Ide, you were a legend among men, the reason I once likened you to Heracles, Nestor and Odysseus in one being, given your bravery, wits, intellect, and strength. Although innately gentle, you never hesitated to adorn the toga of a hot-headed ‘rebel’ in pursuit of common good. No wonder the Ikoro (giant wooden gong) has been sounding in a frenzy of unending and unbridled adulations since you passed on, for the Ikoro hails a man in proportion to his heroics.
History will be kind to you for your bravery in rallying the G-34 to challenge the military hegemony over Nigeria and join forces with other pro-democracy activists to enthrone the democracy we enjoy today.
Ide, you exhibited uncommon political selflessness, equanimity, and sportsmanship at a critical point in the nation’s quest for democratic rule. Truth be told, not many would lose the presidential ticket of a political party they laboured so hard to build and keep their cool. But, whereas many expected you to bring down the roof over your loss of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket, you instead congratulated Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, worked for his success at the polls and remained a loyal partyman till death. You thus established yourself as a lesson in politics without bitterness.
You were a highly detribalised Nigerian. You mastered the art of love for nation and your people. You mastered the art of politics with local flavour. You stood by your people during their most challenging and difficult times, the civil war, offering your undiluted professional service in the design and development of access to the air for Ndigbo.
You were an erudite scholar, a deep and cerebral political thinker who saw tomorrow. You foresaw the many challenges and setbacks faced by the nation today. Unfortunately, your timely suggestions, such as restructuring, single term, and rotational presidency are yet to be heeded to save Nigeria from the social, economic, and political mires. Your farsightedness underlines the words of our fathers that what an elder sees sitting down, the child may never fathom even if such a child perches on the peak of the Iroko tree. This nation, therefore, owes it to your memory to restructure Nigeria in order to build a nation you and other sages past dreamt of.
Ide Oko, Ide Aguata, Ide Nigeria, okwulu okara ibe ya, Odogwu, Ochiagha, you have paid your dues and your great footprints are so bold and embedded on the sands of time that the world will always remember that you passed this way.
•Ekweremadu is Deputy President of the Senate.
Ekwueme: Icon of a generation
Paul Ifeanacho Orajaka, Emeka Sibudu and Uchenna Okonkwo-Okom
Dr. Alex Ekwueme studied in the United States with a Fulbright Scholarship, being an extraordinarily bright student, and came back to Nigeria in 1958 with a bag of academic laurels in diverse disciplines to start a hugely successful life devoted in its entirety to the service of humanity. On his return, he did not waste time before deploying his intellectual and material endowments to the service of Old Aguata. He convened a meeting of the stakeholders of Old Aguata in 1961 and sold the idea of building a secondary school for the benefit of Aguata people. By 1963, Aguata Community Grammar School (now Aguata High School) took off.
Ekwueme followed this up with the building of the Aguata General Post Office and the Aguata Civic Hall that formed the nucleus of today’s Aguata Local Government Secretariat. Ide Aguata’s landmark contributions to the development of Old Aguata are galore and cut across both human capital and physical infrastructures. There is hardly any community in Old Aguata where Ekwueme did not produce at least one graduate through his scholarship scheme.
Ekwueme gave us affordable and standard medical facility in the early 1970s in Oko Community Hospital and followed it up with the infrastructure that is today Federal Polytechnic, Oko. He built the first and only brewery, Pal Breweries, where Pal Lager beer and Royal Malt were brewed on the soil of Old Aguata, which created hundreds of jobs for our people. He has his imprint on all two tertiary educational institutions in Old Aguata today, namely, Federal Polytechnic, Oko, and Federal College of Education (Technical), Umunze. The three federal highways that passed through our area have not been done in recent memory without his input. In fact, he created the one from Nnewi/Amichi/Uga/Akokwa/Okigwe brand new, during his tenure as Vice President of Nigeria. Those of our people who came across Ide in the professions, business and politics are full of tales of Ide’s large heartedness, brotherliness and unparalleled philanthropy.
Outside OAU, Ide Aguata’s influence is looming large and his contributions legendary. He is arguably the most educated Nigerian, most cerebral politician, first Nigerian Vice President, most outstanding delegate to the 1994/1995 National Constitutional Conference, formed and led the G-34, formed the PDP and served as its first national chairman and first chairman, Board of Trustees, and, above all, gave Nigeria its current six geo-political zonal structure.
In the South Eastern frontier, Metallurgical Training Institute, Onitsha, the seaport at Onitsha, FUTO, and various federal highways that traverse the region were all created and/or dualised under his tenure as Nigeria’s Vice President. In fact, it is obvious that any attempt to document Ide Aguata’s monumental contributions to the uplift of mankind in any space that is afforded under this context will do grave injustice to the enormity of the contributions of this icon of patriotism.
We are proud of Ide Aguata. He was our illustrious and worthy son in whom we are very pleased.
•Orajaka, Sibudu and Okonkwo-Okom are chairman, secretary and coordinator, respectively, of Old Aguata Forum steering committee of Ekwueme’s burial committee.