Former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu is a politician of note. He represents different things to different people. Ekweremadu who has been in politics since 1997 has served in various capacities within his state, Enugu, in Nigeria and beyond. He began as the local government chairman for his Aninri local government. In 1999, he was appointed Chief of Staff under the administration of former Governor, Chimaroke Nnamani.
Later on in that administration, he became the Secretary to the state government, a position he occupied until 2003 when he won the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to represent Enugu West senatorial zone in the National Assembly. Since then, he has been in the Senate, where he rose to the position of Deputy Senate President for three times as well as becoming the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament among others.
Going by his acclaimed political heights, he should not be new to crisis. As a politician, he has been associated with several controversies both real and imagined, sometimes contrived by his political opponents to gain advantage in their contests for political supremacy.
While he had sometimes triumphed over opposition to his style of politics, the controversy that has crept in and striving to seriously diminish all that he had laboured so hard to achieve in politics, is perhaps the recent news about his involvement in organ harvesting of a minor.
Last Thursday, the world was jolted by the news of the arrest of the lawmaker alongside his wife, Beatrice Nwanneka in the far away United Kingdom.
They were reported arrested at the Heathrow Airport, in the United Kingdom for allegedly bringing a minor into a foreign country for the purpose of harvesting his organs.
The UK police that carried out the arrest had detained him and his wife and had the next day paraded them in court and charged them for conspiracy to facilitate the travel of another person for organ harvesting in the UK.
Organ harvesting involves removing parts of the body, often, for commercial gain and against the victim’s will. This is different from organ transplantation as advised by medical opinion and supervised in a certified medical institution. Consent on the part of all is key here.
The court had refused to grant them bail and ordered their detention until July 7 for continuation of trial in the alleged crime.
The senator has become the centre of discussions. Since their arrest and detention, several versions had been told of the story. One side of the story had it that Ekweremadu had procured the services of Ukpo Nwamili David, an indigene of Izzi in Ebonyi State to donate a kidney to his daughter Sonnia being treated at the Royal Free Hospital, London.
Ekweremadu had last year written a letter to the British High Commission in Nigeria to support an earlier application for a Visa by Ukpo to enable him travel to London for the purpose. Sources stated that the young man, whose real age is now a subject of controversy, arrived in London in February this year for medical examination.
The medical investigation was said to have revealed that Ukpo’s kidney would not match that of Sonnia and was billed to return to the country in May 2022. However, on the supposed date of return, he was said to have run to the Police and told them that he was a minor trafficked to the UK for alleged organ harvesting by the senator.
Another source stated that Ukpo, who had been residing with his brother, was picked from the streets of Lagos state and kept in the care of the lawmaker until travel arrangements were concluded and he was moved to London, adding that, it was on arrival at the hospital that he was informed about the organ deal. He was said to have protested that he was unaware of the deal and had sought the protection of security agencies.
The other leg of the story was that Ukpo was actually promised a job in a company in London and remained in the care of a facilitator until formalities over his travel were concluded. He had however, arrived in London to discover that he had been tricked into being a kidney donor.
The development opened room for investigations and the lawmaker and his wife who made a trip to London last week, apparently to know how their daughter was fairing were arrested and charged under the UK modern Slavery Act 2015.
Several interpretations have been given to the news of their arrest with many calling for thorough investigations in the matter and appropriate sanctions administered.
Incidentally, the development was coming few days after the lawmaker had commented on the presidential aspiration of Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party.
Ekweremadu, who addressed the media on the chances of his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Southeast, had stated that the zone would vote the PDP in the 2023 general elections, stressing that the aspiration of Obi was an exercise in futility as the Igbo would not want to waste their vote.
His comments had not gone down well with supporters of Obi, who reminded him how much he had contributed in allegedly sabotaging the general interests of the zone for personal interest since he joined politics. They had reminded him how badly he had treated people around him, including mobilising opposition against the Atiku Abubakar/Peter Obi presidential ticket in 2019 in the Southeast because Obi was picked instead of him.
Unfortunately, it was in the heat of this controversy that he decided to embark on the London trip that landed him into trouble and thus paved the floodgate of more vitriolic attacks on his person.
The Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign States of Biafra (MASSOB), which reacted to the development expressed disappointment with the lawmaker.
“We are ashamed of this sacrilegious and irresponsible act of a so called national leader. Ike Ekweremadu is now suffering for the sabotage campaign he is leading against national justice and Peter Obi emerging as the next President of Nigeria. MASSOB lambasts him and commits him to our ancestral speedy judgment,” Edeson Samuel, MASSOB’s National Director of Information wrote.
Okechukwu Isiguzoro, who parades himself as a factional secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo had also accused Ekweremadu of committing “an atrocity against humanity”, stressing that he had been sacked from “Ime obi caucus of the group”.
Describing his arrest and that of his wife as the height of “monstrosities and atrocities against humanity”, he stated that they should be allowed to face the consequences of their actions in the UK, adding, “the Igbo leadership will strip him of all titles and privileges accorded to him as an Ime-Obi member if he is found guilty of these allegations”.
He called on the people of Enugu west senatorial zone to initiate the process of his recall from the Senate should be convicted of the crime.
But the actual Ohanaeze Ndigbo has since countered the statement by the Isiguzoro faction. A statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Dr Alex Ogbonnia insisted that it would not disown Ekweremadu, despite his current ordeal.
In fact, Ohanaeze stated that it owed it a duty to stand with its own especially in times of difficulty, stressing that it was not in their character to be hasty with statements over issues without sufficient facts.
It had condemned those rejoicing over the issue, explaining that it was “a cultural anathema to rejoice over a brother’s misfortune” and went ahead to pray for the quick recovery of the lawmaker’s daughter, while wishing her divine guidance.
Ekweremadu’s kinsmen on Thursday said they were behind their son and his wife in their present ordeal and urged Nigerians not to be hasty in their judgments.
“We the people of Mpu Town Union federated, Traditional rulers of four autonomous communities, elders in council, appeal, to the Federal Government, the Economic Community of West African states (ECOWAS), international parliament for Tolerance and Peace, the Nigerian senate, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), to call on the British authority to be fair, just, reasonable and diligent in the conduct of their investigations on the case.
“Undoubtedly, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the former ECOWAS Parliament and three times Deputy Senate President has contributed immensely and is still contributing to the development of our dear country and Africa at large.
“Ike at different fora has promoted the cause of education, health and global issues and has diligently been discharging his responsibilities to uplift humanity, since his childhood. We stand with Senator Ekweremadu in this trial moment and called on members of the public with different shades of opinion and anxieties to remain calm and allow justice to prevail, for our son we know, will not traffic minor for organ harvesting”, His highness David Aja, the traditional ruler of Anaekeorji Mpu said.
Perhaps, what the public is not yet aware of is what went awry with the kidney deal that made the donor opt out at the final moments and instead decided to expose a matter that had been under cover since last year. At what point did the donor realize that he is a “minor” and that telling the story could land the Senator in trouble and in the long run, earn him an asylum in the United Kingdom?
A Social Crusader, Jerry Ogu, told The Guardian that Ekweremadu must go back to the basics if he must unravel the truth about the entire saga, insisting that as a politician, “he should know that he cannot be loved by everybody”.
Ogu explained that though the trial would expose the role each party has played, he insisted that Nigerians “have become wiser and know when they are being used to feather the nest of others while they remain in perpetual suffering and bondage”.
Anyhow it is looked at, Ogu added that it was not the best way “for a man who has earned so much relevance in politics to end his career”, stressing that “head or tail, it is damaging, it is embarrassing”. He added that the lawmaker has become a topical issue.
It is indeed not the best of times for the senator who on winning his election in 2019 announced during his birthday celebration in Enugu that he would no longer contest senatorial election again in the state.
Two years ago in far away Germany, where he attended a new yam festival, he had escaped death by whiskers during an attack carried out by pro-Biafra agitators, following what they considered offensive statements against Nnamdi Kanu.
This year, he was to contest the governorship position of Enugu State under the PDP in the 2023 general elections. Although he had sensitized the state’s polity by his declaration, the groundswell of opposition against him did not allow his ambition to fly. His declaration showed how much his party members regarded him, as they employed everything in their arsenal to frustrate him out of the race, especially with the mantra that there was zoning in the state.
With the cold shoulders he received from the PDP, he considered the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) but the same forces were mobilised against him. He bowed to pressure and kissed goodbye to his governorship ambition.
And now he has this big matter to deal with!