Tribute to Dr. Ekwueme
By Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme was 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.
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.
That he learned and knew so much made him a most rare and skilled individual. That he would devote this wealth of knowledge and learning to the betterment of the people of this nation made him great. He was as outstanding a patriot as any man could be. His sense of humanity was palpable. There was no mean bone is his body. There was no malice in his speech. There was no evil in his deeds. He acted in the best of our traditions but also with a unifying and positive vision for the future.
Despite his exemplary skills, Alex Ekwueme moved about with great humility of spirit and singular modesty. He never sang his own praise. But his record of act spoke louder than words. Accompanying his soft-spoken demeanor was a drive to achieve and a belief in personal and national excellence. Thus, this renaissance man broke ground by becoming the first architect in the country and by establishing the first indigenous architectural firm in Nigeria. His skill can still be witnessed in much of the architectural landscapes of this country.
Dr. Ekwueme had made his mark in the social and educational development in this nation long before he became the Vice President of Nigeria in 1979. He started an Educational Trust Fund responsible for sponsoring the education of many youths to universities in Nigeria and abroad. At the national level, Dr. Ekwueme was a member of the housing sub-committee of the Adebo Salaries and Wages Review Commission.
Yet it was on the national stage that he made his greatest contribution and the example he set would have a profoundly salutary effect on many aspiring public servants including me. Because of his outstanding personality traits and his broad expertise, he was nominated as the running mate for Alhaji Shehu Shagari in the 1979 presidential election.
As vice president, he showed himself to be an invaluable asset in governance of the nation. He was loyal to his boss and most importantly was ever faithful to the nation. He was genuinely concerned about bringing about a better Nigeria. His time and energy were geared towards nationalistic issues. He was always at the forefront of efforts to resolve problems. His deep intellectual interventions often helped the country navigate through critical periods and troubled times.
Those of us who cherish democracy and those of us who celebrate the end of military rule in Nigeria must never forget that it was this soft-spoken man who mobilised the group of 34 eminent Nigerians that would put at risk their very lives and livelihoods to confront the oppressive Abacha dictatorship.
The G.34 would later form the basis of the Peoples Democratic Party and Dr. Ekwueme was the founding Chairman of that party. I do not intend to delve into partisanship on this occasion but suffice it to say that had Dr. Ekwueme been allowed to play his proper and rightful role in the party he helped create, Nigeria would be a better place.
I have always admired Dr. Ekwueme even though our political paths diverged. I became close to him when I was Lagos State governor. In 2002, I helped put together a 70th birthday celebration for him. Chief Ekwueme was a son of Lagos in many ways. He attended Kings College, Lagos. He lived in Lagos. Also, his architectural business flourished more in Lagos. As he was the pride of the people of Anambra, he was also our pride. He helped make Lagos a better place and his success in Lagos helped demonstrate that Lagos was a welcoming home to all Nigerians who wanted to achieve and contribute to our collective progress and purpose.
One of the most memorable honours ever given me occurred in 2006 when I was conferred with the chieftaincy title of Eze Obalu-Dike Egwu, meaning the king who terrified the giant. This was done by his younger brother, Igwe (Prof.) Laz Ekwueme, the traditional ruler of Oko, and I believe it was done due to my close relationship with Dr. Ekwueme. Here I must say I learned so much from Dr. Ekwueme. He was a fount of wisdom and I am still learning.
At 85, the late Chief Ekwueme lived well. He was the finest of gentlemen and a loving family man. He served Nigeria so much better than it served him yet he never grumbled or complained. He was always willing to set at risk life and limb for a greater cause and a higher purpose.
In a telling interview he granted to a leading Hausa newspaper, Rariya, he said: “My vision for Nigeria is that Nigeria should become a nation rather than a country. Ghana is a nation. The type of massacre of people from certain groups that takes place from time to time in Nigeria won’t happen in Ghana. You will not see people from Ashanti descending on the Fantis and the Ga and others and killing them as if they are not citizens of the same country. And when you talk to a Ghanaian, without being told you will see that he is talking as a Ghanaian but when you talk to a Nigerian, by and large it will not show that they are Nigerians first and foremost”.
Dr. Ekwueme is no longer here to make his dream become our reality. We believe God has taken His son to a better home for a life well lived and a job well done. But the example and wisdom of Dr. Ekwueme belongs to all of us. We serve his memory well and serve our nation even better if we follow his example and make use of his wisdom.
Dr. Ekwueme was a man for Nigeria and all Nigerians. He was what we all should strive to be. This man personified a better nation. May his good soul find eternal peace and rest well in the bosom of the Lord. I pray that God grant his family strength and grace at this time and that He grant our nation too good sense to never forget this man and what he represented.
January 28, 2017.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
A Tribute To Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme (Ide) (1932-2017)
Atiku Abubakar, GCON, Former Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, at the Evening of Tributes in Memory of late Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
28 January, 2018.
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 labored 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.
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.
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 the 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.