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Ekwueme: Exit of A Political Icon

By Samson Atekojo Usman:

Nigeria lost one of its foremost leaders and politicians, Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme (GCON), first elected Vice President in office from 1979-to 1983 on November 19, 2017 in a London hospital. He has been described in death as possibly one of the best presidents Nigeria never had. The late political icon began his last journey home on Sunday January 28 when his body was flown to Abuja from London.
As part of the funeral arrangements for the late Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Anambra State government, his home state, announced a public holiday on Thursday, February 1.

The statement read, “Please note that Thursday, February 1st, 2018 is work free day in Anambra state. All markets and businesses will be closed on that day to enable Ndi Anambra, friends, associates and well-wishers to pay our last respects to the late Vice President.
“All those attending the commendation ceremony including various social, cultural, religious, political, professional, educational groups, market men and women, and all other groups are to be seated by 10am prompt at Ekwueme Square.”
Ekwueme died in a UK hospital after a brief illness in November 2017, and would be buried on 2nd February 2018 in his country home, Oko, Orumba North local government of Anambra State
Born in 1937, Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, a statesman, erudite scholar and a philosopher would forever be remembered for his incurable belief in the indivisibility of an entity called Nigeria. This was against what men of his class and status, kith and kin thought differently that led to agitation that eventually snowballed into attempted split between 1967 – 1970. His commitment to the unity of Nigeria, his political sagacity in integrating Igbo nation into the mainstream of politics formed integral part of, ‘One nation, one destiny’, of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1979, which he became the Vice President.
His transition on Sunday, November 19, 2017 was a great loss not only to Nigeria, but Africa continent given his contribution to the progress of humanity since he made foray into politics. The former Vice President of Nigeria (as he then was) could rightly be said to be one of the great leaders and founders of the democracy we have enjoyed in Nigeria since 1999.
A man who truly loved Nigeria in every ramification, Dr. Ekwueme laboured strenuously at mobilizing other patriotic elements in the political circle to found the largest political party in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) between 1998 and 1999. The party won presidential election in 1999 with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who was incarcerated by the late maximum ruler, Sani Abacha became the President with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as Vice President.
Going through memory lane, late Ekwueme’s national mobilization and party building made it possible for the then military administration in Nigeria to hand over power to a civilian government. This is because the country’s political leadership, under the direction and guidance of late Dr. Ekwueme, late Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Prof. Jerry Gana and others, presented a united and disciplined group that genuinely forced the country to the pedestal of democratic governance by ensuring that Nigerians were ready for democratic rule.
Contrary to what was in vogue in the political terrain, the deceased contested for the presidential ticket of the PDP for the 1999 presidential election and lost, he never cross carpeted, nor became bitter particularly as the party was what he did work for. It can be said without contradiction, that there are few Nigerian politicians of the mould of late Dr. Ekwueme who play politics without bitterness in a clime such as ours where reckless political deals and betrayals tend to be common!
Not concerned about who governs the nation, but what happens would move the nation forward; he retreated to his private life. Thus, he became a father to all politicians and each time there was crisis in the then ruling party; it was late Ekwueme that the PDP and most political leaders in the country reverted to seek solution. And the late Statesman, popularly known as Ide by his admirers following his traditional title, always delivered and ensured that the problems were nipped in the bud. For patriotism, Nigeria has missed a President in him.
In 1979, in the advent of National Party of Nigeria (NPN), he did play a crucial role in the formation of that government with poignant success as a result of his intellectual prowess before military interregnum in 1983. It is no wonder, that the aborted democratic governance then was regretted till the return of democracy in 1999.
Dr. Alex Ekwueme was a man that Nigerians, and indeed the world will always remember. He was a very accomplished person and a philosopher of good standing who was always made himself available for national assignment. His pursuit of education and scholarship was legendary and helped in shaping the colossus that he eventually became. He showed these traits at the 1994 National Constitutional Conference held in Abuja, to fashion a new Constitution for Nigeria in order to prepare the country for a return to civil rule. Ekwueme deeply reflected on the problems of Nigeria and how the country can be made to work for the good of all its citizens by putting in place a convenient political structure. As a result of his great learning and easy grasp of issues as well as his honesty, integrity and reliability, his quarters at the Constitutional Conference venue became a Mecca of sorts. There delegates representing other parts of the country sought his audience and input before they made their presentations.
Ekwueme, who saw tomorrow proposed the idea of restructuring the country along geo-political lines. The six geo-political zones, which he proposed and was later adopted by all delegates, is currently in use by all Nigerians as a convenient way to easily capture and categorize the 36 States and the FCT, into which Nigeria is divided.
The late sage who died at the of 85, was a man of many parts, the likes of whom are very rare and the type that societies that crave for progress and development, hanker after. He unequivocally can be referred to as one of the best presidents that Nigeria never had, bearing in mind that on about three occasions beginning from 1999, he struggled to govern his beloved country.
He was one man who left anyone he had met with a good and lasting impression no matter how difficult the situation was, he would leave a lasting impression and indelible footprints in Nigerian politics and society. He will undoubtedly be sorely missed especially at a time like this when many issues on which he stood and fought, including national integration and a viable and genuine federal structure, remain unresolved. In fact, one way to immortalize this great politician and Statesman would be for all Nigerians to visit, in good faith, the issue of political restructuring and devolution of powers which the great Alex stood for before his sudden death. I believe this will make him turn with joy where he is and bless the country.
With his demise at the ripe age of 85, all those who knew him, should be consoled that he lived a good, worthy and productive life in the service of his country. For the rest of us, the only thing is to learn from his legacy. Tributes continue to be in appreciation of the life lived by the Nigerian politician. Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo on Sunday described late former Vice President, Ekwueme as fearless and an epitome of integrity.
He said this in his remarks at the Service of Songs and Night of Tribute in Abuja for the late Second Republic Vice President who died in a London Hospital on November 19, 2017 at 85.
Osinbajo noted that Ekwueme was the most remarkable person to serve the nation and believed in its indivisibility.
He said the late octogenarian possessed profound humility that came from the understanding of how much there was to learn and demonstrated it by his evident willingness to listen and learn always.
“As Vice President, he set an excellent example of loyalty, discipline, team spirit and fidelity to the nation.
“He was fearless and with the courage of his convictions, he led the G-34, the group of eminent Nigerians who confronted military dictatorship in its darkest and most fearsome days in Nigeria’s history.
“He contributed significantly to the return of democracy in 1999, he said.Osinbajo stated that in national and international discourse, as an elder in ECOWAS even on the most emotive subjects, the deceased spoke truthfully and ensured that his words built rather than destroyed.
He also said that late Ekwueme worked tirelessly to build and maintain the bridges established across ethnic and religious lines by many through the years.
“He never for once doubted the validity of one indivisible Nigeria,’’ the vice president said.He recalled the late vice president’s incarceration for about 20 months after the Shagari administration was toppled but that he was cleared as having never abused his office.
Osinbajo said that Ekwueme’s principled and fearless leadership in confronting the military dictatorship of late Gen. Sani Abacha, especially when it chose to succeed itself, was unequalled.
According to him, the late Ekwueme had principled interventions in many national debates and in all, he epitomised impeccable integrity, courage and selflessness.
“His values, like himself, remain relevant in every age and time,’’ he said.
Osinbajo said that Ekwueme had remarked that he would like to be remembered as someone who came into public office to render service and rendered it selflessly.
Atiku Abubakar, who was also a former Vice President said: “It is with a great deal of shock and disbelief that I learnt of the sudden transition to eternal glory of Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, GCON, a former Vice President of Nigeria and someone who could rightly be said to be one of the great leaders and founders of the democracy we have enjoyed in Nigeria since 1999.
“In every ramification, Dr. Ekwueme was a great man and one of those who truly loves Nigeria. Between 1998 and 1999, he laboured hard mobilizing other patriotic Nigerians to found the largest political party in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which went on to win the 1999 presidential election and ushered in the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration with my humble self as the Vice President.
It should be noted that the efforts put into national mobilization and party building made it possible for the then military administration in Nigeria to hand over power to a civilian government. This is because the country’s political leadership, under the direction and guidance of late Dr. Ekwueme, late Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and others, presented a united and disciplined group that genuinely represented and mirrored the political aspirations and readiness of Nigerians for democratic rule.”
Atiku said though Dr. Ekwueme contested for the presidential ticket of the PDP for the 1999 presidential election and lost, he was never for once a bitter man. It can be said without contradiction, that there are few Nigerian politicians of the mould of late Dr. Ekwueme who play politics without bitterness in a clime such as ours where reckless political deals and betrayals tend to be common.
He added;”Whenever there were problems in the then ruling party, the PDP until 2015, and there were many instances, it was always to the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme that the PDP and most political leaders in the country reverted to seek solution. And the late Statesman, popularly known as Ide by his admirers following his traditional title, always delivered and ensured that the problems were nipped in the bud.
I wish to recall that long before his advent in the PDP, Dr Ekwueme, had played a crucial role in the formation and government of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and its success in the democratic process in Nigeria.
Dr. Alex Ekwueme is a man that Nigerians, and indeed the world will always remember. He was a very accomplished person and a philosopher of good standing. His pursuit of education and scholarship was legendary and helped in shaping the colossus that he eventually became. He showed these traits at the 1994 National Constitutional Conference held in Abuja, to fashion a new Constitution for Nigeria in order to prepare the country for a return to civil rule. Ekwueme deeply reflected on the problems of Nigeria and how the country can be made to work for the good of all its citizens by putting in place a convenient political structure.
“As a result of his great learning and easy grasp of issues as well as his honesty, integrity and reliability, his quarters at the Constitutional Conference venue became a Mecca of sorts. There delegates representing other parts of the country sought his audience and input before they made their presentations.
“It was at that 1994 Constitutional Conference, where I was among t he delegates representing Adamawa State, that the astute and cerebral Ekwueme proposed the idea of restructuring the country along geo-political lines. The six geo-political zones, which he proposed and was later adopted by all delegates, is currently in use by all Nigerians as a convenient way to easily capture and categorize the 36 States and the FCT, into which Nigeria is divided.
“Suffice it to say that late Dr. Alex Ekwueme was a man of many parts, the likes of whom are very rare and the type that societies that crave for progress and development, hanker after. He unequivocally can be referred to as one of the best presidents that Nigeria never had, bearing in mind that on about three occasions beginning from 1999, the great Ide sought to govern his beloved country.”
“Dr. Alex Ekwueme is one man who leaves anyone he has met with a good and lasting impression the way he has left a lasting impression and indelible footprints in Nigerian politics and society. He will undoubtedly be sorely missed especially at a time like this when many issues on which he stood and fought, including national integration and a viable and genuine federal structure, remain unresolved. In fact, one way to immortalize this great politician and Statesman would be for all Nigerians to visit, in good faith, the issue of political restructuring and devolution of powers which the great Alex stood for before his sudden death. I believe this will make him turn with joy where he is and bless the country.
With his demise at the ripe age of 85, all those who knew him, should be consoled that he lived a good, worthy and productive life in the service of his country.
I extend my heartfelt condolences to his beautiful family which he loved very much, the good people of Oko and Anambra State and the fraternity of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
As we mourn the passing of this great son of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, just as we mourned some other great Nigerians before him, I pray that the almighty God continues to raise for the country, wise and responsible men and women of vision, honesty and integrity who will take the nation on the right path of progress and development. And may Nigerians also have the good fortune to recognize these quality persons to make good use of them while they are alive.”
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in his tribute described Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme as “a man of destiny who exemplified the best of Nigeria. A child of humble beginnings in Oko, Anambra State, through the dint of hard work, love of country and his innate sense of dignity and decorum, Alex Ekwueme became a consummate statesman and visionary. Body of the Late Vice President Alex Ekwueme laid before the full parade of the Nigerian Police on Guard in his honour during his passage rites at the Presidential Wing, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida Dr. Ekwueme was blessed by God with a superb and versatile intellect. He earned degrees in such varied disciplines as Architecture, Sociology, Philosophy, History and Law.”
He prayed to God to grant his soul eternal rest.

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