Nigerians Mourn Ekwueme

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Nigerians from all walks of life have been mourning the passing away of Alex Ekwueme, a former vice president and elder statesman, who died in London hospital on Sunday, November 19

 

By Olu Ojewale

 

IT was not the kind of news one would like to hear early in the morning, but sadly Nigerians woke up to learn the cold hands of death has snatched Alex Ekwueme, a former vice-president of Nigeria, in London on Sunday, November 19, at about 10p.m. He was 85-years old.

Since the announcement of the death of the gentle elder statesman, condolences laced with encomiums have been pouring in.

The South-East Governors’ forum on Monday, November 20, joined millions of Nigerians to mourn his death with a statement from Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State and chairman of the forum. In the statement issued in Abakaliki, capital of Ebonyi State, the governors described Ekwueme’s death as the end of an era.

According to the forum, the death is a rude shock and a great loss to Ndigbo in particular and Nigeria as a whole. “I commiserate with the Anambra State Government and the entire Ekwueme family of Uga in Orumba North Local Government Area of the state over the loss,” the chairman said.

He prayed God to grant the deceased eternal rest in His bosom. “The death of our father and leader is devastating, especially during this period that his advice is needed most. He was a great Nigerian who believed in the unity of the country and we have learnt a lot from his deep political sagacity, as his children.

“We have lost a gem, gentleman, decent politician and academia as the South-East through its governors would soon map programmes to pay its last respect to the fallen iroko tree.”

Paying tribute the late vice-president, Bukola Saraki, Senate president, in an emotional message on Twitter mourned the passing of Ekwueme commending his dedication and service to the nation.

“Today, I join Ndigbo and the entire nation to mourn the passing of one of Nigeria’s most illustrious sons, H.E. Dr. Alex Ekwueme, our first elected Vice-President. As we mourn his death, we celebrate his dedication and service to the development of our country.

“I will always remember Dr. Alex Ekwueme for his exemplary courage in the face of overwhelming odds — when he stood up to past military regimes and his dexterity in his personal pursuits as a successful architect, lawyer, businessman and philanthropist,” Saraki wrote.

In her own tribute, Oby Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Education and co-convener of the BringBackOurGirls group, said in a Twitter message: “Really pained that former Vice President Alex Ekwueme did not make it back home to us and has now gone the way of all flesh. We remember him with fondness for his strides in the Land. May our Gracious God comfort Aunt Beatti, Chidi and all the Ekwueme clan.”

John Nwodo, president general of Ohanaeze, an Ndogbo cultural group, in his reaction said Ekwueme was an outstanding patriot, whose contributions to the country’s socio-political evolution would be indelible.

According to a statement issued on Monday, November 20, Nwodo said that the country has lost one of the foremost advocates of a restructured federation.

“As Vice President, Dr. Ekwueme was intellectually forthright, engaging, loyal and outstandingly patriotic. As a politician, he was courageous and original in his ideas. Ndigbo have lost a genius, a father and an intellectual giant,” Nwodo said.

Festus Keyamo, SAN, a human rights lawyer, said he was saddened by the sudden passing of the former vice-president. He said: “It was just about two months ago that I last saw Dr. Alex Ekwueme. He was physically present at the Supreme Court for the induction of the new SANs. Such a fine gentleman. His passage is a big loss to the country as a whole; deep commiseration to the Ekwueme family.”

Since his death, the social media has been inundated with emotional messages from Nigerians from all walks of life.

The news of his death was confirmed by Laz Ekwueme, his brother and traditional ruler of Oko in Anambra State. Ekwueme said: “Ekwueme family regrets to announce the peaceful passing away of their patriarch, the former Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme GCON. The sad event occurred at the London Clinic at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday 19th November 2017.”

The late elder statesman, who turned 85 on October 21, relapsed into a coma at his Enugu residence on November 12 and reportedly airlifted to London for further medical treatment.

Before being taken abroad, he was taken to Memfys Neurosurgery Hospital in Enugu. Ekwueme was the first elected vice-president of Nigeria when he served deputy to President Shehu Shagari between 1979 and 1983.

The elder statesman started primary school at the St John’s Anglican Central School, at Ekwulobia, then, he proceeded to King’s College, Lagos.

As an awardee of the Fulbright Scholarship in the United States (being one of the first Nigerians to gain the award), Ekwueme attended the University of Washington where he earned bachelor’s degree in Architecture and city planning.

He obtained his Master’s degree in urban planning. Ekwueme also earned degrees in sociology, history, philosophy and law from the University of London. He later proceeded to obtain a Ph.D. in Architecture from the University of Strathclyde, before gaining the BL (honours) degree from the Nigerian Law School.

Ekwueme was a distinguished architect. He started his professional career as an assistant architect with a Seattle-based firm, Leo A. Daly and Associates, and also with the London-based firm Nickson and Partners. On his return to Nigeria, he joined ESSO West Africa, Lagos, overseeing the Construction and Maintenance department.

He later went on to create a successful private business with his firm – Ekwueme Associates, Architects and Town Planners, the first indigenous architectural firm in Nigeria. His practice flourished with 16 offices spread all over Nigeria and was wound up in preparation for Ekwueme assuming office as the first executive vice president of Nigeria.

Ekwueme had presided over the Nigerian Institute of Architects and the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria.

Before his demise, Ekwueme was the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Nigerian Institute of Architects. He was a member of the housing sub-committee of the Simeon Adebo Salaries and Wages Review Commission. He also served for many years on the board of the Anambra State Housing Development Authority.

On the national front, Ekwueme participated in the Nigeria National Constitutional Conference, NCC, in Abuja, where he served on the Committee on the Structure and Framework of the Constitution.

His famous proposals at the NCC for a just and equitable power sharing in Nigeria based on the six geopolitical zones have now come to be accepted as necessary for maintaining a stable Nigerian polity.

In the heyday of the late General Sani Abacha regime, Ekwueme mobilised the group of 34 eminent Nigerians who risked their lives to stand up against the dictatorship of the late general. He was the founding chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and was the first chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees.

A philanthropist of note, he was a member of the Board of Directors of Canada-based Forum of Federations; a member of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS,  Council of Elders.

He even led the team assembled by the National Democratic Institute, NDI, for pre-election monitoring for the parliamentary election in Zimbabwe in 2000. He was the leader of the Organisation of Africa Unity, OAU, observer team to the Tanzanian Presidential and Parliamentary election in 2000.

Ekwueme co-led the 28 member NDI/Carter Centre sponsored Observer Team to the Liberian Presidential run-off election in 2005.

He has been honoured with the Order of the Republic of Guinea and in Nigeria he received Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON, the second highest national honour in the country.

Until his death, Ekwueme was the benefactor and patron of Alex Ekwueme Foundation.

 

– Nov. 20, 2016 @ 15:11 GMT /

 

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