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REMEMBERING ALEX EKWUEME
Most Nigerians remember the late Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, Nigeria’s former vice president with nostalgia. Some say he was the most colourful and powerful vice president the country ever produced. He is also remembered for many reasons, key among which was his role as the intellectual backbone of the Shagari/Ekwueme government between 1979 and 1983. In the third republic, he played the role of father of Nigeria’s modern democracy, having led the political class to oppose further military rule in Nigeria.
To cap it all, Dr. Alex Ekwueme innovated the concept of the six geo-political zones which has become the template for allocation of national resources and other common patrimonies of the country. Regrettably it was on November 20, 2017 that Nigerians woke up to the news of the demise of Dr. Ekwueme at the age of 85 years. Many Nigerians mourned uncontrollably as they remembered his altruistic contributions to the country. He was indeed one of the finest intellectually-endowed politicians the country ever had, and this was manifestly obvious in his razor-sharp memory of events, dates and personalities.
Another remarkable attribute of the late vice president was his integrity in public office. During his trial after the 1983 military coup, the panel that tried his alleged case of corruption did not only exonerate him of any wrongdoing, but asserted that to ask anything more from Dr. Ekwueme will amount to setting standard which even saints cannot attain.
It is common knowledge that during the era of General Sani Abacha’s junta, it was practically impossible to raise a finger of protest against the military regime, yet Alex Ekwueme was courageous enough to organize the G-18 and then G-34, a group of Nigeria’s political leaders which later metamorphosed into the present-day Peoples Democratic Party. They held the reins of power in Nigeria for 16 unbroken years. This group saw to the exit of military from power and midwifed our present-day democracy.
Recently the federal government accorded him yet another recognition with the naming of a railway Operation Control Centre in Lagos after him. This is a welcome development, though the renaming of a bigger national monument like the International Conference Centre would have been better considering the pivotal role he played in the country’s political evolution.
The reason for this advocacy is not far-fetched considering that Dr. Ekwueme had devoted his life to the service of Nigeria and its peoples. His patriotism, sense of justice and devotion to national causes was unprecedented. He never ceased to advocate for tolerance among Nigerians, and he built bridges across the country, even as he advocated for equity and justice for all Nigerians.
As Nigerians relish the benefits of constitutional democracy it is important to always remember the individuals that played major roles in the realization of our collective aspirations, and in this epoch Dr. Ekwueme would take the lead as someone who showed direction and was courageous to lead the political class to oppose military dictatorship. His effervescent presence in the political arena helped to inspire the political class to believe in a democratic Nigeria and refused to be intimidated by the military into submission.
As we mark the third anniversary of his departure to eternal glory it is also fitting to commend the wisdom of President Muhammadu Buhari in immortalizing the late former Vice President as such personages ought never to be forgotten.
It is also pertinent to recall that his devotion to the oneness of Nigeria was unassailable, and that late Dr. Alex Ekwueme was famous as an advocate of the country’s infrastructural development. Perhaps his architectural and urban planning background must have informed his desire to see all parts of Nigeria develop rapidly.
As an architect and development expert, he never stopped advocating for the revival of Nigeria’s infrastructure, especially in the areas of housing, roads, bridges and railways. As a professional architect and town planner, Ekwueme headed the team that planned Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital while he was the vice president of Nigeria.
Chukwudi Enekwechi, JP, Abuja