By Chioma Gabriel, Vincent Ujumadu & Dennis Agbo
ENUGU—THE remains of late Second Republic Vice President of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, yesterday, arrived Igbo land, via Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
This came as the Anambra State government has declared Thursday, a work-free day in his honour .
In a tribute to the late former vice president, a former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi described him as a good Nigerian, “who showed example through his commitment to nation-building.”
Ekwueme’s body was flown from Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, in a Nigeria Air Force plane marked NAF 918.
The plane landed at the Akanu Ibiam International airport, Enugu, at about 2:08 pm.
Ekwueme’s remains was received by the Southeast Governors’ Forum led by its chairman and governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi, accompanied by governors of Anambra State, Dr. Willie Obiano; Enugu State, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
Other dignitaries at the airport that received the late Vice President included; President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo; Anglican Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma; National Chairman of United Progressives Party, UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie; Speaker Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Ogbonnia Nwaifuru who led all the members of Ebonyi State House of Assembly.
Both chairmen of Ebonyi and Enugu State Peoples Democratic Party PDP, Hon Onyekachi Nwaebonyi and Hon. Augustine Nnamani were also present.
The southeast governors, one after the other, paid their last respect to the icon.
Enugu Chamber Choir, led by Nonso Offiah and African Vocals, led by Hyacinth Ogbu sang during the welcome ceremony.
Clergy faults FG’s N1bn burial bill
However, the Anglican Archbishop of Enugu Diocese, His Grace, Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma has faulted the Federal Government’s claim that it has spent N1 billion on Ekwueme’s burial. Bishop Chukwuma, who prayed for the successful burial of the late Ekwueme described the publication credited to the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige that the Federal Government has spent N1 billion on the burial as unacceptable.
He said the Federal Government should explain what, where and how the N1 billion was spent, stressing that Ekwueme being an accountability man, the Federal Government must give account on how the N1 billion was spent.
Chukwuma described Ekwueme as a great politician in Nigeria that will never be forgotten as far as politics is concerned in this country.
“We are happy that the government is giving him a befitting burial, but one thing is that people should emulate the legacies he left behind.
“It is not good to say all sorts of things without emulating what he left behind,” Chukwuma said.
Anambra declares Thursday work free day
While declaring Thursday, a work-free day, a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Professor Solo Chukwudebelu said it was to enable Anambra people to participate effectively in the programme planned for the day by the state government in honour of the late vice president at the famous Alex Ekwueme Square in Awka.
According to the statement, all markets and businesses in the state would be closed on that day to enable Ndi Anambra, friends, associates and well wishers to pay their last respects to the late Ekwueme.
He said those expected to attend the commendation ceremony include various social, cultural, religious, political, professional, educational, market men and women and other groups, adding that the ceremony would commence at 10am that day.
Meanwhile, renovation work had already begun at the Ekwueme Square preparatory to the ceremony as canopies and stands were being mounted at various points.
Ekwueme was good, exemplary Nigerian—Obi, Nwosu, Ogbeh, Orji
Paying tributes to Ekwueme, former Governor Peter Obi, who accompanied his mortal remains from U.K yesterday spoke during the brief ceremonies at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja. Describing Ekwueme as a father, Obi said that “the best way to preserve his memories is through good governance along his lofty dreams of peace and development anchored on justice and equity, which he pursued with consistency.”
Similarly, the former Minister of Health, Prof. ABC Nwosu said that Dr. Ekwueme, until his last breath, remained a thorough-bred professional, focused politician, committed patriot and worthy statesman. He prayed to God to grant him eternal rest.
On his part, Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh said Ekwueme was a true father and a patriot.
Collaborating the foregoing, the former Governor of Abia State, Senator Theodore Orji described Ekwueme as one politician that had the interest of the country at heart and remained focused and consistent on that.