By Wilfred Eya
In Nigeria’s 62 years of independence, the country has produced a number of respected statesmen. Among them is Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Third Republic Governor of Anambra State.
His success story is one of the most fascinating ever told about a statesman. He rose from an apprentice trader to a PhD holder from one of the world’s best universities.
Born in Igbo-Ukwu, Anambra State on November 20, 1939, Ezeife’s fame rests on sheer determination to succeed even where others have failed. He did not attend conventional secondary schools, but taught himself through correspondence courses, and qualified for university admission. He obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University College, Ibadan before he proceeded to the Harvard University on a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship. He obtained a Master’s degree and then, a PhD in 1972.
Ezeife was a renowned school teacher who later became a Headmaster and subsequently, a lecturer at Makarare University College, Kampala in Uganda.
He became a Teaching Fellow at Harvard University, and a Consultant with Arthur D. Little in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
He joined the federal civil service as an Administrative Officer and rose to the position of Permanent Secretary. He is notable for his eloquence, courage and candor. At all times, he speaks truth to power.
Ezeife became governor of Anambra State at the most critical time in the history of the state. He assumed office on January 2, 1992, on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), barely four months after the creation of the state on August 27, 1991. He had the enormous responsibility of laying the foundation for the development of the young state with an old name.
To give the state a lift, he launched the ‘Think Home Initiative’ that encouraged wealthy sons and daughters of Anambra origin to invest in the state. That initiative became a success because it marked the beginning of the transformation of Awka, the state capital, from the quiet town it was in 1991 to the capital city it is today.
Ezeife’s administration was short-lived following the military intervention of November 17, 1993, that aborted the Third Republic. But in the brief period he was in office, he attracted federal presence to the state. He transferred ownership of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University and the Federal Polytechnic, Oko to the Federal Government.
Since leaving public office, Ezeife has remained active as a mentor and an activist in defence of democracy and good governance.In January 2010, he was among thousands of people who demonstrated in Awka to demand credible and violence-free governorship elections on February 6 of that year.In November 2021, he played a crucial role alongside other elders of the state, religious leaders, and traditional rulers to get the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) to call off a sit-at-home protest scheduled for November 6, 2021, the day of the Anambra State governorship election. Through his intervention, Anambra State held a peaceful governorship election against all odds.
For his contributions to the socio-political development of the country, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife is a winner of The Sun Lifetime Achievement Award for 2022.