Oko community, in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State, and country home of the late former vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, was shut down in his honour, yesterday.
The ever-busy polytechnic town was a shadow of itself as commercial and social activities were paralysed in the town.
Shops, markets and private schools in Oko were all closed down, as the community began mourning the man they described as next to their God.
When Daily Sun visited the community, people were seen in clusters, discussing the man, what he did for the community, for the Old Aguata and for the country.
Earlier, at about 10:00am, elders, women, youths, married daughters of the community had gathered at the Oko Civic Centre for sober reflections, speeches, tributes and prayers, after which they moved to Ekwueme’s house, where they signed the condolence register.
Speaking with Daily Sun shortly after the event, the President General of the town, Chief C. Y. Nwamuo said: “The atmosphere depicts the mood we are in, we lost our most illustrious son, our father, our mentor, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, so, we are in a sober mood and we are devastated. Although we have started the burial ceremony, we have to show that he was our father.”
On the next line of action for the community, Nwamuo replied: “The man in question, Ekwueme, is an important personality in Nigeria, he contributed a lot to the development and peaceful co-existence of the country. He formed the six geo-political zones, he formed the Peoples Democratic Party, even this union we are managing now, he formed it and was the first chairman of this Oko Peoples Union.
“When he was alive, he founded many foundations like the Ekwueme Memorial Trust, through which many people were educationally uplifted. So, we remember him for all those things he did. Even this Oko Polytechnic, he founded it and nurtured it to this level of being a federal polytechnic.
“We are appealing to the Federal Government to upgrade that school to a university and name it after him, immortalise him with that. That is our appeal because most of his contemporaries were equally elevated and immortalised.”
Meanwhile, traditional rulers, under the aegis of South East Council of Traditional Rulers (SECTRs), have appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to immortalise Ekwueme.
The traditional rulers, through Eze Eberechi N. Dick, described Ekwueme’s death as a colossal loss to the South East and the entire nation. He said “Ekwueme was a fine gentle man who, throughout the time he was in active politics was a moderating factor in the volatile political firmament of the country.
“Ekwueme was a shinning light, a distinguished elder statesman and a true nationalist, a pan-African, who will be remembered for promoting the unity of the country despite the odds.” Eze Dick also said ekwueme’s death has created a vacuum in the South East and Nigeria, as a whole. stated that traditional rulers from the zone would miss him.
While commiserating with the immediate family of the fallen elder statesman, the monarch called on the Federal Government to not only give Ekwueme a befitting burial, but also, immortalise him.
Ekwueme collapsed in his Enugu residence and was initially rushed to a private hospital in Enugu where he went into coma. He was later taken to a London clinic where he died on Sunday, November 19, 2017.