By Henry Umoru , Ben Agande, Vincent Ujumadu, Jimitota Onoyume, Joseph Erunke & Levinus Nwabughiogu
Nigerians across political divide were yesterday united in grief as they mourn Chief Ojo Maduekwe, the former chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who died on Wednesday at the age of 71.
The list of mourners included President Muhammadu Buhari; Senate President, Bukola Saraki; chairman of the caretaker committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi;Senator Ali Modu Sheriff; former governor of Kogi state, Captain Idris Wada and many other prominent Nigerians. They eulogized the enduring qualities of Chief Maduekwe whom they said would be missed by Nigerians.
While Amadi, one of Africa’s finest novelists, poets and dramatists passed on at 82 years, Maduekwe, a former Minister who took charge of three federal ministries at different times and later served as Nigerian Ambassador to Canada and Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was 71.
President Muhammadu Buhari in his tribute described the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, late Ojo Maduekwe as an ardent believer in the unity of Nigeria, saying his death had saddened him.
The president said that late Maduekwe who also served as Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Canada in all his years of service to Nigeria as a diplomat, minister, politician and ambassador gave all to that pursuit.
As Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, the President affirmed that “Maduekwe’s relentless call to citizen diplomacy and for Nigerians to be treated with dignity across the globe will continue to inspire other patriotic people to promote a positive international image of the country.”
While commiserating with the families, government and people of Abia, President Buhai also consoled the governments of Delta and Rivers States on the passing away of their illustrious sons, Justice Nikki Tobi, retired Supreme Court judge and Elechi Amadi, a literary icon.
President Buhari described the late Judge as a brave jurist who served Nigeria creditably and brought his many years of training, knowledge and wisdom to the Bench.
The President also joined the literary and academic community in mourning Elechi Amadi “whose writings and postulations as a novelist, poet and playwright introduced many generations of the world to the vibrant Nigerian culture.”
Describing Amadi as a “Man of Letters, visionary and venerated elder who dedicated his life to values of peace, equality, dignity and the reading culture in Nigeria, the President shared the idea that his departure was as much a loss to Nigeria and Africa as it was to the world.”
Saraki in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, described Elechi as a literary giant whose impactful life will continue to be of immense educational benefit to Nigerians and the world at large. He noted that Elechi contributed greatly to national development having served in the Nigerian Army.
Senator Sheriff who paid a condolence visit to the late Nigerian Ambassador to Canada shortly after the news of his demise broke on Wednesday night said in Ojo’s demise, “Nigeria has lost one of her best sons.”
Senator Makarfi who spoke after condoling with the widow of the late PDP chieftain said the party will “continue to be in a state of mourning for a very long time. Death comes when it would come but this rude shock to all of us in Nigeria will remain indelible”
In his tribute, the Secretary of the Caretaker committee of the PDP, Chief Ben Obi said “Maduekwe was gifted, he was a special man and indeed, he and I have come a long way. We have been together for over 38 years, working hand in hand politically. We have lost a great son of Igbo land, the PDP has lost something special.”
Among the early callers who signed the condolence register were Professor Tunde Adeniran who described the late Maduekwe as “an exceptional thinker, gifted orator, liberal democrat and resourceful compatriot who remained vibrant till the end”.
Other callers were the former Minister of Education, Professor ABC Nwosu, Ahmed Makarfi, Chekwas Okorie, Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, Former Minister of Niger Delta, Steven Oru, former Corps Marshall General of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Ostia Chidoka, Chuka Udom, Kennedy Okpara, Senator Ita Enang, Doyin Okupe and others.
In their reactions, the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano and his predecessor, Mr. Peter Obi expressed shock at the passage of former Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe and the renowned novelist, Chief Elechi Amadi whose deaths occurred on Wednesday.
The immediate past governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi described Chief Ojo Maduekwe as an unusual politician, who was not afraid of his own voice, especially in speaking out on matters bordering on the way forward for the country.
Also reacting, the President of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Dr Frederick Fasehun said the late Chief Ojo Maduekwe elevated Nigeria’s image abroad as Foreign Minister.
Maduekwe, a former Minister of Transport and former Minister for Foreign Affairs, died on Wednesday at the age of 71.