Valedictory Session for Late Senator Pius Ewherido: Family of Late Senator , Mrs. Pius Ewherido and her children at last respect to Late Senator Akpor Pius Ewherido after Senate Valedictory Session in his honour at National Assembly Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.
BY HENRY UMORU & JOSEPH ERUNKE
ABUJA—THE Senate Chamber was cold, yesterday, as Senators wore forlorn faces following the valedictory session held in honour of their former colleague, late Senator Pius Akpor Ewherido, DPP, Delta Central ,who died on Sunday, June 30, 2013.
The Senate suspended its plenary yesterday and today as mark of respect for Ewherido, who till his death was Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Marine Transport as well as member, Committees on Senate Services, Education, Agriculture and National Planning.
Before paying its last respect for the deceased, the Senate suspended Order 17 of its Standing Orders 2011 (as amended) to allow visitors into the chambers following a motion moved by the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, PDP, Cross River Central and seconded by the Minority Leader, Senator George Akume, ACN, Benue North-West.
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State; Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emodi; Minister of Niger Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe; Senator Stella Omu; former member, House of Representatives, Mercy Almona-Isei, were among visitors allowed to witness proceedings, which began after a wreath was laid on his chair between Senators Olugbenga Ashafa and Joshua Dariye.
After the session, Senate President David Mark led the senators, family members, visitors and friends outside for continuation of the ceremony.
Mark laid a wreath on behalf of his colleagues on the casket bearing the remains of the deceased before the senators filed past their late colleague with their heads bowed, even as some were unable to look into it.
Senator Esther Nenadi Usman wept along with late Ewherido’s wife, the children and brothers as she filed past.
However, the casket was drapped in National colours ‘’green-white- green’’with another red signifying “a Senator in the Red Chambers’’ at about 1.20 pm.
As each Senator took time later to speak on personal and working relationship with late Ewherido, tears rolled freely on the faces of most of them, against the backdrop of encomiums poured on the late lawmaker.
He is not dead — Mark
Senate President David Mark in his tribute described the death of Ewherido as traumatic, adding that with his achievements and legacies, the Senator was not dead.
Mark said: ‘’Each time death occurs, it tinkers with the oneness, corporate spirit, togetherness and love that bind us in this Senate.
“Death is inevitable but whenever it occurs, we are taken by surprise. Given the level of impact that Senator Ewherido made, not just in his family, home town, constituency, state and the country at large, it is safe to say that he is not dead because his legacy lives on.
Senator Ehigie Uzamere, ACN, Edo South urged the Senate to, as a matter of urgency, refer alleged cases of obsolete equipment at the National Hospital, Abuja to the Senate Committee on Health for investigation, pointing out that if the nation’s hospitals were not mere consulting clinics, Ewherido would not have died.
Uzamere spoke as his colleagues wiped their tears.
Uzamere said: “Ewherido might have survived if the consultants in that hospital were not paying attention to their private hospitals; he might have survived if the health sector was well funded.
“We are indeed under a lot of pressure from our constituents and we develop high blood pressure. Equipment at the National Hospital are obsolete and the matter must be referred to the Committee on Health.”
Others who paid tributes included, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Senate leader, Ndoma-Egba, Senators Ayogu Eze, Zainab Abdulkadir Kure, Margery Okadigbo, Ifeanyi Okowa, James Manager, Ganiyu Solomon, Olusola Adeyeye, Abdul Ningi and Gbenga Ashafa among others.
Unspeakable tragedy — Ndoma-Egba
Ndoma-Egba said: ‘’I rise to start a very sobre duty of paying tribute to a man who until June 30, was a member of this hallowed chambers.
“My driver told me that the Almighty did not consult us when we were born and has no obligation to consult us when we die.
Quoting Ray Ekpu who once asked “God, why are you like this?,’’ he further said that, ‘’Painful as his death is, I situate it in the contest of God’s immutability. Not long ago his 50th birthday began.
“It is an unspeakable tragedy”.
Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu said: “He was a quintessential parliamentarian who has taken a bow from the stage of life. He brought his experience from the House of Assembly to the Senate.
“This chamber has witnessed the death of Chuba Okadigbo, Yari Gandi, Idris Kuta and Martins-Yellowe. Pius combines the attribute of all these great men. He has bills to show that he was here.”
Also in her contribution, Senator Zainab Abdulkadir Kure, who is Ewherido’s chairperson at the Marine Transport Committee said that she used to allow the late Senator preside over meetings even when she was around, adding, ‘’He was my co-Chairman of the Committee on Marine Transport. We met and I said to him, you and I are the original Niger Delta. He is from Delta I am from Niger. He was passionate about the transformation of the education sector in this country.
He had a stroke. He died of stroke. I urge the wife to stand in for him and take care of the children for him. The last thing he said to me was I want to go and look at our submission. That is the committee on constitution review. He shook hands with all my aides, but I did not know that Pius was going.”
Ayogu Eze said: ‘’I am least qualified to speak about Pius. I knew him for barely two years. His presence loomed very large. Philosophers say one hour of a glorious life is worth an age without a name. He was an exceptional person. He was a man gifted to navigate very dangerous political waters and still remain afloat.”
Margery Okadigbo told Senator Ewherido’s wife, Doye, that she had a similar experience 10 years ago when her husband, Senate President Chuba Okadigbo died, and urged her not to give up hope.
She said: ‘’Do not give up hope. Stand strong. 10 years ago, I never thought I will sit on the seat he sat. When men love their wives they never let go. Do not let go. The God we serve is a father of the fatherless and husband of the widows. In every child of yours you will see a different Pius.”
James Manager said: ‘’I am not wearing my hat because of my respect for Ewherido. I knew Pius Ewherido when I was state chairman of PDP in Delta State.
“He wanted to be a Local government chairman. Contrary to all expectation, Pius challenged the opinion of the party and contested for deputy speaker of the House and won.
“He brought his intellect as lawyer and lawmaker to bear, especially in the Corporate Manslaughter Bill. We must ensure that the Bill does not die.
“He was a factor in Delta politics. His death will create a vacuum and confusion in the political landscape of Delta State. This is one death that is so sudden and so painful. He was not just a political ally.’’
Ifeanyi Okowa said: ‘’He was very intelligent and resourceful. Peaceful, calm, warm hearted and courageous. He had integrity and character; he was a man you could easily define what manner of man he was. He loved his people. He cared about Nigeria, the poor and oppressed in the society. He was the light with which so many people saw light. “Alive we cherished him, in death we miss him.”
Senator Ganiyu Solomon said, “I first noticed his presence during one of the debates on the floor of the Senate. His delivery was very powerful and brilliant. I noticed the force, depth and persuasion of his argument. His voice was a reassurance that our parliament has men of age. He was one of our rising stars. I will say shame on death because it cannot undo the legacies that Ewherido left. Death cannot take away the memory of him from our hearts.”
Olusola Adeyeye: ‘’I served with him on the Education Committee of the Senate. When I got here I swore to God that I will get five senators who belong to the next generation and would do what my generation left undone. I began to cultivate friendship. I am proud to say he was my friend. Great men are often defined by the fact that they combine rare personality traits. Men who have tough minds are often so impatient that in the quest to call a spade a spade, they call everything a spade.
“In their quest to be kind, they become kind to evil; those who can combine tough mind with gentle heart. He had one trait, his telephone was always on; he was always calling one person or the other to solve problems of his constituency.
‘’Strangely, I began to speak about my own death and why I cannot afford to compromise, he rebuked me sharply. Brilliant mind, uncommon courage, wisdom. There was a time when your name is earmarked for death, you become an Olympic sprinter. When he was in the senate, it was obvious he had done his homework.
“He mastered the finest nuances of senatorial oversight. He was always a partner in progress. I would have loved to exchange places with him. But God did not want it that way.”
Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi: ‘’What is important as we mourn our colleague is that he was not a pretender; he always took sides. I said you are a rebel because you are fighting with your godfather on who should be the governor.
He said “I am a rebel with a cause.” He would never take issues with religious or regional sentiments.”
Olugbenga Ashafa said, ‘’he was a colleague and a neigbour. He was sitting on my left. He was a patriot or an indivisible Nigerian. He was always on the side of the poor, youths and children. When the merger came… preservation of indigenous languages; he made me realize that as an Urhobo man he had historical linkage with the Yoruba. When we were to start the process for the merger, he single-handedly held a convention to bring DPP into the merger.
“Pius has not died because the saying goes that those who live in the hearts of those who love them do not die.”
Senate President Mark noted that 40 other Senators registered to speak, but he could not take all.
Mark said: ‘’This is to show how much we love Pius. I was in total confusion when he died. His death affected me as a person. Today, it is with a heavy heart that I join you to mourn our colleague and brother, Distinguished Senator Pius Akpor Ewherido.
‘’The greatest pain is not the one received when we are physically hurt. Neither is it the one received when we are down and out. But the one received when one so dear and so close is taken away from us. Death is painful and comes with grief. It is in this grief and melancholy that we mourn one of us.
‘’The sudden demise of Senator Ewherido is traumatic. Each time death occurs, it tinkers with the oneness, corporate spirit, togetherness and love that bond us in this Senate. Death is inevitable but whenever it occurs, we are taken by surprise.
“Although he was a man with exceptional achievements, he never boasted about such achievements and contributions to his community and the society at large.
“He was a silent achiever who was referred to by his people as the Uloho (Iroko). He provided shelter to many in his community, a gesture that cannot easily be forgotten. To most people from his state, he represented a unique voice of courage and boldness.
“Senator Ewherido was a lively, calculative and focused person. I can describe him as a man of all seasons who was always confident, vocal and comfortable in any company he found himself. His death was untimely and painful. He left his footprints on the sands of history. He lived a memorable life of a true Catholic and Christian full of enviable legacies.
“We cannot forget his persuasive, pedantic, brilliant and vibrant contributions to debates in this chamber. Each time he made contributions, he demonstrated patriotism and nationalism. He was a good team player who placed the love for the people above any form of individualistic or parochial interests. He was objective, truthful, sincere, committed and charismatic. The Senate has indeed lost a rare gem, as shown clearly in your testaments.
‘’He was a grassroot politician who enjoyed the massive support of his people. Thus, appreciative of him, his people elected him to the Senate on the platform of the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP, in a state dominated by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
“Although, he was the only DPP Senator, he was neither a lone ranger nor a lone voice because the Senate is a family. He was a great man who used his intellect and legal skills effectively. He sponsored the bill on Corporate Manslaughter. It was easy to see the influence of the profession in that bill and on the performance of his duties as a legislator; he argued with facts, figures and statistics that easily convinced his colleagues. It was always a delight to listen to him because the people’s welfare and issues were his uppermost concerns.
“As we mourn him, we must take solace in the fact that he lived a profound life, worthy of emulation. He was a true democrat, an outstanding leader who made tremendous impact during his two years of service in this chamber.
‘’We have to learn from the impacts he made over a short period of time and realise that life is not about the number of years lived but the number of lives touched. And Senator Ewherido touched many!
“This is not the end of the journey but the beginning. We live to part, but we will meet when we shall part no more. God in his infinite wisdom has a reason for everything and we must believe in Him.
“Distinguished senators, if death had given him a chance to bid us farewell, I believe he would have done so gallantly. Senator Ewherido had prepared himself for this journey…
‘’We need not be imprisoned in the fear of death. While there is still light and life let us “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15: 58).
“Senator Ewherido, fought the good fight. May Almighty God grant all of us the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss.
Adieu my Distinguished Boss, colleague, friend and brother. May his soul rest in peace.