Chairman of the South East Governors forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi, has described the death of former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, as the end of an era.
Ekwueme died in a London hospital, at 85, on Sunday.
Umahi, in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Emmanuel Uzor, expressed shock over the death of Dr Ekwueme, and described it as a great loss to Ndigbo in particular and Nigeria in general.
He commiserated with the Government of Anambra State and the entire Ekwueme family of Oko, in Orumba North Local Government Area, for the loss and prayed God to grant him eternal rest.
“The death of our father and leader, Dr. Ekwueme, was so devastating, especially now that his fatherly advice is needed most. He was a great Nigerian and great believer in the unity of the country. As his children, we have learnt a lot from his deep political sagacity.
“As vice president of Nigeria, Ekwueme was a great, rallying factor of Igbo socio-political integration. His was a voice of reason and a man who toiled to place Ndigbo at the centre of mainstream politics. Indeed, we have lost a rare gem, a gentleman and a decent politician and academic,” he said.
The governor further disclosed that the South East, through the governors, would soon draw up a programme on how to pay their last respects “to the fallen political Iroko.”
From Delta State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa also commiserated with Anambra state Governor, Chief Willie Obiano and the people of Anambra, on Ekwueme’s demise.
Okowa also conveyed his condolences specifically to the family of the late elder statesman, particularly Oko Kingdom, and describedhim as “a committed patriot who served the nation at the highest levels with an uncommon sense of patriotism and unwavering dedication.”
Okowa spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Charles Aniagwu, where he said he was saddened by the demise of the former chairman of the Board of Trustees of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
“Dr. Alex Ekwueme was a committed patriot, an astute politician and altruistic vice president who worked assiduously to better the lots of his people and Nigerians in general.
“Through his purposeful leadership and development strides, the late Ekwueme influenced the establishment of the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, which brought about unprecedented development of Oko Kingdom.”
The governor remarked that, as a democrat, “the late Ekwueme etched his name in the annals of Nigeria’s democratic advancement by working courageously for the emergence and consolidation of the Fourth Republic in 1999, when he joined forces with other leaders to form the PDP.”
To the Governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, Ekwueme was an icon of democracy, “who saw and used politics as a tool to serve and not to be served.
“In truth, Ekwueme was a gentleman politician, consummate democrat, a hero, an icon of democracy who believed in the rule of law and ventured into politics to serve.”
The governor also described the passing of the elder statesman as “a monumental loss to Nigeria and Africa, in general.”
He remembered the octogenarian politician as a quintessential family man and a world class architect, and added that “posterity will remember him as one of the indigenous architects who designed the Federal capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.”
In his tribute, Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal said Ekwueme’s death came with extra pain.
Tambuwal described Ekwueme as “a true statesman whose selfless and meritorious service to God, country and humanity was felt by all.”
In a condolence message by his spokesman, Mallam Imam Imam, Tambuwal said Ekwueme was a distinguished legal luminary, exemplary politician and a great community leader.
“For us in Sokoto, Dr. Ekwueme’s death comes with extra pain because he was vice president to one of our distinguished sons, Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
“The deceased proved himself an able lieutenant, who together with other members of their team, gave their best for the unity, progress and stability of the Federation in the Second Republic and beyond.
“His death has, therefore, closed a chapter in the life of one of Nigeria’s most respected voices, who made his mark in both public and private sectors,” Tambuwal added.
Imo state Governor, Rochas Okorocha, described Ekwueme as a detribalised Nigerian, “who launched Igbo into national politics since the Second Republic and refused to be cajoled into playing tribal politics, and, until his death, Dr. Ekwueme remained in the mainstream of Nigerian politics because of his firm believe in the oneness of the nation.”
According to the governor, “Dr. Ekwueme was a good example of the kind of politics Igbo should play at any given time and has left behind a befitting legacy…”
On his part, former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu remembered how Ekwueme’s interventions helped navigate critical points in Nigeria.
Tunis said this in a condolence message he sent to Dr. Ekwueme’s family, yesterday.
“Chief Ekwueme lived well. He also served his country well. He was a true patriot and statesman, who made personal sacrifices for the unity and stability of Nigeria.
“His deep intellectual interventions often helped the country in navigating beyond critical junctures. Chief Ekwueme was a team player.
“As vice president, he worked well with his principal, president Shehu Shagari. He was loyal to his boss and faithful to his country.
“As he contributed to Nigeria’s stability through his interventions, he also made laudable contributions to Nigeria’s political lexicon.
“It was Chief Ekwueme who, at the 1994-95 Constitutional Conference in Abuja, suggested the six geo-political zones as a more realistic structure to create a more equitable system.
“This has stuck till date. The structure is also often cited in appointment-distribution and calculation.”