Ekwueme in the Eyes of History

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Simon Kolawolelive!, Email: simon.kolawoe@thisdaylive.com. SMS: 0805 500 1961

They have shut down the factory that produced the political breed of Dr. Alexandra Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme. They don’t make them like Ekwueme anymore. Upright, cerebral, courageous and loyal — it is often a contradiction in terms to attach any of those adjectives to a Nigerian politician. Yet, in the last four decades, Ekwueme, who is currently hospitalised, has demonstrated those virtues largely unappreciated. Or, at best, underappreciated. The politicians that we recognise and celebrate are the noisemakers, the pilferers, the nitwits, the chameleons, the bandits. Even with my excessive distrust of politicians, I can afford to make exceptions. Ekwueme is an exception.
When I heard on Wednesday that he had slipped into a coma, I said: “Not again!” Too many times in my life, I have procrastinated in paying tribute to Nigerians who truly inspire me while they are alive. When they die, I will start writing tributes that they cannot read in the grave. Maybe it is human nature to demonise people when they are around and canonise them when they are gone. The way we eulogise dead people makes me feel that maybe if we had said those words to their hearing, some would have lived longer. Thankfully, Ekwueme is still alive. I can finally “cleanse my soul” with a tribute from my heart. No matter his failings as a mortal, he is a man of adorable virtues.

Upright. After being detained in Kirikiri prisons for 20 months following the coup of December 31, 1983, the military tribunal that tried him over his tenure as vice-president to Alhaji Shehu Shagari (1979-1983) did not only discharge and acquit him, it also eulogised him thus: “Dr. Ekwueme left office poorer than he was when he entered it, and to ask more from him was to set a standard which even saints could not meet.” Nobody says that about Nigerian politicians anymore. The most common story is that they became stupendously rich just after a few minutes in office, with mansions in Dubai, New York and Banana Island to show for their “service” to the nation.

Cerebral. I do not know many Nigerian politicians, dead or alive, with the academic grounding of Ekwueme. He has four first degrees: architecture and city planning (from the University of Washington, US, as one of the first four US Fulbright scholars from Nigeria); sociology (also WU); history, philosophy and constitutional law (as an external candidate of the University of London); and law (London). He has a master’s in urban planning (London). He also holds a PhD in architecture (University of Strathclyde, Scotland). For all his degrees, he was loyal to, and respectful of, Shagari, who didn’t have a degree. Ekwueme was called to the Nigerian bar in 1990 at the age of 58.

Therefore? Therefore, you could see the depth of knowledge, intellect and foresight in some of his contributions to the nationhood debate in Nigeria. In 1995, he proposed the six geopolitical zones which Nigerians now hold dearly as a commandment from God. To manage the mistrust and fears about domination among the different components of Nigeria, he suggested power rotation and six vice-presidents. To prevent the Yar’Adua scenario that we are yet to recover from, he proposed that if a president dies, resigns or is removed, the VP from the zone should complete the tenure. To tackle the oft-acrimonious re-election bids, he suggested a single-term tenure.

Not that all his ideas are perfect, but they offer solutions to some of our perennial political crises. We freely discuss Nigeria today as north-west, north-central, north-east, south-west, south-south and south-east. I must say I have my reservations about the assumption that these sub-identities are settled. For instance, of the six zones, only the south-east is close to homogeneity in ethnicity and religion — the two biggest identifiers in Nigeria. The rest are far from homogenous. But, in fairness, Ekwueme’s idea of geo-political zoning represents a layer of nationhood that is largely acceptable even among agitators in today’s Nigeria. We owe Ekwueme some kolanuts for that.

Ekwueme apparently paid a price for his ideas. His geopolitical proposal was initially interpreted as an attempt to break up or weaken northern political solidarity. I don’t know if that is the same perspective today. He was accused of trying to even things with the south-west by making sure the Igbo had a zone of equal status. But how is that a sin? More so, his proposal to decentralise the army to make coups difficult, if not impossible, was twisted to mean he was advocating regional armies and promoting confederacy through the backdoor. I’m inclined to think these misinterpretations counted against him in his bids to be president in 1999 and 2003.

Courageous. When Gen. Sani Abacha was in power, his biggest opposition came from two camps: the civil society and senior politicians. The civil society, with NADECO in the lead, fought from the trenches, insisting that the military should leave power and hand over to Chief MKO Abiola, the winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election. On the other hand, some elements in the political class, working from the inside, organised within their ranks to fight for the restoration of democracy, albeit without insisting on the restoration of Abiola’s stolen mandate. As narratives go in Nigeria, the only democrats were those who fought for Abiola.

Yet, the role of these politicians was as dangerous, if not as suicidal, as that of NADECO. Abacha was in no mood for any agitation for democracy as long as it did not mean perpetuating himself in power. Ekwueme was a key player in organising some politicians against Abacha’s self-succession plans that began to materialise in 1995. Ekwueme chaired the All-Nigeria Politicians Summit at Eko Hotel, Lagos, to demand a return to democracy. It was disrupted by political thugs, with the security agencies watching as if they were at a cinema. Ekwueme also chaired the Institute of Civil Society (ICS), which continued the demand for a return to democracy.

After the launch of ICS, chaired by Justice Kayode Eso, Ekwueme held a meeting in his house in Lagos with northern politicians — Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Chief Solomon Lar, Chief Sunday Awoniyi (all late now) and Mallam Adamu Ciroma — and told them there was an impression everyone in the north was supporting Abacha’s transmutation plot. They agreed to fire a letter to Abacha, with the understanding that a pan-Nigerian group would follow. The northern politicians, called G-18, met in Kaduna and wrote to Abacha to demand a return to democracy. Lar delivered the letter. Abacha was yet to recover from the shock when the enlarged group, G-34, was formed.

G-34 met at Ekwueme’s Lagos office to finalise their plans. A committee of four — Prof. Uzodinma Nwala, Senator Onyeabor Obi, Prof. Jerry Gana and Ekwueme — prepared a stinging letter, warning Abacha not to transmute from military ruler to civilian president as he was planning to do, with the five political parties having adopted him as their “consensus” presidential candidate in a well-choreographed charade. It amounted to wilful suicide writing such a letter at a time Abacha was sparing no bombs in taking out his opponents. NADECO was already too hot for Abacha to handle. Now senior politicians were on his case. It was double trouble.

Abacha died in June 1998 and Abiola also died in detention the following month. We still don’t know the true details of what happened but we can reasonably speculate that the deaths were not accidental. The military moved to restore democracy and, naturally, G-34 was in the centre of things. It practically formed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which would go on to win the 1999 presidential election on the strength of its national appeal. Ekwueme, as a respected founding father, sought to be the presidential candidate but was defeated at the primary election by Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, whom many believed was the anointed candidate of the military.

Loyal. Ekwueme had every right to make life difficult for the PDP and Obasanjo over the presidential ticket in 1999. It had been agreed by the party’s national executive committee on November 24, 1998 that a presidential aspirant must have delivered his LGA and state to the PDP in the council and governorship elections. On that score, Obasanjo was not qualified to contest, yet it was clear the military wanted the next president to come from the south-west. Ekwueme did not make an issue out of it. He could have engineered a crisis and handed victory to the opponents by default. He was clearly a loyal party man. You don’t say that of many Nigerian politicians today.

Now, that was the point at which I began to idolise Ekwueme. He not only openly congratulated Obasanjo at the convention ground in Jos — a clear departure from the politics of bitterness we play in Nigeria — he went on to chair the campaign fundraiser for Obasanjo. Wait for this: when Dr. Pius Okigbo and Prof. Ben Nwabueze later went on air, on behalf of Ohanaeze, to declare that the Igbo should vote for Chief Olu Falae, Ekwueme countered. He personally paid for radio slots to ask Igbo to support Obasanjo. He even met with Igbo community in Lagos to push this position. Sadly, Obasanjo was reportedly made to believe Ekwueme was behind the Ohanaeze broadcast.

For all his grace, therefore, Ekwueme was politically ostracised by Obasanjo. He was accorded only one ministerial slot, and even his nominee — Prof. Barth Nnaji from Enugu state — was not appointed. Not surprisingly, Ekwueme was more confrontational and unforgiving in his next bid for the PDP ticket in 2003. This time he did not congratulate Obasanjo. He believed there were underhand tactics at the convention which undermined fairness. But he never left the PDP. Fidelity is not a common virtue in Nigerian politics these days. Given that no human is perfect, Ekwueme thoroughly deserves our respect. I wish the Ide of Oko kingdom quick and full recovery.
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AND FOUR OTHER THINGS

THE AVENGERS
When they say peace and safety, then a sudden destruction comes. I’m actually quoting the Bible there. Nigeria has enjoyed some stability in recent times: the naira has stabilised, currency reserves are growing, the stock market is on the upswing, salaries are getting more regular, the jobs are coming back in droves, budgets are getting funded and we are even planning bigger spending. All because of two things: Niger Delta Avengers stopped attacking oil installations and crude oil prices have recovered, even hitting $60 last week from the low of $28 last year. Now that the Avengers are threatening to resume work, it’s time to fasten our seat belts. Turbulence.

‘EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR’
Mr. Boss Mustapha, the new SGF, has reminded us about some aberrations called appellations in Nigeria. The term “executive governor” does not make sense. There is no “legislative governor” or “judicial governor”. Neither do we say “the executive president of Nigeria”. There are more aberrations. “Mr. President” is not a title; it is a polite address in a direct conversation with the president, like: “Mr. President, may I crave your indulgence to…” But government officials habitually say “Mr. President has approved…” even in official letters. Meanwhile, can somebody please explain the use of “honourable” and “distinguished” as titles by lawmakers? Megalomaniacs.

RIP JIDE TINUBU
So quiet was the life of Kazeem Olajide Babajide Tinubu that when he died suddenly on Wednesday, there were no pictures of him in the media. Some even mistakenly used the picture of his brother, Seyi, who got married last year. His profile was nowhere to be found, making many to conclude that he was the same person as Wale Tinubu’s younger brother, also named Jide, who is a lawyer and co-founder of TSL Limited. You don’t often say “quiet” or “self-effacing” when describing the children of the Nigerian elite. My heart goes out to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu on the loss of his first son. Jide was just 37, leaving behind a wife and three children. Condolences.

DAPSY AT 60
Almost 24 years ago, my path crossed that of a humble and humane mentor at TheNews magazine: Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi aka “Dapsy”. I was a young journalist seeking a new direction. Dapsy, who was deputy editor-in-chief, took me under his wings. He practically sired me in his intellectual monastery, along with many others who have gone on to greater things. He would later abruptly go into exile as Abacha’s killers came for his blood at a time it was dangerous to be a journalist in Nigeria (everybody is a journalist now). Thank God Dapsy, who is the publisher of Premium Times, the investigative online newspaper, is alive to mark his 60th birthday on Wednesday. Cheers!

  • Larry Azuh

    Simon, your piece on Ekwueme is one of the best i have read in recent time

  • David Lawson

    The press release by Tinubu on the death of his son is further attestation of Tinubu’s incontestable Position as the Jagaban of Liars in Nigeria. It is one thing to deny your Iragbiji ancestral roots on the Altar of Politics, it is however totally unacceptable to attempt to reconstruct your own offspring after his death.

    Dear Sir, it would have been more honorable to have simply kept quiet or to have just thanked those that commiserated with you on the death of Jide, rather than dishing out the press statement full of lies that you just did.
    Those of us who knew Jide while you lived at Balarabe Musa crescent felt insulted by the lies written here.

    How on earth could you have written that Jide was born in 1980? To cover your own lies about your age? Why was Jide kept out of public view? Those who work at Alausa know the truth about that question. Jide has a living mother who lives at Abraham Adesanya Ajah, how come no mention was made of her at all in your press release of Lies?

    Sorry sir, which Jide had been living in London? The young man has been in the country since the late 90s till he died. The lies are too much in that release and it hurts. But for the sake of Jide, I will not go further. The Big Question is, why was he kept in the background? ….. the truth , the answer is very sad indeed. To attempt to score cheap political points with Jide’s death felt highly repulsive.

    • share Idea

      In as much I appreciate your respect for the dead, It would helped some of us that do not know the details (lies) in Tinubu’s press release if you had pointed them out for us.

  • RumuPHC

    Dr Alex Ekueme is one good president Nigeria never had and will never have so long as things stand the way they are today.

    Dr Ekueme had the educational qualifications, character and experience to be president in 1999 and four years later 2003. But he lost at the primary stages of party nominations of PDP. Why ?

    The reasons an Ekwueme was never a president of Nigeria are still tenable today. And are essentially the same challenges any good man will face in attempt to contest the presidency in 2019 and beyond.

    What lessons have we learnt from the failure of Ekwueme to win PDP nominations twice and what knowledge can be applied to ensure that an ” Ekwueme” wins the nomination of a major party to defeat the incumbent PMB in the 2019 presidential election?

  • Mystic mallam

    Simon, so your honest recommendation on the ND Avengers’ threat is for us to tighten our belts? Pray tell, what has the federal Govt. done to tackle the root cause[s] of the Avengers’ militancy? I know you’ll probably say ‘Amnesty’. If yes, I ask another question: Amnesty for what? Is it Amnesty for asking that your stolen birthright be returned to you? Frankly, when President Yar’Adua came up with the amnesty idea, many citizens of good conscience were amazed that the Niger Deltans who had been robbed for decades, whose land and water space had been thoroughly poisoned over time, were even accepting to consider pittance gestures in exchange for their legitimate demand for ”resource control”. Well, they accepted anyways and the distant central government of carpetbaggers celebrated what they thought was a brilliant strategic victory. But it wasn’t a sustainable victory. Many scholars of history and strategic thinkers knew it was very temporary victory, like kicking the toxic can down the road, as if that part of the road would never be traversed. What is baffling is how long these buccaneer governments at the centre think that the ND question could be resolved with periodic bribery and empty promises. Isn’t it time we all admitted that we have milked the Niger Delta enough for the benefit of the rest of us? Are we so blinded by greed and avarice that we cannot see the moral hazard and gross policy injustice in a country of 36 + states depending almost entirely, and a central govt.gorging itself, on the natural wealth of only a few. It has to be because the ND is an artificial creation, an amalgam of small, weak, incoherent minorities. Such official brigandage couldn’t possibly have been meted on the majority Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba or the pre-war Igbo.

  • chyke

    I thank you Simon for this tribute to Alex (Alexandria you said, but I think its Alexander) Ekwueme. I think he will be happy reading this tribute while alive that when rigor motos has overtaken the mortal flesh. Well I don’t have much to say but to wish him soonest recovery. Apologies Sins Peters.

  • peace

    Thanks for this piece Simon but me think it’s not enough atonement for the half truth you have regaled us of recent most especially on the issue of restructuring and the constitution of the not really federal republic of Nigeria . Before your sins of insincerity be absolved , you’ll have to write a piece like this on the born again democrat of kongi, the astute politician of Dele , the only hope of the APC. PMB/GMB. Please i’ll like to know his educational background ( not clear to many of us up onto this day ) his contributions towards nation building and national cohesion . Please don’t bother enumerating the various positions he has occupied in government ( it makes some of us wonder if he’s been in government from the age of 20 or so ). I think it’s enough punishment for your many sins

  • Efeturi Ojakaminor

    Alexandra or is it the printer’s devil?

  • John Paul

    “The politicians that we recognise and celebrate are the noisemakers, the pilferers, the nitwits, the chameleons, the bandits”
    —————————————————————————-
    Exactly !

    This goes beyond Alex Ekwueme. We see this phenomenon in Nigeria everyday.

    Dr. Laye, a Nigerian-American, has been a practicing Cardiologist in the United States for 30 years. Everyday – Monday to Friday – he performs at least, one form on heart surgery: double bypass, triple bypass, quadrupule bypass, angioplasty, cardiomioplasty, septal myectomy and even heart transplants

    Performing heart surgery to him is as routine as riding a bicycle

    He owns his own practice. He has done well for himself. He has trained all of his children. He has lived the American dream: a successful medical practice, a great family and almost everything that money can buy

    But like most diaspora Americans – Nigerians, Indians, Chinese, etc – after reaching their professional plateau, they start looking for more purpose in life, beyond making money and living the good life.

    So not too long ago, Dr. Laye started planning to build a Cardiology Hospital in Nigeria. He bought a house in Nigeria. Bought a cite to build the hospital. As he was about to break ground, one of his colleagues who was executing a similar plan, was shot dead by armed robbers.

    Immediately, his family in Nigeria, overwhelmed him with pressure to abandon his plans. He quickly did a U-turn and returned to the familiar

    It is well established that the Indian, Chinese, etc, diaspora played a significant role in the development and economic growth of those countries. Fortunately for them, India and China did not have the security challenges that we have in Nigeria today

    So if Nigeria had its priority right, the government will do everything within their power to lure Nigerians – medical doctors, scientists, technologists- will proven scientific and techonological skills back to Nigeria

    They will provide security for them to ply their trade. People like Dr. Laye should be given security personnel for their safety. They should be provided three (3) bullet proof cars, each. So that can move around freely in Nigeria and produce for us. Even if it means taking Saraki, Ekweremadu, Dogara and other unproductive legislators bullet proof cars from them, and giving it to people like Dr. Laye

    In Nigeria today, we provide security details, buy bullet proof cars, clothing, newspaper, housing, etc, for the wrong people. Liabilities. Members of our over bloated federal legislature. That money should be channeled to better use

    After all, every year, the United States issues over 120,000 HB1 and HB2 visas, to people who possess unique skills, so that they can come into the United States. 120,000 people per annum

    We need to stop spending money on the wrong people. Parasites. Instead, we need to put up a sustained effort to bring our experts – Cardiologists, Nephrologists, Oncologists, etc – back to Nigeria to produce for us.

    • Jon West

      As usual, in your convoluted mind , you got the situation wrong yet again. What type of soceity needs to provide bullet-proof cars and security details to a surgeon in peacetime? That is really the crux of the matter, not this pahetic desire to always blame the symptoms instead of the cause for the disease. You are part of the trouble with Nigeria; apologists for incompetent fools in high places especially the Herdsman President now presiding over the final demise of Nigeria.

      • John Paul

        The thousands of Nigerians dying of heart disease, cancer, kidney disease,etc – who do not have foreign medical care as part of their NNPC retirement package – and who are in immediate need of a cardiologists, oncologists and nephrologists, do not have time to wait for the day that security will not be an issue in Nigeria

        Since we are currently providing security, and buying bullet proof cars, for hundreds of useless public office holders. And providing foreign healthcare to unproductive retired members of the NNPC “and their spouses”, the least we can do is to provide security, including bullet proof vehicles, to people that actually matter. Our Cardiologists, Oncologists, Nephrologists and other medical experts

        • Jon West

          Your medical experts may actually prefer to work in places where they do not need security details in peacetime. Perhaps you should ask your Certificateless hero to provide a secure, peaceful and just environment, so that these medical experts can practice in peace, like they did a few years ago.

          • John Paul

            Actually, Dr Laye’s attempt to come back to Nigeria, to set up a Cardiology Hospital, was during the tenure in office of your lord and savior, GEJ

            But that is neither here nor there

            The point Kolawole made in the first paragraph of his essay is that we should stop celebrating and empowering “noisemakers, the pilferers, the nitwits, the chameleons and the bandits”

            As an example during the years of the locust, PDP shared $6.8 billion among this class of people : “noisemakers, the pilferers, the nitwits, the chameleons and bandits”

            That money could have been used to bring in, and support with security and equipment, at least, twenty one (21) Nigerian medical specialists, that have honed their skills, in advanced countries, into Nigeria.

            People like Dr. Laye (64 years old) who have already succeeded in their core areas of medical competence. And who want to spend the rest of their working life, before retirement, in 8 years or so, to engage in other ventures, besides making money and living the good life in God’s own country (the United States of America)

            Within eight (8) years, one specialist, for example a Cardiologists like Dr. Laye, can train 16 Nigerian Cardiologists in everything he knows: double bypass, triple bypass, quadrupule bypass, angioplasty, cardiomioplasty, septal myectomy, heart transplant, etc

            But the Mafia, Gangstar, Selfish, Self-centered and myopic mentality of our elite prevents Nigeria from applying our resources to areas that will yield the most benefit

            Nigerian leaders should start heading this truism: pick your friends, do not allow your friends to pick you

            They should send out the DSS, NIA, etc, to every corner of this planet, to seek out and recruit, Nigerians who have skills that we need in Nigeria – not people with PhD’s that have no practical application in Nigeria – but experts like Dr. Laye that, on a daily basis, can make a difference with their skills

            We should run away from “noisemakers, the pilferers, the nitwits, the chameleons and the bandits” who have honed their skills in clogging our corridors of power with their mediocrity

        • obinnna77

          Are you really this obtuse?

  • Jon West

    Simon Afonja Kolawole, please who overthrew the democratically elected government of Shehu Shagari and Alex Ekwueme in 1983 and clamped only Ekwueme in jail? Does he not have a name? Are you not fed up with this constant genuflection to the sensibilities of a Certificateless Man?
    However, in spite of your constant attempts to exonerate the usual suspects from their role in the constant decline of Nigeria in all facets of human development, I must applaud your outing of the origins of this decline. Ekwueme; erudite, urbane, progressive and brandishing a chain of university degrees from Europe and the USA, is compelled, by the realities of the intrinsically failed state of Nigeria , to serve under Shehu Shagari, a nice but totally unqualified and intellectually challenged man. Shagari even confessed that his highest ambition was to be a senator, but like everything Nigerian, we conspired to inflict him at the helm of the Nigerian ship of state, and then watch it immediately flounder on the rocks of incompetence.

    Ekwueme, by your own accounts and by the verdict of the military tribunal that trie him at the behest of the Certificateless One, left office poorer that he went in and in their own words, any further demands of him would amount to demanding sainthood, and this from a tribunal of Nigerian soldiers known for looting, carpetbagging and buccaneering!!

    However this virtual canonization did not help Ekwueme’s political fortunes in 1999 when the same military/political tendency again conspired against Alex Ekwueme. The decline and guaranteed demise of Nigeria is really situated in the history of the serial political misfortunes of Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme. Today, the man who destroyed the democratic future of Nigeria ,is in the saddle at the Villa, again Certificateless and a relic of Nigerias political antiquity and being assisted by an erudite lawyer , University Professor and graduate of the Ivy League London School of Economics and Political science. How the vicious circle of Nigerias politics keeps moving round and and round!!

    Men repeat history anthen blame history for repeating itself.To hell with Nigeria!!

    • James Gunn

      Every time I read a post from you Jon West, I come away more informed. You are vast in your knowledge of Nigeria and it’s always a pleasure to read. Alas you ruin it for me with your to hell with nigeria. Many look up to you. Don’t sour your articles. In other news I think you should run for office in whatever capacity you think you can serve. If you are elected, it is one less ignoramus you will have prevented from gaining that position.

      • Jon West

        “To hell with Nigeria” is more a reflection of the frustration with the status quo than a real hatred for the country, even though I can never really love the country for a myriad of reasons. I am a political player even though from the fringes, but I influence things anyway, hopefully for good.

    • FrNinja

      Incisive as usual. Ekwueme has something which Kolawole should learn from. Honesty and courage. As usual, Nigeria never learns lessons from its political sages. Ojukwu cautioned his military colleagues about the danger of centralization – “It is better that we move slightly apart and survive, it is much worse that we move closer and perish in the collision”. Ekwueme came up with a prescription for political balance and stability – geopolitical zones in which the toxic competition between the major ethnic groups would be balanced out by diverse groups of minorities.

      Unfortunately for Nigeria there will be no restructuring because the military has always had collaborators in civil society to perpetuate their agenda of domination and theft. The journalists and the intellectuals. Buhari has Osibanjo, Kachikwu, Onyeama, Fashola, Enelamah, Adeosun, Emefiele selling a bankrupt, directionless and lawless administration.

      Certainly Nigeria is being guided to the gates of hell by those that should know better.

    • Mystic mallam

      Jon West, you make so much sense, you truly educate many of us, despite the vitriol in your heart. How I wish i could exorcise the latter.

      • Jon West

        There is really no vitriol in my heart. Just disappointment at the turn of events in Nigeria, the hitherto last hope of the Black race. How can anyone not be sad at this reality of backwardness and cant?

        • Mystic mallam

          Yes Jon, I too, am grossly disappointed and sad at what Nigeria has become. But then, should we really throw up our hands in the air and give up? No my friend, I think we should keep hope alive, I think we should do whatever we can to change the course of this beautiful land we inherited from the great Zik, Awo, Bello and several others. We can make it better, I know we will. With hard work and patience, we can reset the structures and system that are now adrift in the hands of incompetents. These bumbling despots, like the ones before them, shall also come to pass. My prayer is that such huge human assets like yourself do not abandon ship, that you come aboard the boat of change, real change, and help anchor us at the desired destination – ”the last hope of the black race”.

          • Grelia O

            What is most disheartening is that a certain powerful cabal that benefits from the current flaws in our system is doing everything to frustrate real changes that a lot of well-meaning Nigerians have been yearning for. Patience has always been counseled, but how many decades are we going to wait for the simple but necessary systemic changes. A lot of Nigerians in their 20s and 30s have known nothing but a country that is defined by confusion, lawlessness and dysfunction. The shame is that the confusion, lawlessness and dysfunction transcend the entire strata of our society including our political leadership. When every succeeding decade is worse, it’s difficultt to be hopeful. Repeating the same things and, in fact, doubling down on them, and expecting different results is said to be evidence of insanity. That is exactly what has been the norm in Nigeria.

            How else does one explain the recalcitrance of the Gowons, Obasanjos, Buharis etc of our world, who in the face of 1980s being worse than 1970s, ’90s worse than’80s, 2000s worse than ’90s, 2010s worse than 2000s and the worsening continues – yet these so called leaders continue to defend the status quo and oppose meaningful changes?

            People agitated for change decades ago and they were told to be patient. Patience, unfortunately, has the natural tendency to wear thing over time. That’s where the many John Wests in Nigeria are right now, and it’s difficult not to empathize with them. When are we going to stop the self-destruction? Why must we continue to go backwards when most of the world including some African nations are moving forward?

          • Country man

            We continue to go backwards for the simple reason that the PEOPLE enjoy the backward nature.
            Add illiteracy, and the Pentecostal preaching of pay your tithe and God will add every other thing to you, and you have the perfect recipe for a present day Nigeria.
            This country is like someone who needs urgent surgery but the person continues to take panadol hoping the problem will go away.
            Nigerians in general want to get better but most don’t want to undergo the surgery needed to get better.
            This charade will continue for a long time

    • onyema22ohaka

      A very germane question you asked Simon.Simon deliberately omitted Buhari’s name as the the leader of the 1983 coup which jailed Ekwueme and put Shagari in a guest house?
      Was the 1983 coup necessary and of any use either then and/or today? No!
      And yet today the likes of Simon conspired and reproduced Buhari in 2015 and that is why we are where we are today.

    • “Korede

      Was Nigeria on the path of progress in 1983 when that government was overthrown?

      I think we also need to reflect on that as much as we want to blame the subsequent military governments that succeeded that civilian government.

      • Jon West

        The bane of the Negro- instant gratification!! Shagari’s Government was corrupt and inept as was Jonathan’s Government , both of which the Certificateless One succeeded, without any improvement. Both successor Governments were failures within one year. If only we had allowed democracy to flourish, even at the price of corruption and ineptitude, we, like all other similarly challenged countries, would have finally found our bearings. But will the Black Man ever sacrifice and wait patiently for anything? No, he always wants instant gratification, gets it and is killed by it.

  • Fowad

    The Buhari’s move should be perceived as a gesture of friendship in a frosty atmosphere.

  • American Abroad

    In the immortal words of Voltaire, “To the living, we owe respect; but to the dead, we only owe the truth”.

    The story of Mr Ekwueme, who I believe is actually the Ide of Aguata, is somewhat emblematic of Nigeria’s false choices since Independence. My country of birth is horrible, not because we have lousy leaders or an uninspiring constitution or because crude oil is selling for under $60 a barrel, but because my countrymen inhabit what Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and brain physician, describes as an existential vacuum: a never-never land where anything goes, people think deeply (as even the insane often do) but never clearly (as only the sane can), citizens are suffused with haunting despair and desperation, and surrender finds release in reflexive hostility, combativeness, superstition and nonsense. This is the land of Tolstoy, Ibsen, Ecclesiastes, and not surprisingly, Soyinka. This is a place where the toxic admixture of ignorance, desperation, ethnicism, inequality, insouciance, envy, unbridled partisanship, arrested development, an overwrought sense of victimization, dashed hopes, futility and an uncaring leadership has produced a persisting infantilization of the Nigerian mind. This has become the land of no return.

    Ekwueme has choreographed a brave fight for Democracy, with a capital D, in his country since 1979. He has been a civil, cultured, urbane warrior. I did not always agree with his politics, but I always respected his patriotism, his insight, his comportment, and above all, his sense of noblesse oblige. He paid a huge price in leading the political resistance against Abacha’s transmutation program. He was not accorded the deference which, in my opinion, was his due at the collapse of Shagari’s government in 1983. He was often undermined- and betrayed- by those who he brought into the political fray. In some manner, his inability to reach even higher in Nigeria’s fissiparous politics was to be expected; being a pacifist in a winner-takes-all, fight-to-the-death political terrain is a bit like being the fifth wife of Henry VIII: what could possibly go wrong? Nigeria’s electorate is equally obtuse, typically exemplifying the internal contradictions which Seneca ruefully declaimed, “We often want one thing and pray for another, not telling the truth even to the gods of Rome”. Which might explain why we did not see any merit in the political aspirations of the best of us: Ekwueme, Awolowo, Shettima Ali Monguno, Francis Ellah, Aminu Kano, Bola Ige, even the younger flame-throwers like Mike Iyorshe, Dangiwa Umar, Bala Usman, and some would argue, Hameed Ali.

    History will be kind to Alex Ifeanyi Ekwueme, architect, politician, lawyer, father, and Man of Conscience. Just as someone who loves Nigeria, I thank him, on behalf of my own parents and my children, for his enduring service.

    • FrNinja

      Awolowo architect of Biafran genocide was the best of us?

    • Jon West

      “Flame-throwers “like Yusuf Bala Usman and Hammed Ali? Really? What do you really know about this blighted country, I wonder? Yusuf Bala Usman, stormy petrel of the Nigerian left came out of this fake closet before his death . He asserted that the crude oil in the Niger delta belonged to the North, because it was formed,geologically, from the bones of the Hausa/Fulani and their slaves, washed down the Rivers Niger and Benue, to the estuary of the River Niger in the delta. That’s your flame-thrower in action. What a heroic apostle of leftist and progressive politics for Nigeria.

      As for your patriot (as claimed in a previous article) , Hameed Ali, it was ,that threatened to blow Nigeria to smithereens if power did not return to the North in 2015 and his current tenure at the Hea of the Nigerian Customs services has outed him as an unrepentant Fulani irredentist. Perhaps people who don’t know much about their country show restrict their assertions and conclusions to general topics and leave the real gist well enough alone.

      • Gary

        And to help those with convenient amnesia, Colonel Hameed Ali it was who played the role of hangman in the executions of Kenulo Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni Nine at Port Harcourt prison in 1995.
        After supervising the hangings, Alli ordered the bodies sprayed with acid to hasten decomposition before being buried in unmarked graves.

        Then to add insult to injury, the day after, Abacha and his henchmen ordered civil servants out onto the streets of the Rivers State capital to demonstrate in support of the judicial murder their kinsmen.

        A little-known stated fact about the antecedents of Hameed Ali, ex-Scribe of the hegemonist Arewa Consultative Forum before his current gig as Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service.
        He might be a hero to some here but not so to many who truly know him.

      • American Abroad

        The never-ending foolishness of Nigerians.
        As this is about Mr Ekwueme, and as I would hate to divert attention from his singular contributions or bury his excellence under the morass of needless controversy, I will keep this very brief.
        No man, except apparently in Nigeria, is a simple read where a litmus test chosen at random from his/her many acts whilst on Earth, can be used to justify (or condemn) the complexity and tapestry of his/her life’s work. As GW Bush reminds us in another context, we are quick to judge ourselves by our best intentions but judge others by their worst actions. It is nowhere as blatant- and dishonest- as in today’s Nigeria.
        Bala Usman, a Marxist historian, should be assessed by his inane theories on the geology of petroleum deposits, but not on his life-long contributions to national debate, mentorship (to amongst others, Igbo and Ijaw) and resistance to the worst impulses of a military dictatorship? Hameed Ali, an honest, incorruptible, plain-spoken but often simple-minded though no less patriotic man-at-arms, can be pilloried for his acts on behalf of the state which he was obliged to follow, but not the judges, the ruling Supreme Military Council, even the oil companies who were complicit in varying degrees for the death sentence on the Ogoni 9? And in that process, we forget the complexities of the Ogoni resistance, the fact of Saro Wiwa’s own less-than-spotless history and cooption within the same military junta, and the equally benumbing and precedent tragedy of the Ogoni 4 comprising Mr Albert Badey, Mr Edwin Kobani, Mr Samuel Orase and Mr Theophilus Orase, whose crime was objecting to the call by MOSOP that Ogoni should boycott the looming SDP-NRC national elections, just as IPOB is presently asking Anambra Igbo to reprise? Hameed Ali is the Great Satan for feeling short-changed (and giving voice to his resentment, in admittedly bellicose language) after the North got short-changed by serving only half a term of a gentleman’s agreement of 2 terms in Yar Adua’s presidency, but cries of “marginalization” by other political and ethnic groups is germane? Awolowo, who unquestionably (and regrettably) defended starvation as a legitimate instrument of war, is also the “architect” of genocide, but not Ibrahim Taiwo, Murtala Muhammad and the perpetrators of the Asaba mayhem? If Mr Jon West is judged strictly on any single one of his intemperate commentaries on these BackPages, would he be regarded as a sentient being? For context, Harry Truman is regarded as one of the better American Presidents, but he ordered the nuclear strikes at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus bringing WWII to an end. Winston Churchill fought tooth and nail against granting independence to any of Her Majesty’s colonies, yet is widely regarded as the most consequential UK Prime Minister of the 20th century, not as a rabid racist. I could go on, almost ad infinitum, but I’m sure you now get the picture.
        As with Marcus Aurelius, the purpose of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape ever being counted amongst the ranks of the insane. I give up on Nigeria and her tunnel vision.

        • The Light

          AA the question we should ask ourselves is why the four Ogoni men were killed by their kinsmen. No matter what, Kenule Saro-Iwiwa remains one of the greatest legends in Africa. As for me he can only be equated with people likes Obafemi Awolowo and Nelson Mandela. At his twenties he trained and gave light to his people; a vision which only few black people can be proud of. Nigeria is a country where men with integrity are not revered rather we prefer an idiot over intellectual, a mediocrity over a first class brain. The likes of Ken Saro-iwiwa, Awolowo, Alex Ekwueme are those who directly suffered from this phenomenon. The same is seen everywhere and every sector of Nigeria. A country where a PhD holder is ousted out of office for an uneducated is doomed! Perhaps, if Nigeria continues in this manner, there is all certainty that there is no hope for Nigeria. We pray rhat your likes will keep up the intellectual flare for the benefit of this country. With people like you in our political arena, I think there is hope.

        • FrNinja

          Foolish is he who parrots old philosophical phrases and compares Truman and Churchill who represented the interests of empire well to Northern tribalists like Hameed Ali and Bala Usman.

          • MDG2020

            My brother please help me crack my ribs a little more.
            Till this very moment, I am still trying to convince my self on the truth about that old saying “too much bukuru, e no good”.
            I love acada ooo, and I strongly believe in that dictum, that knowledge is infinite. But the more I read about our lost brother, erudite prof AA, the more I remember another erudite prof, in my at ABU.
            This prof, walks around campus always with his comb in his back pocket, yet is often seen knocking on neighbor’s door to ask for comb to run through his afro hair!
            I hope AA is not another erudite prof Dim?

        • Jon West

          My dear friend, you could have made your point with less verbosity and intellectual arrogance, your usual calling cards .

          Bottom line; judge not so that ye shall not be judged ,goes the Biblical injunction , and I agree in toto. However facts are just that , facts. Why not just concentrate on the matter at hand,the great man Alex Ekwueme and his undeniable status as the best President we did not have. You have been away from the country of your birth for too long. Why not accept that you have lost touch with its reality. Some mistakes are impossible to undo ; Awolowo, Soyinka, Bala Usman and Hameed Ali are victims of major self-inflicted cock-ups and even they did not and do not defend their offending actions and utterances.

          You do not have to win every intellectual argument. You are a Professor, remember.

          • FrNinja

            He has not lost touch. The grandstanding idiot wanted to detract from Ekwuemes achievements by naming others he barely knew from the west and north then ended up putting his foot in sht when he was called out. Fake universalism. Fake intellectualism.

    • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

      Your contribution today was like the manufacture of a most amazing looking car. When one entered it to drive, found the gear box to be faulty.

      Nearly criminal to put especially Hameed Ali in the same article as Alex Ekwueme if it is not to compare the beauty with the beast.

      • American Abroad

        One last shot, Michael, and I’ll call it a day on this particular argument.
        I write in part because I believe it is important to place a mirror in the line of Nigerians’ direct vision, and hopefully provoke dialogue, if not reconsideration of previously held dogma. All the trolls are out in full force, and the division is as sure and predictable as it always has been: Hameed Ali is the “great satan” if you live south of the Niger, Hameed Ali is probably a “saint” if you live north of Lokoja. In real fact, he is neither. Just a complex, hard-working man, whose main qualities happen to be a fierce loyalty and probity in financial matters. Nigeria needs more people like that, and I would guess that based on those two qualities alone, he is closer in public character to Mr Ekwueme than you might otherwise guess.
        We really must refrain from the Orwellian paradigm of “Four legs good, Two legs bad” from his Animal Farm depiction. Northerners can’t all be “irredentist”, and Southerners can’t all be “patriotic”. Sometimes, Beauty is the flip side of Beast; it all depends on your own cataractal perception (remember St Paul’s admonition about looking into a mirror, darkly…?). But please, don’t take my word for it; whenever you can, read Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous by George Berkeley, and it will surely begin to make a lot more sense.
        Have an insightful upcoming week, even as you think more on these matters.

        • Daniel Obior

          I often admire your comments and the logic in them. But please give this up. Truth and facts are universal. Some of the men you chose do not meet the standards.

        • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

          ‘One last shot’ – lol
          I will read the book because you said so and I have much regard for your intellect, but before and until I do, I must continue to hold on to the fact that it is knowing the beast that helps us appreciate the beauty.
          That this attempt to make them somewhat similar because they both breath air is taking intellectual gymnastics too far.
          And i do know many a Northerner for I am often in that part of the world that are mentally urbane and exposed – Hameed is not one of them.
          Finally my brother, I will refer you to American humorist Will Rogers who said “when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”
          Great week sir.

        • Sony

          Eloquence does not equal principled truth you know. You have the former but desperately lack the latter. The latter counts more in a man. Good day.

    • Abia_Man

      Man, you are really losing it! You really don’t understand the elementary problems of Nigeria or you are so blinded by what you have inherited from the misfortunes of 99% of Nigerians. A Buhari supporter and now this. All grammar and prose but no wisdom. Please back to the library, there more grammar books and prose being added daily. Read them all and add to your beautiful lines.

  • Sarah

    May God grant Alex Ekwueme good health and grant Jide Tinubu forgiveness as well as a place in paradise, ameen.
    Re Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) threat to blow up oil infrastructure. Buhari/Osinbajo must bear full responsibility for this turn of events. I recall the situation about 12 months ago; NDA agreed to end hostilities after Osinbajo visited the region and promised that illegal modular refineries would be legalized and given crude oil, women empowerment programs would be created, etc, etc. More than 12 months later, where are the promised dividends of peace?
    Buhari/Osinbajo should fulfill their promises to our long suffering compatriots in the Niger Delta before this becomes another threat to Nigeria’s territorial integrity. Strategically speaking Niger Delta is coastal and is better placed to successfully unilaterally break away from Nigeria if push comes to shove.
    A word is enough for the wise.

  • bigdaddy

    It is sad Dr. Alex Ekwueme did not become president. I believe things would have been different for this country if he was president instead of the weak and clueless Shagari, who was exactly like the buffoon GEJ (only difference was Shagari did not steal); or better still if he were in charge of the country for the 8yrs the evil Ota Ape held sway.
    I wish this honourable gentleman speedy recovery.

    • Grelia O

      I only wish that he had succeeded in either ’99 or ’03 to the extent that he would have been able to use superior argument to convince the legislature and the general public of the need to restructure the nation. There was a hunger for a new progressive direction after the dark period of Buhari, IBB and Abacha. The original G34 that included Bola Ige’s faction would have got it right.

      Alternatively, an Olu Falaye presidency would have been a lot better than Obasanjo’s. Ekwueme should have listened to Nwabueze’s faction at least for the good of the nation. But he was too much of a Brutus and failed to see the disaster in Obasanjo.

      Obasanjo destroyed the PDP dream and philosophy of Ekwueme, Awoniyi, Lar and other veteran patriots. He antagonized the founders, personalized and monetized the party. He factionalized it and pitted factions against each other for his easy control. He used Maurice Iwu and INEC to destroy APGA in the SE and AD in the SW. He recked the govt of Anambra state. He, in fact, set the tone for the disaster of the present republic.

      IBB and Danjuma did a disservice by denying Ekwueme the fruits of his labour in 1999, and worse still, by inflicting Obasanjo on the nation. The rest, as you know, is history.