*Body arrives Anambra today, as govt makes last-minute preparations
*Abia govt cancels cabinet meeting
*Soludo, others advocate ex-VP’s immortalisation
By Chioma Gabriel, Vincent Ujumadu , Anayo Okoli & Dennis Agbo
ENUGU—IT was all sweet eulogies at the Michael Okpara square in Enugu, yesterday, as Nigerians of all walks of life and different regional and political divides bided Nigeria’s first executive vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme good bye from earth.
The roll call included former vice president Atiku Abubakar, Governors Aminu Tambuwal, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, David Umahi, Okezie Ikpeazu; Deputy Governors Nkem Okeke of Anambra state and Eze Madumere of Imo State.
Others present at the commendation service included former Secretary to the Government of Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, former Governors Peter Obi, James Ibori, Sam Egwu, Chris Ngige and Jim Nwobodo.
The list also included Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, former Senate President Ken Nnamani, senators, the officiating priest and Bishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma who took a swipe on the gathered politicians, saying it was shameful that Nigeria cannot afford good health care facilities that made the Federal Government fly the late Ekwueme to a foreign hospital.
Chukwuma wished that all the ceremonies for Ekwueme’s burial were done for him on his 85th birthday anniversary.
“Even President Buhari who used proceeds of corruption to get into power is paying tribute 32 years after he threw Ekwueme into prison,” he lambasted.
Chukwuma said that Ekwueme stood for restructuring of Nigeria, noting that he was never a man of rough edges.
“Who will now become the Igbo leader since most of you are playing politics of selfishness?” Chukwuma wondered.
On his own account, Senator Victor Umeh said Ekwueme was the best president Nigeria missed to have.
“He was in the best position to be President of Nigeria in 1999. He formed PDP and met all the criteria to be President but for conspiracy.
“The lesson is that he was always on the right path, insisting that Nigeria must be restructured. Who will bail the cat now, who will tell Nigerians the truth? The search continues,” Umeh said.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said he disagreed with Ekwueme during the 1994 Constitutional Conference when Ekwueme proposed the 6 geopolitical zonal structure but later realised his wisdom.
Governor Aminu Tambuwal said he brought greetings from former President Shehu Shagari whom Ekwueme worked with as a team in the second republic.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in his poetry recalled William Shakespeare’s description of the world as a stage with entrances and exits, saying that “Ekwueme was a beacon of democracy who bestowed the landscape like a colossus.”
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo recalled that Ekwueme, the great architect drew the Uli airport that saved the then Biafra republic from starvation and ex-communication, noting also that Ekwueme made it possible for Nigeria to have a ministry of science and technology.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu stated that like Abraham in the Bible, Ekwueme had many children, not encumbered by tribe or religion, saying he was sure the late sage was now in heaven with God.
Appreciating the commendations on behalf of the Ekwueme family, Prof. Obumneme Ekwueme said the family was overwhelmed by the spontaneity of love showed on the late vice president.
He left indelible marks—ECA
Also eulogising Ekwueme, Secretary of the Eastern Consultative Assembly, ECA, Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu – Uko said Dr. Alex Ekwueme left an indelible mark on the planet in this generation.
He said: He was a statesman, philanthropist, teacher, guide, humanist and leader of men. A thinker and father to all. His, was a life lived for all and in the service of humanity. A huge vacuum has been created. No one would be able to fill the vacuum.
‘’We take solace in the fact that he was a blessing to us all. He taught us from his heart, we were all blessed by his life. It was a great privilege to learn at his feet. There goes a truly great man, one in a billion.’’
Ekwueme’s body arrives Anambra today
THE body of the late second republic vice president, Dr Alex Ekwueme will arrive Anambra State today from Enugu on a last lap of its final journey to Oko in Orumba north local government area for burial tomorrow.
Various groups involved in the burial arrangements were rounding up their activities yesterday and the famous Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka where the state government would receive the body had been fully decorated with Nigerian colours of white and green.
Posters of Dr Ekwueme have also been mounted at various locations in the Anambra State capital, while a detachment of the Nigeria Police was seen inspecting the venue of the reception.
Chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the burial and Secretary to the Anambra State Government, SSG, Professor Solo Chukwulobelu, said everything had been done to ensure a hitch-free ceremony in Awka and in Oko during the burial proper.
He said the committee was satisfied with the level of preparations for the event and commended the state government’s efforts to give the late vice president a befitting burial.
According to him, all projects relating to the success of the burial were almost ready, assuring that all relevant security machineries had been put in place to ensure that the state remained safe, especially during the burial ceremony.
Abia govt cancels cabinet meeting
Meantime, Abia State Government yesterday, cancelled its weekly Executive Council meeting as a mark of honour for the late Dr. Ekwueme. The cancellation was announced by the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Dr. Eme Okoro.
In a statement by Engr. Obinna Adibe, the Publicity Secretary of Ohaneze Youths Council, the group urged “Ndigbo to mourn Dr. Ekwueme for six days and to wear black bangles as a way to show respect and mourn our Igbo hero”.
The statement also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to name Abuja National stadium after the late Vice President as a way to appreciate his immeasurable contributions to return democracy to Nigeria in 1999 after years of military dictatorship.
Soludo, others advocate Ekwueme’s immortalisation
Similarly, a former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo has called for instituting of Dr Alex Ekwueme’s Movement as a way to sustain his enviable socio-economic legacies.
Soludo made the call at a Colloquium organised in honour of the late former Vice-President of Nigeria at the Federal Polytechnic, Oko.
According to the former CBN boss, it has become imperative for progressive-minded people to be apostles of the elder statesman to promote his ideals of selfless service in public life.
He described Ekwueme as a leader of uncommon intellectual ability, who gave Nigeria the six geo-political zones as a framework for national cohesion.
Soludo noted that his value in politics is a serious case study for Nigerian leaders.
He lauded Ekwueme for stamping his foot, hard with human face kind of politics in a political landscape dominated by men of easy virtues.
As a way to immortalise him, he called for upgrading of the Federal Polytechnic, Oko to a University of Technology to be named after Ekwueme.