Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme on Sunday November 19, 2017, passed on at a London hospital where he was taken to last week at the instance of the Federal Government after collapsing in his country home.
Before his eventual death Sunday in London, the Octogenarian was rumoured to have died at a hospital in Enugu where he was initially taken to for remedial treatment preparatory to his eventual relocation to London. The rumour of his death a replica of that of Late Nnamdi Azikiwe in the late 90s, which went viral had thrown Anambrains into momentary mourning before his family allayed the fears by debunking the rumour of his death.
Although Nigerians especially from the South East geographical extraction were still apprehensive of the health status of the 85 year old elder statesman and former Vice- President of Nigeria during Second Republic considering the condition he was flown out, but his death Sunday, which ironically coincided with the pronouncement of Governor Willie Obiano as the winner of Anambra gubernatorial election which was held on Saturday November 18 actually threw cold water to the camp of the victorious Governor Obiano and several Ndee Anambrains.
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His death was confirmed by Igwe Laz Ekwueme, his brother and traditional ruler of his native Oko Kingdom of Anambra State. The poet stated in a statement that his brother died at a London Clinic at 10 p.m.
Expectedly reactions have continued to pour in over the demise of Dr. Ekwueme, who held the prestigious honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON)being the honour officially preserved for the position of Vice-President, which he was under former President Shehu Shagari government from October 1, 1979 to December 1984.
Prominent among those that have reacted is President Muhammadu Buhari who has sent condolences to Nigerians and to the Government and people of Anambra State on the passing away of elder statesman and former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme.
Femi Adesina, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity who conveyed the president’s condolences stated “President Buhari commiserates with the entire Oko Kingdom, the Aguata Council of Traditional Rulers, and the Ekwueme family, over the loss of the family’s patriarch, whose regular counsels on national issues and mediations for peaceful co-existence would be sorely missed.
“The President affirms that Dr. Ekwueme’s unwavering commitment to the unity of Nigeria had been a major encouragement to many governments, recalling the personal sacrifices he made in helping to lay the foundation for sustainable democracy in Nigeria.
“President Buhari believes Dr. Ekwueme worked assiduously to improve the livelihood of many poor and underprivileged people through the Alex Ekwueme Foundation, describing him as a man who served his country and humanity..
“The President prays that the almighty God will receive the soul of the former Vice President, and grant his family the fortitude to bear the loss,” the statement said.
The Senate President, Dr. Olusola Saraki, Speaker, House of Representatives, Re-elected Governor of Anambra Willie Obiano, the Ohaneze Ndigbo are among the legion of individuals and groups that have sent their condolences on late Ekwueme.
Dr. Ekweume was born on October 21, 1932 in Oko, Orumba North Local Government of Anambra State and started his elementary education at St. John’s Anglican Central School at Ekwuloba before proceeding to the elite Kings College in Lagos.
He attended the University of Washington where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Architecture and City Planning. He proceeded to earn his Masters in Urban Planning and later Doctorate degree in Architecture from the University of Strathclyde.
Until his death, he stood out as one of the few Nigerians if not the only one that parades so many degress in different disciplines. He held a degree in Law, History, Sociology and Philosophy.
The renowned and distinguished architect of blessed memory started his professional career as an Assistant Architect with Seattle-based firm, Leo Daly and Associates and also worked with the London-based Nickson and Partners before returning to Nigeria to join ESSO West Africa in Lagos overseeing the Construction and Maintenance department before creating his own Ekwueme Associates, Architects and Town Planning, which was the first indigenous architectural firm in Nigeria.
Although he was a renowned architect well known in the profession, his foray into politics in 1979 is what brought him into limelight. When the coast was cleared by the military to hand over power to the civilians in 1979, he became the Vice-President under Shehu Shagari before the military took over power barely three months into their second term in office.
Ever since then, Ekwueme had been entrenched in politics until the military stepped aside again in 1998 when he mobilized a group of 34 eminent Nigerians to tinker and form the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where he became the founding Chairman of the PDP and was also the first Chairman of Board Of Trustees (BoT) of the Party.
He was also a delegate to the 1995 National Constitutional Conference.
Even though he had not been in the best of health in the past one decade, but as a founding member of the party and a member of BoT, the PDP always relied on his wealth of experience, which was why he was called upon by his party PDP, then the ruling party in Nigeria to head the Reconciliation Committee in the wake of intra-party discord and after the 2011 presidential election..
As an internationally recognized elder statesman, he had served in various capacities on foreign missions duties relating to election in particular.
He was a member of the Board of Directors of Canada-based Forum of Federations and member of ECOWAS Council of Elders. Dr. Ekwueme also led a team assembled by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for pre-election monitoring for the parliamentary election in Zimbabwe in 2000 and was also the leader of the then Organisation of African Unity, (OAU) observer team to the Tanzanian Presidential and Parliamentary election in 2000. In 2005 he was again co-opted to co-lead the 28 member NDI/Carter Centre sponsored Observer Team to the Liberian Presidential run-off election.
He was a member Housing sub- committee of the Adebo Salaries and Wages Review Commission and also served on the board of the Anambra State Housing Development Authority. He had Ekwueme Foundation Trust Fund that has been responsible for sponsoring education of thousands of hundreds of youths to Universities in Nigeria.
Until his death, he was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Nigerian Institute of Architects and Ide of Aguata Local Government of Anambra State.
He is the Ide of Oko kingdom in Anambra State, where Igwe Ekwueme reigns as the traditional ruler.
He is survived by a wife and children including Mrs Alexandria Chidi Onyemelukwe who was running mate to PDP’s candidate Oseloka Obaze at the just concluded Anambra Governorship poll.