Former Vice-President and Elder statesman Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme turns 80 on October 21, 2012. As usual his friends and admirers celebrate him and wished him Happy Birthday and many happy returns.
On October 16th last year in Abuja his political associates organized a lecture entitled “International colloquium on Nigeria Federalism: Building on the Ekwueme legacy” in his honour, to usher him into the octogenarian club.
Undoubtedly Dr. Alex Ekwueme is one of the most outstanding contemporary Nigeria leaders, he is a man of distinct character and quality whose contribution to National Development is well acknowledge. This is no doubt that as a National Icon Committed Politician and patriot, Ekwueme’s attainment of the great milestone of 80 years ought to be celebrated with great pomp and ceremony. Since assuming the position of Vice-President in 1979 during the Second Republic, Ekwueme has remained a reference point in Nigerian Politics. He has, also, been a barometer to gauge the national conscience on burning issues. In addition, the well-heeled architect turned politician has always remained on the side of the people and history.
As a founding father of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Ekwueme ensured that the party remains intact despite occasional crisis of confidence and other intrigues that rear up from time to time. Twice, he has sought power at the presidential level, but none of the efforts came to fruition. Yet, he kept faith with his party and continued to contribute to national development. He is unlikely other politicians who jump fence if they do not realize their ambition in a party. During the post-election crisis of 1993 following the annulment of the June 12 presidential election generally believed to have been won by the late business mogul Chief M.K.O Abiola, Ekwueme joined forces with other well-meaning Nigerians to protest the annulment. He was in the group of 18 wise in that later metamorphosed into the G18 that pressed for Abiola’s released and subsequent installation as Nigeria’s president. While they did not succeed in seeing Abiola installed as president, the group later grew into the G36 that unconditionally demanded an end to military rule in the country.
We recall that it was the G36 that later became the Peoples Democratic Party that clinched power in 1999 and led the country to another wave of democratic rule under President Olusegun Obasanjo.
It is commendable that Ekwueme was found clean by the Justice Samuel Uwaifo Panel set by the then military junta to try politicians. This amply testifies to his moral bearing while holding political offices. By this, he demonstrated that those entrusted with leadership position should enrich themselves and their cronies. They should exercise power with restraint and in the interest of the masses. They should eschew abuse of power which is rampant in this part of the world. Ekwueme, through his conduct at the time, showed Nigerians how politics should be played.
Though, a well-established and reputable architect and town planner, Ekwueme’s foray into the nation’s politics has been of immense value. He is a consensus builder among the ethnic and religious divides in the polity. He is also an intellectual colossus having earned degrees in architecture, history, sociology and law.
Born on October 21, 1932, in Oko, Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State, the former Vice President started primary school at St. John’s Anglican Central School, Ekwulobia (1938-1944) and later proceeded to King’s College, Lagos (1945-1950). He went abroad and furthered his education in diverse fields but specialized in architecture and urban planning. He was at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington USA, 1952-1957 and University of Strathclyde, Scotland (1976-1978). Before coming back to Nigeria, he worked as assistant architect at Leo A. Daly and Associates, Seattle (1956-1957) and Nickson, Borys and Partners, London (1957). In Nigeria, he worked as a construction and maintenance coordinator, Esso (West Africa) Inc, Lagos. Later, he went into private architectural practice under his firm – Ekwueme Associates, Architecture, Town and Urban Planning, established in 1958. His firm executed several landmark jobs relating to the planning and design of some major cities in the United State, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and Lagos including the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. Ekwueme was assistant secretary Nigerian Institute of Architects (1958-1962), Vice-President (1963-1964), President (1965-1968), Fellow, since 1970. Ekwueme was appointed Chairman, Board of Trustees People Democratic Party, 1999-2003. He was appointed Councellor of University of Ado Ekiti in 2002. He holds the traditional chieftaincy title of Ide Aguta, Ide Oko and Ide Okwulora, Orumba. He was conferred with the national honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of Niger in 1988. His publications include from State House to Kirikiri, Whither Nigeria? Thoughts on Democracy Politics and the Constitutions.
Ekwueme lived a good life in and outside government. We think that the best way to celebrate this patriot and firm believer in the unity of the country is to examine his political thoughts and use them to chart a new course for the nation. His treatise on restructuring of the nation along the six geo-political regional lines, especially, is worthy of consideration. Let upcoming politicians emulate his sterling examples. We joined his friends, admirers and all Nigerians in wishing happy birthday and many happy returns of the occasion.
President Goodluck Jonathan Eulogized former Vice-President of Nigeria Dr. Alex Ekwueme as a living personification of the highest ideals of patriotism and selfless service.
In a congratulatory message to Ekwueme during his 80th years Birthday, the president extolled the former Vice-President laudable contributions to National Development over the years. Saying that his “unassailable Integrity and consummate diligence” have made him one of Nigeria’s most respected elder’s statesman.
On the occasion of your landmark 80th birthday anniversary, I join your family, friends and well wishers in thanking Almighty God for the richly fulfilled life he has blesses you with.
“A thorough-bred professional, an accomplished administrator and leader of men, an epitome of the highest ideals of selfless service and unwavering patriotism, your unassailable integrity and consummate diligence have combined to make you one of our most respected national icons today.
Over the year, you have consistently invested the benefit of you inspiring attributes in dedicated service to our dear country, while continuing to avail our generation of leaders of your enduring wise counsel. It is my prayer that Almighty God continues to keep and prosper you even as he blesses you with robust health and a life of perpetual fulfillment,” Jonathan wrote.
While eulogizing Ekwueme during a Cultural Carnival organized by Ndigbo for the former Vice President, at Michael Okpara Square in Enugu on Sunday for all his accomplishments, former governor of Anambra, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife urged him to continue to provide leadership to Ndigbo until they regain their lost glory in Nigeria.
Also speaking, Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha said Ndigbo were today celebrating their own, a man who they would have been celebrating as a former President if they had gotten their political equations right from the beginning.
“For me Ekwueme means many things to Ndigbo and we will continue to celebrate this man that has made us proud,” he said.
Okorocha used the opportunity to renew the call for the creation of additional state in the South-East geo-political zone to bring it at par with other zones of the country, adding that the agitation for additional state by the South-East should be treated as a priority.
Chairman of South-East Governors Forum, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State noted that Ndigbo gathered to accord respect to somebody who deserves respect. He pointed out that all the agitation of the South-East including the creation of an additional state were achievable if Indigbo come together. Obi said that the South-East governors have shown the way by doing things together and support themselves, the way they have all come out to support Ekwueme as he marks his 80th birthday.
Secretary to Federal Government, Anyim Pius Anyim who represents President Goodluck Jonathan, described Ekwueme as renowned architect, politician, former Vice President, statesman and indeed a leader of Ndigbo.
Anyim reassured of the commitment of the President to addressing all the agitations of Ndigbo, adding that the President wants the South-East to use the platform provided by the event to chart a new course of leadership and followership and to rally behind Ekwueme to lead Ndigbo to the Promised Land.
Earlier, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani who was Chiarman of the occasion, said the carnival was the most significant moment of the celebration of Ekwueme’s birthday, which earlier commenced in Abuja with a church service and colloquium that attracted distinguished Nigerians.
Nnamani said for the first time Ndigbo decided to celebrate a man when he is living, quite unlike before when people are only celebrated in death, stressing that a bold statement has been made that Ndigbo know where they are going and that they can be rallied together for a good course. He said Ekwueme deserves honour having contributed to nation building which stands him out as a statesman who served Nigeria with an uncommon dedication, commitment and patriotism.
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