Rain of tributes as Ambode, Anyaoku, Fashola, Obi, others mourn Ekwueme
It was a rain of tributes yesterday for Nigeria’s first elected Vice President, the late Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme.
Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode; Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi, and Africa’s richest woman, Folorunsho Alakija, all extolled Ekwueme’s integrity and statesmanship.
They and others, including former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Sir Emeka Anyaoku, spoke at the commendation service for Ekwueme at the Cathedral Church of God, Marina and the ‘Evening of Tributes and Music’ at the Muson Centre, Lagos Island.
Other guests at the events included Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun; former Ekiti State Governor and Minister of Solid Minerals Development, John Kayode Fayemi; former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba; former Abia State Governor, Chief Orji Uzor, among others.
Ambode described Ekwueme, who died in London last November 19 aged 85, as “a leader among leaders.”
He said Ekwueme was “a well respected elder statesman who carried himself with dignity and exuded knowledge, experience and maturity.”
Ambode noted the “exemplary patriotic roles” played by Ekwueme.
He said: “Significantly, his answer to the still-problematic National Question grabbed public attention in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country searching for unity, stability and an equitable power-sharing formula.
“Dr. Ekwueme had proposed six geopolitical zones as the federating units that would rotationally produce a five-year single-term presidency. The six geopolitical zones are Northwest, Northeast, North central, Southwest, Southeast and South-south.”
“There is no doubt that Dr. Ekwueme was a creative political thinker. Although his novel proposal during the 1994-1995 National Constitutional Conference (NCC) that produced the 1999 Nigerian Constitution was not formally included in the constitution, it is to his credit that the idea of six geopolitical zones has been informally embraced and today informs aspects of governance in the country. In this respect, his contribution to the country’s political evolution has an enduring quality.”
Fashola, who paid his tributes via a video interview said Ekwueme was “a truly great man.”
He recommended Ekwueme’s credibility and high values as worth emulating.
Obi described Ekwueme as a nationalist and urged other politicians to emulate him.
He told The Nation that Ekwueme was one of Nigeria’s best leaders ever.
Anyaoku said: “He was not a typical leader. He left a legacy of diligence, hardwork.”
Subomi, Ekwueme’s friend and former Lagos neighbour, recalled how their bond of friendship was cemented after Ekwueme returned to his house in Apapa from the east after the civil war. He noted God used Ekwueme to direct opportunities his way.
Alhaji Lateef Okunnu SAN, Ekwueme’s former school mate at King’s College, Lagos, said Ekwueme would have made Nigeria great if he had become President.
Mrs Alakija recalled Ekwueme’s brilliance.
She said: “He was extremely sharp and would always recognise anyone who was sharp. He loved dancing. He would dance and dance.”
Bishop of Lagos and Dean Emeritus, Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Adebola Ademowo, the Bishop of Lagos and Dean Emeritus, Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion), described the late former Vice President as a selfless and God fearing Nigerian statesman.
He said: “We cannot compare him to the politicians of today as he single-handedly supervised the construction of Oko Comprehensive Secondary School, among many things he did, he spent his money for the good and benefits of Nigerians.
Ekwueme will be buried in his hometown Oko, Anambra State on February 2.