By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Emma Una, Dirisu Yakubu, Ike Uchechukwu & James Ogunnaike
FORMER Senate President, Dr. Joseph Wayas, has passed on after a protracted illness in United Kingdom, aged 80.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Former Senate president, Senator David Mark, All Progressives Congress, APC, National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, National Chairman-elect of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and Chairman, Senate Committee on Cooperation and Integration in Africa/NEPAD, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani have mourned Dr Wayas’ passing.
President Buhari in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina said that the influence of the former lawmaker and his contributions to Nigeria’s democracy remained indelible.
The President noted the sacrifices of Wayas, who started taking up leadership responsibilities at an early age, turning a Senate President at 38, and remaining vibrant and dynamic in mentoring leaders long after he retired from politics.
He said he joined the National Assembly, government and people of Cross River State, his friends and associates in mourning the loss, believing his legacies will be approximated for posterity.
Obasanjo in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, noted that the federal lawmaker, during the administration of President Shehu Shagari in 1979, would “be sorely missed in view of his giant political strides and contributions to the building of the Nigerian nation,” starting from his birth place, Bassang, in Cross River State, to every part of the country.
“Dr. Wayas was a special breed who contributed immensely to the development of the country and became a parliamentarian in the Second Republic.
“He was such a great patriot who had contributed his quota to the legislative governance and overall development of Nigeria. He always pitched his tent with the truth. He maintained a cordial relationship with his colleagues in the Senate and well-groomed in legislative practices and procedures,” Obasanjo said.
Atiku Abubakar, described late Wayas as a detribalized Nigerian, who did his best in the service of the nation.
In a statement by his media office, Atiku described Wayas, who was President of the Senate in the Second Republic as a consummate politician and democrat, who left his footprints in the sands of history.
Atiku noted that the late Wayas contributed in no small measure to the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria and will, forever be remembered as one who served the country well and served his people with passion.
“The legacy of his political beliefs and triumphs will be important footnotes in the literature of Nigeria’s government and politics for generations yet to come,” Atiku said.
Similarly, national chairman-elect of the PPD, Senator Ayu has commiserated with the family of the deceased, saying his role in deepening democracy will not be forgotten.
In a statement, he said: “I join millions of Nigerians across different strata of life mourning the passing of this great Nigerian statesman. He dedicated his life to the service of his fatherland.
“He was a great man, a quintessential democrat and outstanding statesman who has left very hold prints both on the politics and political history of Nigeria.
“As Senate President in the Second Republic, he brought stability, style and depth to his leadership of the National Assembly at the time.”
In his condolences, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige, described the death of Senator Wayas as a great national loss
Ngige in a tribute by his Media Office, said: “Dr. Wayas was one of the young titans who moulded the building blocks for the presidential democracy which Nigeria adopted in 1979.
“My interaction with him dates back to 1977 as a young medical doctor and a unionist. He was also a young business man and a budding politician who would later make an effervescent presence at the Justice Udo Udoma led Constituent Assembly in 1978.
“Watching Dr. Wayas conduct the affairs of the Senate, his deft control of the vibrant cross party debates in the chambers, had a sharp impression on my youthful mind, thus, my decision later in life to vie for the Senate. An ambition I realized when I won a hotly contested senatorial election in 2011 to represent Anambra Central in the Seventh Senate as the only opposition Senator from the old Eastern Nigeria.”
Governor Ayade in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Christian Ita, said: “As a state, Cross River is in pains as we mourn the passing of our illustrious son. He was a rare gem. Dr Wayas’ demise is indeed a monumental loss to our dear state and Nigeria.
“As Senate President, Dr Wayas contributed to the deepening of Nigeria’s democratic ethos through his robust and vibrant leadership of the upper legislative chamber.
“And since his retirement from active politics, the former Senate President had been playing a fatherly and stabilising role in the politics and affairs of our state.
“We are with you in this moment of grief. We have you in our hearts and prayers,” the government assured the deceased family.
Former Senate President, Mark described the death of Wayas, who was the 4th President of the Nigerian Senate as a sad end of an era, adding that he was a flamboyant, vibrant and distinguished parliamentarian who left his positive footprints in the sand of time.
In a statement his Media Adviser, Paul Mumeh, Mark said: “The death of Dr Wayas indicated that most of the key players of that era have gone to the great beyond. He was the 4th President of the Nigerian Senate.
“Senator Wayas was a great nationalist. He was a parliamentarian per excellence. His diligence, honesty and uncommon dedication to the ideals of nationhood remains reference points.
“He brought dignity and respect to the legislature by adhering to the rule of law, separation of power and collaborating with the executive arm of government without compromising the independence of the legislature.
“His death at this time is a loss to the nation especially the legislature because “We shall miss his wise counsel and honest contributions to the issues and welfare of Nigerians.”
Also, former Deputy President of the Senate, Ekweremadu in a statement by his Media Adviser, Uche Anichukwu, expressed sadness over the passing on of Wayas.
He said: “I received with a deep sense of loss the passing on of elder statesman and Nigeria’s former President of the Senate, Dr. Wayas.
“This is particularly a grievous loss to the Nigerian legislature and the nation as a whole. He was a veteran and an institutional memory bank of the Nigerian legislature, and a key player in Nigeria’s constitutional development, having Deputy Chairman of the National Constitutional Conference Commission, which midwifed the 1994/1995 Constitutional Conference.
“Senator Wayas gave his all to the nation, had a tempering effect on the polity and acquitted himself most creditable as a patriot, pan-Nigerian, and people-vested political icon and leader.
“It is sad that he passed on at this critical juncture in Nigeria’s history when the wise counsels of elders of his status are most needed.”
On his part, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, in a statement yesterday, noted that Dr. Wayas was a pathfinder, who believed in the sanctity of the ballot as a vehicle for electing leaders at all levels.
Sen Nnamani who noted that Dr. Wayas was one of the best and fertile minds that presided over the Nigerian Senate, said, “ We have lost a patriot and committed democrat who took the entire country as his constituency.”
He stated that Dr Wayas believed in a fair and just society where no citizen is impeded or inhibited from pursuing his or her legitimate ambition on account of religion, ethnic or tribal leaning.
He prayed that God in His infinite mercies grants Dr. Wayas eternal rest.
Former Lagos governor, Asiwaju Tinubu, in a condolence message by his Media Office in Lagos, noted that as a politician, Dr. Wayas was excellent, and as a patriot, he served the country brilliantly in and out of public office.
He said: “The passing on Thursday of Dr. Wayas at 80 is the end of an era in the socio-political evolution of Nigeria. The late former Senate President was until his death one of the few remaining notable politicians who played important roles in the politics of the Second Republic.
“His wisdom, uncanny humour, deep knowledge and understanding of Nigeria would be missed by the younger generation.
“Dr. Wayas’ most outstanding contribution to national development, unity and progress of Nigeria was when he served as the Senate President from 1979-83. He led the National Assembly, that important institution and arm of government, with exemplary commitment.
“As a prominent statesman of his era, he worked across ethnic regional and political divides to foster national unity, cohesion and stability. Elected on the platform of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, his deft management of the National Assembly with a Speaker of the House of Representatives who was not of same political party with him in a government of national unity was a testament to his character as a unifier and high capacity in people management.”