Vanguard awards

April 8, 2016

A lifetime of dedicated service, sacrifice

Alex Ekwueme

Dr Ekwueme

By Charles Kumolu

NIGERIA’s first Vice President, comes across as a phenomenal personality given his beyond the ordinary feats.

torchbearer

Dr Ekwueme

Dr Ekwueme

For Ekwueme, who was born in 1932 in Oko in the defunct Eastern Region, the journey to significance has been excitingly remarkable right from the first school he attended, Saint John Anglican School, Ekwulobia.

Sterling performances saw him attending the prestigious Kings College, Lagos and the University of Washington as a Fulbright scholar.

With a Bachelors degree in Architecture and City planning, the star in Ekwueme, who holds the title of Ide of Oko, became more constant than ever.  Of note are his chains of academic degrees cutting across several disciplines, a yet to be rivalled achievement in Nigeria.

Having cut his teeth at a Seattle based firm, Leo A. Daly and Associates and Nickson and partners in London, becoming a global brand upon his return to Nigeria was never a big deal. Ekwueme’s stint at ESSO West Africa, Lagos where he superintended the firm’s Construction and Maintenance department was valuable to the establishment of Alex Ekwueme and Associates and Town Planners.

As the trail blazing indigenous architectural firm in Nigeria, the organisation which had substantial presence across the country prospered and flourished. Interestingly, the Ekwueme brand undertook the construction of many national and private edifices especially in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country.

Involvement in politics

His astuteness in the field of Architecture saw him becoming the Head of the Nigerian Institute of Architects and the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria.

Like the proverbial gold fish that has no hiding place, his distinguishing profile then, resulting in his involvement in politics when the ban on politics was lifted by the Obsanjo administration in 1978.

A joint ticket with then presidential candidate, Alhaji Shehu Shagari on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, made the party’s 1979 victory possible.

As Nigeria’s Vice-President for a little over four years, Ekwueme was instrumental to the developmental strides of that administration.

A committed Nigerian, the former Vice-President did not take the back seat outside government, as he became fully involved in the quest for a truly democratic Nigeria.

It was this commitment that saw him daring the barrels of the gun in 1998 to form a political association in the most difficult circumstance Nigeria found itself.

The defunct G-34-a group of eminent Nigerians, which pushed for a democratic Nigeria during the regime of the late Gen Sani Abacha, retd, was a product of his consistent advocacy for constitutional democracy.

Before then, he had earlier participated in the 1994 Constitutional Conference, convened to fashion out a workable constitutional framework for the country. He is reputed to have proposed the division of the country into six geo-political zones, so as to achieve a just and equitable power sharing method.

Wealth of experience

Ekwueme, who is the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Nigerian Institute of Architects

was involved in the Educational Trust Fund, a feat that has seen to sponsoring the education of several hundred youths to universities.

As a member of Adebo Salaries and Wages Commission of 1971, he assiduously worked to ensure better wages for Nigerian workers as a member of the housing sub-committee of the commission.

Having served for several years on the board of the Anambra State Housing Development Authority,  Ekwueme was actively involved in National Constitutional Conference, NCC, in Abuja, where he served on the Committee on the Structure and Framework of the Constitution.

He aspired to govern Nigeria in 1998 but lost at the Peoples Democratic Party,PDP, Jos convention to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who emerged the party’s standard bearer.

Ekwueme’s wealth of experience and personality made it possible for him to sit on the board of several companies.

On the home front, he is committed to community development and ethnic harmony, resulting in the bestowment of the title of Ide of Oko and other traditional titles across the country.

An attestation to his global standing, reflected in his leadership of the team of National Democratic Institute, NDI, which was involved in the monitoring of parliamentary pre- election in Zimbabwe in 2000.

He also headed the Organisation of Africa Unity, OAU, observer team to the Tanzanian Presidential and Parliamentary election in 2000.

In 2005, Ekwueme  co-led the 28 member NDI/Carter Centre sponsored Observer Team to the Liberian Presidential run-off election.

These nation-building efforts earned him Nigeria’s second highest national honour, Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger ,GCON, as well as the Order of the Republic of Guinea and Nigeria.

The statesman is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Canada-based Forum of Federations and a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Council of Elders.

A philanthropist and respected Nigerian, Ekwueme, whose personality is inestimable has a foundation, The Alex Ekwueme Foundation, named after him.