By Chukwudi Enekwechi
The world usually celebrates iconic personalities who have directly or indirectly contributed to the growth of a nation and the development of a people. Such individuals are known for their rare virtues, humanity, and sense of commonality, kindness and tenacious inclination to the betterment of society in which they find themselves. It, therefore, deserves that when such individuals attain significant milestones in age they are accorded recognition, and applauded. This will serve as adrenaline and tonic for other people to cherish the virtues which elevated such personages.
It is in the light of this that Nigerians will on July 7th 2019celebrate the wife of former Nigeria’s vice president, Dr, Alex Ekwueme, Dame Beatrice Ekwueme who turned 85 years on 3rd July 2019.
As the wife of the former vice president, Dr Alex Ekwueme she played a supportive role at ensuring that her husband utilised the opportunity to give his best to the country, hence the duo continued to receive accolades from all parts of the country until recently when the former number two citizen-passed on.
During the second republic, she played the role of an acting first lady and performed important state functions, mainly because president Shehu Shagari’s wives were unavailable as a result of religious or cultural inhibitions.
Also as the wife of the former vice president, she played host to important international visitors including the wife of the former American president, Mrs Barbara Bush, Mrs Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Mrs Winnie Mandela of South Africa.
Between 1981 and 1982, Dame Beatrice Ekwueme led a delegation of Nigerian women and children to the International Year of the Child and the World Children’s Assembly in Sophia, Bulgaria. She also serves as the patron of the National Council of Women’s Societies and VicePresident of Nigeria Girls’ Guild.
Dame Beatrice Ekwueme is famous for her principled stand on issues affecting the common man and according to the testament of her late husband and former vice president of Nigeria, she remained true to him and exhibited rare virtues in the service of God and humanity.
These attributes have endeared her to the hearts of most Nigerians, especially those who have in one way or the other benefited from her benevolence, philanthropy, sense of justice and commitment to the growth and development of the country.
As a mother, she has been a source of inspiration to her children, grandchildren and the entire Ekwueme family, as they emulate herdedication to noble causes and sterling leadership qualities which are rare to find in our world today.
Through a dint of hard work, she accomplished a lot academically having earned a first degree in finance from the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka and a Master’s degree from the University of Strathclyde, Scotland in1978.
As the family, friends, well-wishers and Nigerians from all walks of life celebrate this rare gem, it is important that upcoming families realise the need to follow the footsteps of such personages as they serve as examples for the fidelity necessary for stability of marriages, good upbringing for children and which ultimately lead to a peaceful, prosperous and rancour-free society.
From the accounts of Late Vice President, Dr.Alex IfeanyiChukwuEkwueme, during her 80th birthday celebrations, they both started their courtship about seventy years ago as young school lads and with every passing year the relationship blossomed as they kept faith to each other, got married and embarked on life struggles together, weathering the storms and this culminated in many accomplishments both within and outside Nigeria.
With reference to the description of his wife, the Late vice president said she was ‘’a woman who has remained true” and who ‘’exhibited all the virtues of the feminine gender; a woman, a mother, a grandmother, sister, an aunt, all rolled into one.”
Dr Alex Ekwueme had also revealed that he met his heartthrob Beatrice in Port Harcourt 1946 when she was thirteen years old and since then his admiration for her never waned, mainly due to her diligence to work, commitment to the work of God and service to humanity.
In a homily to mark her 80 years birthday, the Anglican archbishop of Enugu Diocese Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma described her‘’ as an epitome of homeliness, chastity, as well as a virtuous woman who knows what it takes to be a loyal and faithful wife.” Such commendable accolades dominate the speeches that were given by several dignitaries who graced the occasion five years ago.
Perhaps it is pertinent to remark that Dame Beatrice ChigoziliEkwueme is truly blessed as her native name, ‘’Chigozili” connotes,considering that she had shared the glory as the wife of Nigeria’s former vice president, first indigenous architect and president of the Nigerian Institute of Architects among several important positions her late husband occupied in his lifetime.
She is also an accomplished teacher having started at the prestigious Elelenwa Girls’ School Port Harcourt and during the second republic she was being referred to as the ‘’politician” while the husband and former vice president were seen as the ‘’technocrat” perhaps on account of his inclination to professionalism and sticking to the job at hand. While Dr AlexEkwueme was preoccupied with daunting matters of state, Dame Beatrice was able to serve as a rallying point by ensuring that she filled the gaps where any existed especially in their social and family lives.
Therefore as Dame BeatriceEkwueme clocks 85 years of age, Nigerians applaud her exemplary life as a woman of virtue, wife of inestimable value, iconic teacher, a politician of note and family and nation builder of repute.
Many happy returns!
- Chukwudi Enekwechi writes