The death of Dr. Alexander Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, the first elected Vice-President of Nigeria from 1979 to 1983, is indeed a sad and irreparable loss not only to Ndigbo and Nigeria but to the entire democratic world. His death, we agree, could be described as a fallen Iroko.
He died on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at a London clinic. He had to be flown there after his relapse to a coma which he fell into as a result of his fall in his Enugu residence.
It is sad that he died at a time his wealth of knowledge and experience is needed as an elder in galvanizing Anambra State in particular and the nation in general. He died at a time the unity of Nigeria is threatened and the wisdom of an elder is required to strengthen the unity of the country.
His demise from the political scene no doubt, is devastating because his voice on political issues which is a voice of wisdom will be lacking. He was a great gentleman, who should be emulated by politicians within and outside the country.
His various contributions to the growth of democracy in Nigeria will definitely show that the political space has undoubtedly lost a big political player. As a Vice President, he played exemplary and challenging politics, which distinguished him from pedestrian politicians.
As a consummate political engineer, bridge-builder, an apostle of restructuring, he was the arrow head of the creation of six geo-political structures in the country at the 1997 Constitutional Conference to achieve the much-needed national peace. The idea was to have a balance North and South.
His own idea of politics is worthy of emulation. He brought intellectual sagacity to politics and he believed in political ideas, stability of Nigeria socio-economic development.
As a man of peace, rather than going on street protests, Ekwueme believed in peaceful resolution to political upheavals or crises. He believed dialogue should be employed instead of violent protests.
It would also be recalled that when he felt that the military government was overstaying, he led a group of 34 leaders known as G34 to confront the then military government. He was a true democratic and intellectual giant.
Despite threats to his life during the military regime by the junta, Ekwueme remained resolute and formed G-34 which demanded that military government should hands off governance to ensure quick return to democratic government.
He was one of the founding fathers of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the first national chairman of the party and later the chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT).
Ekwueme served God morally, intellectually and economically. It will be difficult to get another Alex Ekwueme in Nigerian social and political life. Dr. Ekwueme was a prolific philanthropist, public servant, and a man of peace.
Born on October 21, 1932, the late former number two citizen of the country was the Ide of the Oko kingdom in Anambra State, where his younger brother Prof Lazarus Ekwueme, reigns as the traditional ruler. He was also honoured by the council of Traditional Rulers in the old Aguata as the Ide of Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State comprising 44 towns.
Ekwueme started primary school at the St John’s Anglican Central School, at Ekwulobia, and then he proceeded to King’s College, Lagos.
As an awardee of the Fulbright Scholarship in the United States of America (being one of the first Nigerians to gain the award), he attended the University of Washington where he earned Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and City Planning. He obtained his Master’s degree in Urban Planning.
Dr. Ekwueme also earned degrees in sociology, history, philosophy and law from the University of London. He later proceeded to obtain a Ph.D. in Architecture from the University of Strathclyde, before gaining the BL (honours) degree from the Nigerian Law School.
Ekwueme was a distinguished architect. He started his professional career as an Assistant Architect with a Seattle-based firm, Leo A. Daly and Associates, and also with the London based firm Nickson and Partners. On his return to Nigeria, he joined ESSO West Africa, Lagos, overseeing the Construction and Maintenance department.
He then went on to create a successful private business with his firm – Ekwueme Associates, Architects and Town Planners, the first indigenous architectural firm in Nigeria. His practice flourished with 16 offices spread all over Nigeria and was wound up in preparation for Dr. Ekwueme assuming office as the first executive Vice President of Nigeria. Dr. Ekwueme had presided over the Nigerian Institute of Architects and the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria.
He was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Nigerian Institute of Architects. Before Dr. Ekwueme gained national and international limelight as the Vice President of Nigeria in 1979, he was actively involved in the socio-economic development of his community.
In addition to his many public service roles within his community, Dr. Ekwueme started an active Educational Trust Fund that has been responsible for sponsoring the education of hundreds youths to universities in Nigeria and abroad.
He was a member of the housing sub-committee of the Adebo Salaries and Wages Review Commission. He also served for many years on the board of the Anambra State Housing Development Authority. On the national front, Dr. Ekwueme participated in the Nigeria National Constitutional Conference (NCC) in Abuja, where he served on the Committee on the Structure and Framework of the Constitution.
His famous proposals at the National Constitutional Conference, NCC for a just and equitable power sharing in Nigeria based on the six geopolitical zones have now come to be accepted as necessary for maintaining a stable Nigerian polity. Dr Ekwueme mobilized the group of 34 eminent Nigerians who risked their lives to stand up against the dictatorship of General Sani Abacha during the era of military rule in Nigeria.
He was a member of the Board of Directors of Canada-based Forum of Federations. He was also a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Council of Elders. Dr. Ekwueme was leader of the team assembled by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for pre-election monitoring for the parliamentary election in Zimbabwe in 2000.
He was the leader of the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU) Observer Team to the Tanzanian Presidential and Parliamentary election in 2000. Dr. Ekwueme co-led the 28-member NDI/Carter Centre sponsored Observer Team to the Liberian Presidential run-off election in 2005.
He was one-time called upon by the PDP to head the Reconciliation Committee in the wake of intra-party discord and after the recent presidential election. He was honoured with the Order of the Republic of Guinea and Nigeria, second highest national honours of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON). Dr. Ekwueme was the benefactor and Patron of the “Alex Ekwueme Foundation”.
We urge the authorities concerned to name a befitting monument after the late sage and elder statesman in honour of his various political, social and economic development of not only the country but also in Ibo land as a whole.
While condoling with the late nationalist, courageous democrat, brilliant, principled statesman and great gentleman, we wish the distinguished and great member of the Unity Schools Old Students’ Association (USOSA), Kings College 1945 and Second Republic Vice President eternal rest.
For a better society