By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Michael Oche, Abuja and Chika Mefor, Abuja
Nigeria’s first elected vice president, Chief Alex Ekwueme, is dead. He passed on at a London hospital on Sunday at the age of 85.
A statement from his family signed by his brother and the traditional ruler of Oko in Anambra State, Igwe Laz Ekwueme, noted that Ekwueme died at 10:00 pm.
“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 pm on Sunday 19th November 2017”, the statement noted.
Some weeks back, the former vice president in the second republic was said to have collapsed in his Enugu residence and was rushed to the Memfys Neurosurgery Hospital, Enugu, where he relapsed and went into a coma.
News of his deteriorating health condition prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to demand for briefing on the true state of his health.
The president subsequently directed that Ekwueme should be immediately flown abroad for urgent medical treatment.
Yesterday, mourners besieged the residence of the former vice president at Independence Layout following the news of his demise in a London hospital on Sunday.
We’ll Miss His Counsel On National Issues – PMB
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday expressed grief over the demise of former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, saying the country will miss the consistent counsel of the deceased on national issues and mediations for peaceful co-existence.
The president sent condolences to Nigerians, the government and people of Anambra State on the death of the Ekwueme.
A statement by his special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, noted that Buhari commiserated with the entire Oko Kingdom, the Aguata Council of Traditional Rulers and the Ekwueme family over the loss of the family’s patriarch, whose regular counsels on national issues and mediations for peaceful co-existence would be sorely missed.
The president who affirmed that Ekwueme’s unwavering commitment to the unity of Nigeria had been a major encouragement to many governments, recalled the personal sacrifices he made in helping to lay the foundation for sustainable democracy in Nigeria.
Adesina said, “President Buhari believes Dr Ekwueme worked assiduously to improve the livelihood of many poor and underprivileged people through the Alex Ekwueme Foundation, describing him as a man who served his country and humanity.
“The President prays that the almighty God will receive the soul of the former Vice President, and grant his family the fortitude to bear the loss”.
Saraki, Dogara, Governors Mourn
Meanwhile, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and state governors yesterday bemoaned the death of former vice president, Alex Ekwueme.
In a statement by his special adviser on media and publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki also lauded the dedication and service of Ekwueme to the development of the country.
He described Ekwueme as a rare personality and an exceptional leader, while praying God for the repose of his soul and the grace for his family and the nation to bear the loss.
“Today, I join the entire nation to mourn the passing of one of Nigeria’s most illustrious sons, 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”, Saraki said.
On his part, Dogara described Ekwueme’s death as a huge loss to Africa.
In a statement he signed yesterday in Abuja, Dogara said that the late elder statesman was a patriot and nationalist.
He said that the former vice president died at a time Africa needed patriots and leaders like him as it struggled with conflicts and other challenging
His words: “In times as these, elderly wisdom, experience and guidance of Dr Ekwueme are needed by leaders at all levels.
“Dr Ekwueme was a philanthropist, a famous architect, lawyer, brilliant politician and a man of peace whose efforts in building bridges of friendship among the various peoples of Nigeria are legendary”.
Also, Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano, joined other Nigerians to mourn the death of the late Ekwueme, describing his death as “huge loss to Nigeria”.
Obiano said he was yet to come to terms with the reality of Ekwueme’s death, as it was hard to contemplate the vacuum that his passage had created.
Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, described the passing of Ekwueme as a monumental loss to Nigeria and Africa in general.
According to Governor Dickson, Nigerians will remember the late Ekwueme as an icon of democracy who saw and used politics as a tool to serve and not to be served.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State described Ekwueme’s death as further depletion in the number of elder statesmen with love for Nigeria.
Ugwuanyi said the demise of Ekwueme was painful to Enugu State and Nigeria as a whole. “We received the news of his passing with deep sadness; it is a huge loss not only to his family but to the entire country”, he said.
On his part, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, commiserated with Nigerians, the government and people of Anambra State and the family of the former vice president.
He described the late Ekwueme as an outstanding democrat, compassionate leader, true patriot and exemplary statesman.
Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, commiserated with the Ekwueme Family, the people of Anambra State and Nigerians in general over the demise of the former vice president.
The governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, also commiserated with the Ekwueme family of over the death of the elder statesman.
Okorocha noted that he received the sad news of Ekwueme’s death with great shock, “describing him as an epitome of detribalized Nigerian, and therefore died as a statesman”.
Governor Rauf Aregbesola of the State of Osun described the demise of former Vice President Ekwueme as the end of an era for one of the finest politicians the nation has produced.
Aregbesola said Ekwueme’s exit is a big blow to the nation, which wounds will linger for a very long time.
Ondo State governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, described the death Ekwueme as an irreparable loss to the country.
Akeredolu said, with the death of the elder statesman, the country has again lost one of its brightest and ebullient democrats.
He Served Nigeria Meticulously – Shagari
In his tribute, Nigeria’s second republic president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari (Turakin Sokoto), said yesterday that his erstwhile deputy, former Vive President Ekwueme will be missed as one individual who served the country meticulously.
Shagari who said he is pained by Ekwueme’s death added that the late passionate leader came into the presidency richer and left poorer.
According to Shagari, the late Ekwueme would forever be remembered for his selfless service and dedication to democracy, hence his words of advice would be greatly missed by all.
Shagari said for him, Ewueme is but simply a brother.
“He came into the presidency richer and left it poorer. He will always be remembered for his selfless service and dedication to democracy and the development of the country in general”, he noted.
According to a statement signed by Shagari himself yesterday in Sokoto after the news broke of Ekwueme’s demise in a London hospital, the former president stressed that Nigeria has once again loss a perfect gentleman.
The statement reads in part: “ It is with deep sense of loss that I learnt about the demise of my brother and former vice president, Dr. Alex Ekuweme. On behalf of myself, I sincerely commiserate with Nigerians on his death. Dr. Ekuweme’s death came when his words of advise are needed the most”.
Expressing the fathers deepest concern, Muhammad Bala Shagari, (Marafan Shagari) said, “On behalf of the shagari family, I wish to extend our deepest condolence on the passing on of former Vice President, His Excellency Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, GCON. An accomplished architect, he came across as a man of refreshing integrity and humanity.
“Throughout his period as a vice president, he has always been a Nationalist and believed in the Unity of Nigeria. He became a vice president on merit, and the NPN nominated him because it needed someone of his stature.
“He came into the presidency richer and left it poorer. He will always be remembered for his selfless service and dedication to democracy and the development of the country in general”.
Ekwueme’s Death Shocking – Obasanjo
Meanwhile, former president, Chief OIusegun Obasanjo, has described the death of Ekwueme as shocking.
Obasanjo said this in a statement signed by his Media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, yesterday in Abeokuta.
Obasanjo noted that Ekwueme was a great Nigerian who devoted his life to distinguished service of his fatherland.
He noted: “The late Ekwueme was a selfless, disciplined and patriotic Nigerian, who lived a worthy and exemplary life. His irrepressible thirst for knowledge and education, which propelled his foray into many fields of intellectual pursuit represents a shining example to the younger generation’’.
Obasanjo said Ekwueme made distinguished role in the development of the architectural profession, philanthropy and goodwill in Nigeria to the benefit of many people.
“As the whole world pays tribute to Ekwueme, I join them in celebrating the life of a man who raised from the beacon of human struggle to lofty heights of nobility’’, he added.
We’ve Lost One Of The Pillars Of Nigeria’s Unity – IBB
Also, former military president, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, has described the death of former vice president Alex Ekweme as a loss of one of the great pillars of Nigeria’s unity.
He noted in statement issued by his media office in Minna yesterday that Ekwueme’s death was a big loss to the country at a time the invaluable roles of elder statesmen like him are needed for national cohesion.
The former military president said he was pained by the loss as he received the news with heavy heart on Monday night, adding that he has taken solace in the exemplary life lived by the late former vice president.
The former Nigerian leader who condoled the family, Nigerians, people of Southeast, and Anambra State in particular, extoled the virtue of simplicity that characterised the life of the late Ekwueme.
He stated that the death of Ekwueme has left a very big vacuum in the quest for true national unity and peaceful co existent for true nation building that has been the dream of every Nigerian in the usually resilient spirit to always be key players.
“His simplicity is a rare virtue. With his intellectual depth I have come to know him with carriage of a man that is always living a very worthwhile life built on values and morality. We will miss him; Nigeria needs people like him now than ever”, IBB said.
I Taught Him Hausa In Kirikiri Prison –Yakasai
Meanwhile, former adviser to former President Shehu Shagari on National Assembly matter, Alhaji Tanko, yesterday recalled the memories of how he taught the late former Vice President Alex Ekwueme how to speak Hausa language inside Kirikiri prisons.
In an exclusive telephone chat with LEADERSHIP, Yakasai said he worked very closely with the late former vice president at the Kirikiri prisons where he took the role of teaching Ekwueme how to speak the Hausa language for good two months.
He said, “I worked with him for four years. While he was the vice president to former President Shehu Shagari, I was the senior special assistant to the president on National Assembly liason. He was the chairman, bill vetting committee. We had a cordial relationship with him. I used to visit his house very often.
“I was very close to him when we were at Kirikiri prisons to the extent that I started teaching him Hausa language. He was very friendly, jovial and honest. He entered politics rich and left poorer. Very few people could have been so described as such. Nigeria will miss a gentle personality”.
Also recalling the memories of the late former Vice President, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who was the governor of old Kaduna State on a different political platform, described late Ekwueme as “honest personality”.
According to him, Ekwueme was never happy with his (Balarabe Musa’s) impeachment even with the fact that they were never in the same political party.
“On my impeachment by the majority lawmakers of his ruling party (National Party of Nigeria) in Kaduna State, he was not happy about the impeachment. He never liked it because he was a peaceful and very liberal person”, Musa said.
He continued: “I was the governor of Old Kaduna State when Alex Ekwueme was the vice president. We met at a number of occasions. We came together after the military took over the government. So, we came together to fight against the Military take over, irrespective of our political ideology.
“He was the chairman of the G-34, a group of politicians that fought the military and ensure that Olusegun Obasanjo became president in 1999. Though we were not in the same political party, our relationship was very cordial. He respected our party leader, Mallam Aminu Kano”.
A Great Icon Of Nigerian Democracy Has Fallen – PDP
The national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday mourned the demise of one of its founding fathers, former Vice President Ekwueme, saying he was a great icon of democracy in Nigeria.
In a statement by its national publicity secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, PDP said Ekwueme will be greatly remembered for his fatherly role, doggedness and sacrifices made to birth the 4th Republic and to entrench democracy in Nigeria alongside other great leaders.
The statement noted “His Excellency was a Man of many firsts; a Distinguished Architect who established the First Indeginous Architectural Firm in Nigeria, Presided over the Institute of Architects, and the Architects Council of Nigeria, a Lawyer, Sociologist, Philosopher, Historian, and Public Servant, who was trained in the USA and London.
“The Ide of Oko and Aguata indeed served Nigeria and his immediate communities in many capacities. He made considerable contributions to their socio-economic advancement, especially in the education of their youths to universities in the country and abroad through his Education Trust Fund”.
The former Vice President Ekwueme was born on October 21, 1932. He was the Ide of the Oko kingdom in Anambra State.
Ekwueme had his primary education at the St John’s Anglican Central School, Ekwulobia, before he proceeded to King’s College, Lagos.
He was awarded Fulbright Scholarship in the United States of America and attended University of Washington where he earned bachelor’s degree in Architecture and city planning. He was one of the first Nigerians to gain the Fulbright scholarship award.
An intellectual powerhouse, Ekwueme obtained a masters degree in urban planning, earned degrees in sociology, history, philosophy and law from the University of London.
The former vice president 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.
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. When he returned to Nigeria, he worked with ESSO West Africa, Lagos, where he oversaw the construction and maintenance department.
He later established his own firm, Ekwueme Associates, Architects and Town Planners. Besides being the first indigenous architectural firm in Nigeria, it was very successful with 16 offices spread all over Nigeria.
Ekwueme presided over the Nigerian Institute of Architects and the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Nigerian Institute of Architects.
As his national and international status rose, the former vice president was actively involved in the socio-economic development of his community. In addition to his many public service roles within his community, Ekwueme has an Educational Trust Fund that has been responsible for sponsoring the education of several hundreds of youths to universities in Nigeria and abroad. Ekwueme was a member of the housing sub-committee of the Adebo Salaries and Wages Review Commission. He also served for many years on the board of the Anambra State Housing Development Authority.
He was a member of the Board of Directors of Canada-based Forum of Federations. He was also a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Council of Elders. Ekwueme was leader of the team assembled by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for pre-election monitoring of 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. Recently, he was called upon by the ruling party in Nigeria to head the Reconciliation Committee in the wake of intra-party discord and after the recent presidential election.
He has been honoured with the Order of the Republic of Guinea and Nigeria, second highest national honours of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON). Ekwueme was the benefactor and Patron of Alex Ekwueme Foundation.
Ekwueme’s politics was intellectual. Not giving to the inanities that pervaded the political space, he was regarded as one of the most educated Nigerian political leaders.
He was often referred to as the intellectual power base of the Shagari administration. However, when the military struck in December 1983 and the second republic administration was truncated, Ekwueme was among politicians arrested by the incoming military government of Muhammadu Buhari.
He and other politicians accused of various infringements and corruptions were detained at the Kirikiri prisons in Lagos.
At the turn of a new political dispensation, Ekwueme’s political intellectualism manifested when he participated in the Nigeria National Constitutional Conference (NCC) in Abuja.
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