Prominent Nigerians on Wednesday at Michael Okara Square, Independence Layout Enugu, paid glowing tribute to former Vice President, Late Dr Alex Ekwueme.
Those who paid tribute to Ekwueme at a commendation service organised in his honour by the South-East Governors include Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, South-East Governors, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Taking the first shot, Tambuwal, a former speaker of House of Representatives, said Nigeria has lost a dear leader, a patriot and democrat and one of its best.
Atiku said a lot has been said about Ekwueme but those who had personal interaction with the former Vice President, such as him, have something to share.
Atiku recalled that in 1994/95, both he and Ekwueme served in the National Conference that crafted the current constitution of the country.
The Turaki Adamawa described Ekwueme as a fountain of wisdom, intellect and a rallying point for all of them.
He said occasionally, he disagreed with Ekwueme on the issue of restructuring Nigeria on the lines of geo-political zones, but he later became one of the converts of the former Vice President.
“It is sad that such a man left us now that Nigeria needed his fountain of love, knowledge and leadership” Atiku said.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state, said an Iroko has fallen but urged all those who are mourning, especially his family, to bear the loss with fortitude.
In his own tribute, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, said a leading light has gone, adding that Ekwueme would be missed as an astute professional, his contributions and commitment to a united Nigeria, doggedness to unite Ndigbo and his sterling virtues.
“Those things he did not do, we will aspire to accomplish” Ikpeazu said.
Nkem Okeke, the Deputy Governor of Anambra State who represented Governor Willie Obiano, described Ekwueme as a man of integrity, a professional and a politician who has come before his time.
Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi state, the Chairman of South-East Governors Forum, said Ekwueme was a man of many good parts, a man of character and content as well as a rallying point for Ndigbo.
Umahi said Ekwueme died when the South-East Governors were planning an 85th birthday for him and had put up advertorials in newspapers in that regard.
Umahi thanked the South-East Governors and members of the National Assembly for coming together to give their leader a befitting burial.
Joining others in extolling the virtues and principles exhibited by Dr Ekwueme during his lifetime, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President however urged Nigeria to immortalize him by restructuring the country, which he canvassed for until his death.
John Nnia Nwodo, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo equally extolled Ekwueme’s virtues, saying he would be missed dearly.
Earlier in a homily, Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, said in everything we do in life, we must have it on the back of our minds that at the end of the day, we will go back to our creator and render account.
Chukwuma who represented the Primate of the Anglican Church, Nicholas Okoh, said: “How prepared are we to meet God? Ekwueme prepared himself for death.”
“It is a shame that in Nigeria, we do not have hospitals to treat people who are sick. Ekwueme resisted being flown abroad. It is a disgrace to our nation. If there was an elaborate birthday for Ekwueme, he wouldn’t have gone to Singapore to cruise around. It was when he returned from Singapore that he attended PDP National convention and fell ill” Chukwuma said.
The cleric noted that Ekwueme had a profession before joining politics, unlike politicians of today who do not have anything doing, the reason why they recycle themselves with ill-gotten money.
Chukwuma said Ekwueme joined politics to serve, but regretted that his Igbo brothers were part of the conspiracy that deprived him of the opportunity of being the President of Nigeria.
He lamented that Buhari put Ekwueme in prison 32 years ago and 32 years after, the former Vice President did under Buhari’s government.
Chukwuma decried the incessant cross carpeting by politicians in the country and urged the National Assembly to make laws, prohibiting cross carpeting.
Notable among other dignitaries at the event were James Ibori, Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, Jim Nwobodo, Pius Anyim, Arthur Eze, Professor Charles Soludo and Emmanuel iwuanyanwu.