It is with a great deal of shock and disbelief that I learnt of the sudden transition to eternal glory of Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, GCON, a former Vice President of Nigeria and someone who could rightly be said to be one of the great leaders and founders of the democracy we have enjoyed in Nigeria since 1999.
In every ramification, Dr. Ekwueme was a great man and one of those who truly loves Nigeria. Between 1998 and 1999, he laboured hard mobilizing other patriotic Nigerians to found the largest political party in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which went on to win the 1999 presidential election and ushered in the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration with my humble self as the Vice President.
It should be noted that the efforts put into national mobilization and party building made it possible for the then military administration in Nigeria to hand over power to a civilian government. This is because the country’s political leadership, under the direction and guidance of late Dr. Ekwueme, late Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and others, presented a united and disciplined group that genuinely represented and mirrored the political aspirations and readiness of Nigerians for democratic rule.
Though Dr. Ekwueme contested for the presidential ticket of the PDP for the 1999 presidential election and lost, he was never for once a bitter man. It can be said without contradiction, that there are few Nigerian politicians of the mould of late Dr. Ekwueme who play politics without bitterness in a clime such as ours where reckless political deals and betrayals tend to be common.
Whenever there were problems in the then ruling party, the PDP until 2015, and there were many instances, it was always to the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme that the PDP and most political leaders in the country reverted to seek solution. And the late Statesman, popularly known as Ide by his admirers following his traditional title, always delivered and ensured that the problems were nipped in the bud.
I wish to recall that long before his advent in the PDP, Dr Ekwueme, had played a crucial role in the formation and government of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and its success in the democratic process in Nigeria.
Dr. Alex Ekwueme is a man that Nigerians, and indeed the world will always remember. He was a very accomplished person and a philosopher of good standing. His pursuit of education and scholarship was legendary and helped in shaping the colossus that he eventually became. He showed these traits at the 1994 National Constitutional Conference held in Abuja, to fashion a new Constitution for Nigeria in order to prepare the country for a return to civil rule. Ekwueme deeply reflected on the problems of Nigeria and how the country can be made to work for the good of all its citizens by putting in place a convenient political structure. As a result of his great learning and easy grasp of issues as well as his honesty, integrity and reliability, his quarters at the Constitutional Conference venue became a Mecca of sorts. There delegates representing other parts of the country sought his audience and input before they made their presentations.
It was at that 1994 Constitutional Conference, where I was among the delegates representing Adamawa State, that the astute and cerebral Ekwueme proposed the idea of restructuring the country along geo-political lines. The six geo-political zones, which he proposed and was later adopted by all delegates, is currently in use by all Nigerians as a convenient way to easily capture and categorize the 36 States and the FCT, into which Nigeria is divided.
Suffice it to say that late Dr. Alex Ekwueme was a man of many parts, the likes of whom are very rare and the type that societies that crave for progress and development, hanker after. He unequivocally can be referred to as one of the best presidents that Nigeria never had, bearing in mind that on about three occasions beginning from 1999, the great Ide sought to govern his beloved country.
Dr. Alex Ekwueme is one man who leaves anyone he has met with a good and lasting impression the way he has left a lasting impression and indelible footprints in Nigerian politics and society. He will undoubtedly be sorely missed especially at a time like this when many issues on which he stood and fought, including national integration and a viable and genuine federal structure, remain unresolved. In fact, one way to immortalize this great politician and Statesman would be for all Nigerians to visit, in good faith, the issue of political restructuring and devolution of powers which the great Alex stood for before his sudden death. I believe this will make him turn with joy where he is and bless the country.
With his demise at the ripe age of 85, all those who knew him, should be consoled that he lived a good, worthy and productive life in the service of his country.
I extend my heartfelt condolences to his beautiful family which he loved very much, the good people of Oko and Anambra State and the fraternity of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
As we mourn the passing of this great son of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, just as we mourned some other great Nigerians before him, I pray that the almighty God continues to raise for the country, wise and responsible men and women of vision, honesty and integrity who will take the nation on the right path of progress and development. And may Nigerians also have the good fortune to recognize these quality persons to make good use of them while they are alive.
Atiku, former vice president, delivered the above tribute at the evening of tributes in Memory of late Dr. Ekwueme, at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, on January 28, 2018