep our polity vibrant and healthy. This remarkable level of political consistency is an uncommon feature in a country’s polity that is characterised by political prostitution.

The man Senator Ekwerenmadu, who is easily the biggest political brand out of Nigeria east of the Niger, is made most distinguished by the fact that his long years in public service has been without the blemish of corruption or financial malfeasance. As he adds another year in life, my wishes for my dear Senator Ike Ekwerenmadu is a long life of continuous public spirited service to the people and government of Nigeria.

Majeed Dahiru, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through