The community of Oko in Orumba North Local Government area of Anambra State yesterday trooped out en-masse to celebrate their illustrious son and former vice president of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, in death.
The burial ceremony which took off in his country home as early as 8am with the lying in state and procession by dignitaries followed by a church service at St. John The Divine Anglican Church, Oko. Ekwueme died on November 17, 2017.
The burial ceremony had former President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience; National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; former Vice- President Namadi Sambo; governors of Delta, Ebonyi, Lagos, Imo states, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapher; members of the National Assembly, clergies, Bishops, among others. Speaking at the event, President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo hailed the late Ekwueme’s virtues, describing him as an icon and a true statesman.
He said: “We are not celebrating Alex Ekwueme today because he was an accomplished scholar, even though he was, we are not celebrating him because of his architectural prowess though he established an architectural firm- considered the best in class- and it won him both fame and fortune.
“We are not celebrating him merely because he has held high public office- and he did-making history as the first elected civilian vice president of Nigeria. We celebrate Alex Ekwueme because he practised the eternal principles that set men and women apart from their peers, whether they are poor or rich, famous or unknown.”
“Alex Ekwueme in his life time, practised the principles of personal sacrifice for others, service to those who cannot offer a reward, courage of one’s convictions, bravery in the face of terror.
“As vice-president, he set an excellent example of loyalty, discipline, team spirit, fidelity to the nation and all its peoples.” While saying that no reward or commendation would be sufficient from a grateful nation to one of her best and brightest sons, Osibanjo announced that the President had approved and directed that the Federal University Ndufo Alike, Ebonyi State, be renamed after the late icon as Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufo Alike, Ebonyi State.
Osinbajo said the renaming had already been approved by President Buhari, who said Ekwueme was being honoured for his contributions to national development.
In his sermon at the funeral service, the officiating clergy, Most Revd. Nicholas Oko, described the late Ekwueme as a humble politician who was selfless in his service to the nation despite his achievements in life.
He called on people to emulate late Ekwueme’s integrity, truthfulness and reliability, adding that the bedrock of any successful society is integrity.
He said: “If you are in politics and you do it with people without integrity, you will be embarrassed. If you are in the church and you work with people without integrity, you will be confused, A nation without integrity is bound to fail.. One of the tools for nation building is integrity.
“Integrity is important, not just for Nigeria alone but for politicians as well as students. In the past when the school certificate exam was five years, people studied and passed their exams without cheating but now, with chains of degree everywhere, if you organise interview for some people, they will not be able to write any single statement without error.
“This is because the students lack integrity, the teachers also lack integrity because in some cases, they have compromised their positions. There are no more serious exams to select students for admission. The word of God says, be ye holy for I am holy.
“Ekwueme has completed his own assignment and gone. He has finished his fight. Let us draw from his legacy. It is important for you to know that time is very vital and to do something about it so as to enter the ark. This life you are living today will one day come to an end and it is time to do a soul searching.”
The cleric further called on politicians to make integrity their watchword and work towards promoting the nation by being true ambassadors through their work so that young upcoming politicians can emulate their virtues. He decried a situation where a country known as the giant of Africa would have their citizens running
Umahi hails immortalisation abroad for medical treatment at the slightest opportunity and end up dying there. “Let us work to rebuild and improve on our own country, facilities and make it great again,” he added. Earlier in his speech, Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, thanked people for joining the state to celebrate an icon and an elder statesman, noting that though Ekwueme was gone, his legacies and humble lifestyle would continue to stand as a guide to people in and out of the state.
Similarly, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State while reacting to the naming of the university after the former vice president, described it as a welcome development and part of his administration educational policy.
Umahi in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Emmanuel Uzor, commended the Federal Government for appreciating his educational policy and rewarding same by renaming a Federal Government university in the state after the late sage.
He said his administration had been at the forefront for Igbo integration into the national politics where Ndigbo would be fully recognised as part of the development of Nigeria.
The governor, who is also the Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum described the late Ekwueme as a detribalised Nigerian who committed everything towards the development of democracy in Nigeria. In his eulogy, the former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, described the late elder statesman as a rare breed politician who was failed by the Igbo people in politics.
He observed that despite the pains he suffered in politics, he remained selfless and stood for what he believed in till death.
In his vote of thanks, the eldest son of Ekwueme, Pastor Obi Ekwueme, thanked the state and Federal Government for giving their father a befitting burial. According to him, the town of “Oko has never witnessed anything big as this and may never again”
“I want to immensely thank the Federal Government for immortalising our father by naming a university after him, it is huge but like Oliver Twist, we ask for more.” The body of the late former vice-president was, however, interred at exactly 2:35pm amid pump.