By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA- THE late Second Republic Vice- President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, who died last year in a London hospital, was last week buried in his home town, Oko in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State amidst eulogies poured by Nigerian leaders and politicians. Ekwueme, it would be recalled, was the brain behind the formation of G34 made up of eminent Nigerians who mounted pressure on the military to return the country to the path of democracy.
It was also Ekwueme who, during the 1995 constitutional conference, muted the idea of the six zonal structure for the country which is currently in place. Before he came to national limelight, Ekwueme was an Architect of repute; with the structures he designed dotting various parts and landscapes across the country. He used his personal resources to establish the College of Art and Science in his home town, Oko, which was later upgraded to a polytechnic and taken over by the Federal Government and renamed Federal Polytechnic.
The establishment of that institution in Oko helped to turn the sleepy community into an urban center, with all the trappings of a modern city. The location of Oko, which has direct road network with the industrial town of Nnewi, the commercial city of Onitsha and the capital city of Awka was seen as a big plus should government decide to upgrade the institution and rename it after Ekwueme.
Following the massive infrastructural development at the polytechnic over the years, especially in the areas of engineering and communication technology, there had been calls for the institution to be upgraded to a university of science and technology. The call was heightened after the demise of the elder statesman and authorities of the Federal Polytechnic appeared to be set to take up the challenge of the envisaged new status of the institution.
In fact, even on the day of the burial, many people who attended the ceremony toured the polytechnic campuses and to them, it was fit and proper for the Federal Polytechnic, Oko to be upgraded and renamed Alex Ekwueme Federal University of Technology, Oko. For instance, at the new campus also close to the main campus, no fewer than 15 gigantic structures housing various colleges and a massive auditorium had been completed, with a standard Demonstration Secondary School to complement. Over the years, Senate and House of Representatives committee members who were in Oko for oversight functions confirmed that the infrastructure at Oko were more than what could be found in many existing federal universities. Some people who were in Oko on the day Ekwueme was buried, were even claiming that they had privileged information from Aso Rock that Oko Poly had been upgraded to a university.
So, when the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the burial ceremony, rose to speak, the expectation of most people was to hear that Federal Polytechnic, Oko had been renamed Alex Ekwueme University of Science and Technology. Though there was a loud ovation when the Vice-President announced that the Federal University, Ndufu Alike, Ikwo in Ebonyi State had been renamed Dr. Alex Ekwueme University, some people still believed that it was the institution in Oko that was being referred to.
When the message of the Federal Government finally sank into the ears of many people, some of those present could be heard saying among themselves that the loss of Anambra State had become the gain of Ebonyi State. Indeed, the expectation is that with Ekwueme’s name attached to the university in Ebonyi, the institution would soon become a center of excellence as government might be favourably disposed to giving Dr. Alex Ekwueme University, Ndufu Alike, Ikwo special attention in terms of funding.
As the Vice-President said in Oko, Ekwueme was being celebrated because he exhibited excellent humility and made sacrifices for fellow Nigerians, adding that he showed exemplary loyalty as a public officer and was a man who was always content with the position he held.
There was nothing about corruption that was linked to him in and outside office and therefore no amount of honour would be too much for him, the Vice-President said.