Without doubt, Nigeria has lost a prominent public administrator and politician in the death of Senator Joseph Kennedy Waku, who died at the National Hospital Abuja on February 3, at the age of 72. The late democrat and outspoken politician was never afraid of speaking truth to power.
He was elected a senator representing the Benue North West District from 1999-2003 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He served in senate committees such as Senate Services, Works and Housing, Health, Establishment, Water Resources and Privitization. In all these positions, Waku served with honour and dignity.
He later defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) but was not afraid of criticising the party. Waku was born on June 12, 1946 in Waku Village in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State. He attended Obi Primary School, Nasarawa State; London Tutorial University College; and London Institute of Public Relations.
He was the Director of Research and Publicity of the defunct Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) in 1979 as well as board member, Plateau Publishing Company in 1980. Waku was elected a member of Benue State House of Assembly in 1983. He was also the Chairman of Benue State Council of Arts and Culture and Chairman and Chief Executive of Bertco Nigeria Limited, Makurdi. Waku was a member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and has served as its Vice Chairman.
The late Waku was also not afraid of controversy. He even hugged and embraced it with both hands. He was too critical of the Olusegun Obasanjo regime to the extent that he preferred a return of military rule than a civilian dictator.
Waku never tolerated any shortcoming of any government in the country. He was also against the creation of grazing routes in Benue State and rather supported the building of ranches. Waku, who believed in politics for service, was quoted as saying that “when you go into politics to render service to the downtrodden, the less privileged in our society, speak for the voiceless people, you will never retire.”
Even as a member of the APC, Waku condemned the recent Osun gubernatorial poll and described it as a sham. Waku had served his people and the country by building bridges of understanding and peace.
Waku condemned the herdsmen’s menace that led to loss of many lives in the North Central region, especially in Benue State long before it became a national crisis. The elder statesman contributed immensely to the nation’s legislative development.
He was equally committed to the peace, unity of the country. Waku worked for the progress of Benue State and Nigeria. The late political leader will be missed for his forthrightness on issues of national importance.
We urge Nigerian politicians to emulate his shining examples. He was a role model and a firm believer in the oneness of the country. Waku was appointed the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) in 2017. He played important roles in resolving the over seven months’ crisis the university was embroiled in at the time of his appointment and also contributed so much to the growth of education in the country.
We call on the government to immortalize the late democrat and social critic. We also need people like him at this time in our political history, who will offer critical views that will be useful to our democratic development. We join the political class, the university community, his immediate family, the people of Benue State and indeed the nation to mourn the sad loss of the late politician and patriot. May God grant his soul eternal repose.