From Maurice Okafor, Enugu
The late Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, a former Vice President on Wednesday received encomiums from prominent Nigerian politicians, at the occasion of a commendation ceremony held in his honour and organised by the forum of South East Governors held at Okpara Square, Independence layout, Enugu.
The remains of the fallen hero, as part of its last journey to mother earth was eventually brought into Enugu, on Monday afternoon, where it was received by the South East governors and Igbo leaders led by Ohanaeze Ndigbo President, Chief Nnia Nwodo while a service of songs was held in his honour at the Cathedral of Good Shepherd (Anglican Church), Independence Layout, Enugu.
The commendation ceremony at Okpara Square began with a non-denominational service officiated by the Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, who is also the Bishop of Enugu Diocese (Anglican Communion), Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma.
Chukwuma, highlighted the contributions of the late Ekwueme in the nationa��s political circle to include spearheading the emergence of the fourth Republic politics.
His words: a�?Dr Ekwueme was a most courageous man for leading the campaign for the exit of the military at a time it was exceedingly dangerous to do so. This led to the formation of G- 34, which was a group of 34 eminent Nigerians who insisted that military dictatorship must end and democratic rule must be established.a�?
Chukwuma lamented that the late Ekwueme was the fulcrum under which G-34 later transformed into Peoplea��s Democratic Party (PDP) but was denied the opportunity to serve as President of the country in 1999, owing to the hegemonic influence of the military in Nigerian politics, having connived for his defeat at the presidential primaries.
Archbishop Chukwuma tasked the Federal government to immortalise the late Ekwueme with a befitting honour and the standardisation of Akanu Ibiam Airport to befit a real international airport, stating that Ekwueme was among the first Nigerians to initiate the idea of an international airport in Enugu.
He stated: a�?No better tribute can be paid to such a worthy man than to immortalise him. Let the federal government seize this occasion of his demise to reward this deserving man of learning and ideas, an epitome of hard work and a man of unimpeachable integrity with a befitting honoura��.
The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, advised the people not to cry anymore, expressing his belief that the late Ekwueme is now in heaven, having completed his good works here on earth. He described him as a rare gem whose gap will be difficult to replace.
The chairman of South East Governors forum and Governor of Ebonyi state, Dr Dave Umahi, lamented that the South East Governors had written Ekwueme of their intention to celebrate him at 85, but the objective was yet to be accomplished before Ekwueme fell sick and his subsequent death. But expressed gratitude with the unity and sincerity of purpose with which the South East Governors and all other Igbo political leaders attached to the last burial rites of the fallen hero.
Tributes also came from the host Governor, Rt Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Abia State Governor, Chief Okezie Ikpeazu, while the Anambra and Imo States governors were represented by their deputy, Nkem Okeke and Prince Eze Madumere. Nkem Okeke said that Governor Obiano was putting finishing touches on every arrangement to receive and accord the late Ekwueme, a befitting commendation at a�?Alex Ekwueme Squarea�� Awka, today.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a former vice President of the country in a tribute, said the late Dr Alex Ekwueme, laid the foundation for Nigeriaa��s present democratic dispensation, stating he was the umpire of the present six zones democratic culture in operation today, which was commended during the 1994 a�� 1995 constitutional structure.
Atiku also attributed the clarion call for restructuring of the country as the baby of late Dr Ekwueme, confessing that in as much as he disagreed with him as at then, but now a convert of late Ekwueme philosophy on restructuring.
Several other tributes came from the Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aliyu Tambuwal, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, Umuada Igbo, many professional bodies etc.
Speaking to news men, the newly sworn in Senator for Anambra Central senatorial district, Senator Victor Umeh, commended the achievements of the late Ekwueme in all fields of human endeavour, especially in the political circle where he lamented that Ekwuemea��s exit has created a big gap for the Igbo nation and the possibility of filling the gap.
In a vote of thanks on behalf of the family, Ekwuemea��s younger brother, Obumneme Ekwueme, expressed gratitude to the South East Governors for their efforts and contribution to ensure a successful and befitting burial for their late brother, Dr Alex Ekwueme, stating the South East Governors filled the gap, where the federal government lagged behind.
From Maurice Okafor, Enugu