FREEPRESS – Tributes have been pouring in for former vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, just as the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, called on the Federal Government to immortalise him.
Ekwueme passed on in a London clinic on Sunday night, aged 85.
Ohanaeze regretted that the country had lost one of its foremost advocates for a restructured federation.
President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement signed by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, commiserated with the Ekwueme family, the Oko Kingdom and the Aguata Council of Traditional Rulers in Anambra State.
He said Ekwueme’s counsels on national issues and mediations would be sorely missed, as well as his unwavering commitment to Nigeria’s unity. He noted that the deceased worked assiduously to improve the lot of the underprivileged through the Alex Ekwueme Foundation.
Second Republic president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, under whom the deceased served, said it was with a “deep sense of loss” that he learned about the demise of his “brother”. He commiserated with Nigerians, praying Ekwueme’s soul would rest in peace.
Former Senate President, David Mark, described Ekwueme as a quintessential leader and a hero of democracy.
“He was a forefront politician who brought intellectualism into governance. His quest for excellence, due process and the rule of law in Nigeria will remain a reference point in politics and leadership in many years to come,” Mark said in a statement signed by his spokesman, Paul Mumeh.
Noting that Nigeria and the entire Africa had lost a visionary leader, he said Ekwueme relentlessly struggled for the enthronement of democracy when he led the famous G34 that later metamorphosed into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He said Ekwueme’s exploits in politics and leadership included segmentation of the country into six geopolitical zones, adding: “The zonal structure has remained the roadmap for power-sharing arrangement in Nigeria.”
He urged the Federal Government to immortalise the deceased in acknowledgement of his contributions to national development.
A former Minister of Education and PDP chairmanship aspirant, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, described the death as a big blow to the nation.
Reiterating calls for preservation of the late leader’s memory, he urged Buhari to “name a national edifice in remembrance of Ekwueme, as a mark of honour and in recognition of his invaluable contributions to the rule of law, equity, justice and deepening of democratic principles.”
“His unforgettable legacies include not only the many public institutions he designed as an architect, but more importantly, the adoption of the six geopolitical zones which he conceived and introduced into the country’s political lexicon, and his seminal role in Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999 as leader of the G34 group.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo described the death as a shock, saying Ekwueme was a selfless, disciplined and patriotic Nigerian who lived a worthy and exemplary life.
(He added: “His irrepressible thirst for knowledge and education, which propelled his foray into many fields of intellectual pursuit, and his distinguished role in the development of the architectural profession in Nigeria, are shining examples to the younger generation, many of whom have, in fact, benefited from his philanthropy and goodwill.
“It cannot be gainsaid that over the years, Dr. Ekwueme had shown courage of conviction and integrity in his dealings at the pinnacle of national affairs, notably with his record of sincerity as vice president of Nigeria and as chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP during my administration.”
Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, noted: “Dr. Ekwueme was a detribalised Nigerian who was committed to the cause of a united, indivisible and prosperous country. He believed so much in all-inclusive governance and was one of those patriotic Nigerians who contributed in laying the foundation of a sustainable democracy in the country.”
Meanwhile, the family of deceased yesterday opened a condolence register at his Ezikwo Street residence, Independence Layout, Enugu.
Early callers at the residence included Nwodo, Anglican bishop of Enugu, Rt Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, a former senator, Mrs. Joy Emordi and Prof. Ukwu I. Ukwu.
As at 4.20 p.m. yesterday, 22 persons, including family members had signed the register. A meeting involving some relatives was going on when The Guardian visited the compound.
Also, former acting national chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, described the death as a huge loss to the party and the country.
He said: “As one of the outstanding founding fathers of our great party, the PDP, his exit now remains very painful, as he would have been a utility person in the rebuilding process of our party.”
Others who paid tributes include, Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun, Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, and Ohanaeze Ndigbo U.K.