Job Osazuwa; Lawrence Enyoghasu
It was an outpouring of tributes, yesterday, at a memorial service held at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos State, for the former Vice President of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, who died November 19, 2017.
Ekwueme was hospitalised in Memfys Neurosurgery Hospital, Enugu, after collapsing at his residence in the Independence Layout area of the state on October 28. As soon as he was stabilised, he was flown abroad in an air ambulance for medical treatment on November 12.
Ekwueme, who celebrated his 85th birthday on October 10, reportedly suffered from a chest infection, according to his family members and later died at a London clinic.
The former governor of Abia State and eminent businessman, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, said Ekwueme sacrificed all for Nigeria and played politics without bitterness. He said even when people offended him, he overlooked the offence in the interest of the country. He said no matter how old one is, when death comes knocking, it will be difficult to bear the loss, describing the former VP’s death as a big blow.
Kalu condoled with the bereaved family and expressed hope that the deceased would find a place at the bosom of the Lord.
The memorial church programme, attended by clergymen, politicians, traditional rulers and professionals from all walks of life, began exactly 2pm – as slated, with a hymn, “Praise to Holiest in the Height”. An address by the Bishop of Lagos and Dean Emeritus, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Adebola Ademowo was delivered by Very Rev. Yinka Omololu.
Omololu told the congregation that the Bishop had loved to deliver the address himself but was engaged at other unavoidable assignment and, therefore, mandated him to fill the gap.
The preacher cited the parable of the Good Samaritan as narrated by Jesus Christ in the Bible, who showed compassion to the wounded and stranded man.
According to him, the lessons from the parable are to set outside our prejudices and show love and compassion to one another. He stressed that a true lover of Jesus must love all mankind.
Omololu, who opened the floodgate of tributes, likened Ekwueme’s lifestyle to that of the kind gesture of the Good Samaritan. He extoled the former number two citizen for displaying his unreserved loyalty and love for Nigeria.
He painted a glowing picture of Ekwueme’s intimidating academic qualification, saying that the deceased was widely read and succeeded in establishing his feet in the sands of different careers.
He described the former vice president as a philanthropist, gentle and soft-spoken, making him to wonder why he ventured into politics. But he said he later realised that his love for Nigeria was non-negotiable. He added that his type was rare in today’s political circles across Nigeria.
“Ekwueme spent his own money for the good and benefit of Nigerians. No wonder after serving as the Vice President with Alhaji Shehu Shagari, he said he ran at a loss. His statement is indisputable. He was a role model and selfless leader.”
He said the late patriarch, through a solo effort, built many schools in Anambra State and established education trust fund, which many indigent students benefited from. “We were lucky to have had Ekwueme as a role model in Nigeria,” he said.
Younger brother to the deceased, the traditional ruler of Oko, Prof. Laz Ekwueme, his wife, Mrs Beatrice Ekwueme, children – Goodheart Obi, Tobenna and Ken, and other members of the Ekwueme family were at the service.
Other personalities at the event were: Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibunkule Amosun, former Governor of Anambra, Mr Peter Obi, former Secretary General of Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Chairman of Nestlé Nigeria PLC, Olusegun Osunkeye among others.