By Francis Ekpone, O’star Eze, Praise Necherem & Okechukwu Onuegbu
It was encomiums galore at a grand commendation service held in honour of Nigeria’s first democratically elected vice President, late Dr. Alexander Ifeanyichuwu Ekwueme at the Alex Ekwueme square yesterday. The event drew the crème de la crème of Igbo political, traditional and religious leaders and other distinguished personalities to Awka, Anambra State capital. Alex Ekwueme square, Awka, venue of the commendation service was filled to capacity by different personalities who came to pay homage and their last respect to the de- parted leader.
Leading the tribute was Governor Willie Obiano, who seized the opportunity to urge federal government to immotalise Ekwueme by naming any national monument after him. “Ekwueme’s name should go down as a pillar of modern Nigeria, he insisted that Nigeria should come first in all his dealings while alive and that was why he never resigned to fate when he was betrayed at Jos in 1999”, Obiano argues.
“We have lost a foremost thinker and philosopher, a beacon of modern Nigeria and that iswhyIamurgingallofusto celebrate the life and time of the great sage, rather than mourn his demise,” he adds.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige who represented President Buhari at the event, urged Nigerians to emulate the outstanding virtues of late Ekwueme. According to him, the late elder statesman was a rare politician with zero tolerance for bribery and corruption.
Ngige said Ekwueme could have occupied more political offices if not for his integrity and refusal to compromise standards. “Ekwueme was successful in every sphere of life, politically, academically and otherwise. But when it comes to bribery and corruption, he is a complete failure. I scored him F9, F10 and F12 in the area of bribery and corruption (BC). He suffered a lot of betrayal in the hands of politicians especially from his people in the south- east because of his inability to play by the rules,” he added.
“He failed woefully in bribery and corruption and that is why he stands tall above other politicians. 99 percent of today’s politicians are guilty of bribery and corruption (B&C) and that was why in 1999 at Jos, the Northern bigwigs threw their weight behind Olusegun Obasanjo because Ekwueme, who happened to be his co aspirant refused to offer them anything or reserve certain positions for them if elected” he said.
Describing the late vice president as a humble, selfless and destabilized man whose life influenced him greatly, the Minister regretted that his type is very rare in today’s politics where politicians aspire for top positions without experience. “Ekwueme is one man in Nigeria that is schooled to the latter;
he had Masters in Architecture, Sociology, Town Planning and Law but performed poorly in one subject, which is bribery and corruption (B&C).
Former Senate president, Senator Ken Nnamani, also declared Ekwueme as one of the Nigerian politicians who ventured into the murky waters of politics with his integrity intact. “They said politics is a dirty game but Ekwueme proved them wrong because he had a very good soap of washing the garment of poli- tics. I can’t remember him hav- ing any case to do with EFCC and ICPC as most of us have. He maintained integrity in poli- tics,” he added.
The President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo in his tribute, noted that Ekwueme left a significant footprint in the sands of time, calling on the Igbo stakeholders to emulate the legend while the former senate President of Nigeria, Dr. Ken Nnamani observed that Ekwueme had integrity in politics against the maxim that politics is a dirty game.
Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku in his tribute, described Ekwueme as “one of our most prominent political leaders who was not a typical Nigerian politician because of the way he played his politics.”
Recalling how Late Ekwueme conducted himself during the 1998 PDP national convention, Dr Anyaoku said Ekwueme was principled given the way he conducted himself when he was denied the presidential ticket. Anyaoku also recalled that Late Ekwueme was part of the “group of 34 that broke General Abacha’s dictatorship.”
The chairman, Orient Group, Mr. Godwin Ezeemo, who also attended the service said that Ekwueme has done so much that every Nigerian should emulate his style of politics which is devoid of bitterness and rancor but anchored on selfless service to humanity.
“That is my own ideology of politics because I believe in the way Ekwueme played his own politics, nobody has ever condemned him for witch-hunting him or her and he never indulged in pull-him-down syndrome which characterize our modern politics. I therefore enjoin our people to borrow a leaf from Ekwueme’s style of politics”.
Earlier in his sermon, the Anglican Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Revd Alexander Chibuzo Ibezim called on politicians to emulate Ekwueme in doing things that will have positive impact on the lives of people.
“His death reminds us that we need elders that care about the country and it also reminds us that we need unity in this country, Nigeria. The greatest respect we can give to Pa Ekwueme is to study his political pattern and emulate his ethics because his death will live a big vacuum that will take time to fill.
Beside President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the former Governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi and four Governors of the South-East geopolitical zone were among the notable absentees at the grand event.
Orient Daily learnt that the governors of Enugu, Ifeanyichukwu Ugwuanyi, his Ebonyi and Abia counterparts David Umahi and Okezie Ikpazu ( all members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were represented by their political appointees while Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo (APC) did not attend or send any rep- resentative.
Recall that all the governors were on ground to receive the body of the late vice president at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu on Wednesday. However, it was unclear if the actions of the governors were intentional or had political undertone as Gov- ernor Willie Obiano, who was absent at the interdenominational church held in honour of same Ekwueme in Enugu was represented by his Deputy, Nkem Okeke.
Orient Daily learnt that manyPDP stalwarts like Peter Obi atended the Enugu event but abstained from the Awka service.
Most of the stakeholders present at the event held in Awka were political stalwarts of the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) at the National, State and Local Government levels; top government functionaries, state government civil servants, and lawmakers. Those sighted at the event include Governor Willie Obiano, Senator Victor Umeh of Anambra Central Senatorial Zone, Alex Otti, gubernatorial hopeful of APGA in Abia State, Hon. Dozie Nwank- wo of Dunukofia/ Njikoka, Ana- ocha federal constituency.
Others were Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, APGA BoT member, Prof. Charles Soludo, Tim Menakaya, two PDP decampee members of APGA, Hon Ben Nwankwo, member represent- ing Orumba north and South federal constituency, Hon Anayo Ndibe of Awka north and South, Hon Gabriel Onyenwife, and others.
In a similar vein, Mr Chido Obidiegwu, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Obiono on Events and one of the Masters of the Ceremony, while introducing Engr Ogoo Ekwueme, SA Public Utilities to Governor Willie Obiano to speak on behalf of the deceased family, said he was chosen because he is APGA even though he is junior to many.
Engr. Ogoo Ekwueme while delivering the vote of thanks commended Willie Obiano and his government and the Federal government for their efforts to give their father a befitting burial.
Among the non APGA members present were Senator Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Productivity who incidentally, represented President Muhammadu Buhari, Senator Ndi Obi, Senator Ken Nnamani, Senator Ike Nwachukwu, Andy Uba, Nnamdi Eriobuna, Nnia Nwodo of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Emeka Anyaoku, former Com- monwealth Secretary general.
Others were former Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju (APC), Governor Sule Lamido, former Governor of Jigawa State and PDP Presidential aspirant, Chief Okwudili Ezenwankwo of Southeast Amagamalted Traders Association (SEAMA- TA), members of Anambra state traditional rulers council, members of Anambra State Town Union President Generals, NBA, the military and paramilitaries, Architects,
Also present were clergies, prelates, religious, including Bishops Paulinus Ezeokafor, Valerian Okeke, Jonas Benson Okoye, Okpalaeke of Catholic Dioceses of Awka, Onitsha, Ahiara; while the Angli- can Communion has Maxwell Anikwenwa, Johnson Ekwe, Udogu Ezeoka, Alex Ibezim , Pius Ogbunaja, and others. Their were also representatives of Pentecostal Fellowship of Ni- geria (PFN), led by Bishop Paul Nwachukwu of Grace of God Mission and others.
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APGA youths claim Ekwueme:
Meanwhile, a mild drama played out during Ekwueme’s commendation service at the Alex Ekwueme square Awka when some youths believed to be members of United Anambra Youth Assembly (U-AYA), an arm of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) clustered round the corpse, bearing different APGA insignia, flags and bands.
Orient Daily reporter who was at the event reported that the youths, who usually display their talents in like manner whenever and wherever APGA event is held, trailed at the back of the undertakers who were carrying the remains of Ekwueme from the street into the venue, Dr Alex Ekwueme Square.
According to the report, the youths were however stopped halfway immediately they marched passed the back entrance gate behind APAM’s undertakers possibly on the command of their leader and security.
The late sage, it would be recalled, was a cofounder of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the party he remained loyal member till death, even as his daughter, Chidi Onyemelukwe contested as Deputy Governorship candidate of PDP at 2017 gubernatorial poll.