From Magnus Eze, Enugu, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja, Aloysius Attah, Onitsha, Okwe Obi, Abuja, Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The demise of frontline nationalist and Nigeria’s first Aviation Minister, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, has sparked a wave of reactions and tributes from all sections of the country.
An official statement signed by Ezeana Tagbo Amechi, said he died in the early hours of yesterday at the age of 93.
Until his death, Chief Amechi, who hailed from Amihe village in Ukpor, Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State, was the only surviving member of the Zikist Movement. His last major public outing was when he led the delegation of some Igbo leaders who visited President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock to plead for the release of detained IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
President Buhari, in a statement by Garba Shehu, said he had fond memories of his meetings with the respected nationalist, in November 2021 in Abuja and May 2022 in Abakiliki, Ebonyi State, and that these words of his on November 19, still resonate: “I don’t want to leave this planet without peace returning to my country. I believe in one big, united Nigeria, a force in Africa. Mr President, I want you to be remembered as a person who saw Nigeria burning, and you quenched the fire.”
Extolling the frankness, wisdom, honesty and advice of Amaechi on the situation in the South Eastern part of the country and the way forward, Buhari affirmed that the nonagenarian would also be remembered for his warmth, values and devotion to the service of the nation.
President Buhari prayed for the repose of the soul of the departed and comfort for all who mourn.
Governor of Anambra State, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and other prominent Anambra indigenes who have expressed grief include Senator Ben Obi, chairman of the 2023 presidential campaign council of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, former Vice-president Atiku Abubakar, his running-mate and Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa; director of operations, Professor Obiora Okonkwo; Iyom Josephine Anenih and Chief Dan Ulasi.
Governor Soludo described Amechi as an outstanding patriot and nationalist, who served the nation diligently. He said the late elder statesman lived an impactful and exemplary life worthy of commendation noting that his death was not just a loss to his community, Ukpor, in Nnewi South Local Government Area and to the state but also a monumental loss to Igbo and the Nigerian nation.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, in a statement by his Media Office, in Abuja, declared the death as “an end of an era, the exit of the last of the Titan from the firmament of the old Eastern Region.”
He wrote: “Hitherto, all members of the liberationist class of Zikism – Mokwugo Okoye, Anthony Enaharo, Raji Abdallah, Fred Anyiam, Smart Ebbi, M.C.K Ajuluchukwu, Osita Agwuna, Bob Oguagu have all passed on, leaving Mbazulike to minister to our generation. And now, he has transcended !
“Fortuitously, Mbazulike chose November 1, a day in the Catholic Christian Calendar, when the saints triumphant, those who have worthily done the race, and are now in the beatific bliss, are specially remembered and celebrated. Mbazulike must be a saint too!”
According to him, ”In Mbazulike, the nation has lost so much – patriotism , courage, foresight , doggedness, consistency, cosmopolitanism, stoicism and ethical paternalism. He was an uncommon statesman.
“I recall how barely a year ago, November 19, 2021, the 93 years old Dara Akunwafor as we all called him, led the Igbo greats to President Muhammadu Buhari in search of a political solution to the separatist agitations in the South East, following the detention of Nnamdi Kanu. I had facilitated that visit which also had Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezife in attendance.
“I recall the sentiments Dara had confided in me on the compelling imperative of peace in our zone and the urgency of integrated regional development agenda involving, all leaders – a scared fact all of us leaders, share. Unfortunately Dara has passed on leaving us to soldier on.”
Obi, Okonkwo, Anenih and Ulasi who expressed their grief after a minute silence observed at the inauguration ceremony of Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Council in Awka emphasised the struggle and contributions the late first republic aviation minister made for Nigeria’s development and unity.
Obi emphasised that PDP stakeholders in Anambra State should continue the struggle to rid the nation of its current multiple challenges of hunger, insecurity, and disunity by working hard to ensure that Atiku and Okowa win the coming presidential election.
Iyom Anenih lamented that President Buhari could not grant the late sage his last wish to usher in natural peace by releasing Kanu who is standing trial bordering on terrorism.
Former national chairman of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Chekwa Okorie, described Amechi as courageous, bold and forthright.
“Like wine, his invaluable contributions and interventions in public discourse became better as he aged. He was courageous, bold and forthright at all times…
“’The boy is good’ as he was popularly known in his hay days when he became a cabinet minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, at the youthful age of 24 years old, will be greatly missed, especially his wise counsel to Ndigbo and every Nigerian government.”
Senator Umeh described him as an elder statesman per excellence, who despite his long standing political influence, never talked down on his people.
“Dying on the 1st Day of November, on the Solemnity of the Feast of All Saints, Chief Amaechi has transited gloriously and has joined the Saints Triumphant after a humble, but noble fulfilled life here on earth.
“I know that he left Nigeria without achieving a peaceful and prosperous country that he yearned and worked for, just like some of his compatriots that have gone before him, but he surely contributed vocally to the pursuit of justice for all people of Nigeria and particularly the oppressed,” Ohamadike Ndigbo said.
Former national vice chairman of the PDP, Fidelis Ozichukwu Chukwu, described Amechi as a “quintessential statesman and astute politician who believed in one Nigeria on the principles of equity, justice, fairness and inclusiveness.
“It is indeed a sad end of an era, with the transition of a man of all seasons and the moving spirit of the times. He will fill the story lines of all times. He may have gone but not forgotten. History will fondly remember him.”
Igbo’ll honour Amechi, regrets his unfulfilled wish – Ohanaeze
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo said the Igbo would ensure his memory is given due honour.
National Secretary of the apex Igbo socio-cultural body, Ambassador Okey Emuchay told Daily Sun that Amechi stood out as an Igbo patriot, noting that he had played his part and left the stage.
Emuchay said posterity would remember him well from the struggle for Nigeria’s independence to his roles in the first republic, during the civil war, and more recently for the release of Kanu.
“He served the Igbo and indeed Nigeria to the last minute. Even at over 90, Amechi was still preoccupied by the state of the nation. He stood out as an Igbo patriot. Ndigbo will do well to honour his memory,” the Ohanaeze scribe said.
Also, Ohanaeze in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Dr, Alex Ogbonnia said the body in collaboration with Ndigbo and numerous well-wishers both at home and in the Diaspora, mourn the quintessential Igbo titan, icon and trail blazer.
He said the President General of the group, George Obiozor was deeply pained over this irreparable loss; but added that the life of his life was a veritable lesson in uprightness, selflessness and heroism.
Ohanaeze said: “It is regrettable that the last wish Chief Amaechi presented to President Muhammadu Buhari was rebuffed; Amaechi made his way to Aso Rock and pleaded that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu be released to him on trust. Secondly, Amaechi, on hearing that Buhari was to visit Ebonyi State, earlier this year, in spite of his old age, reactivated his combative paws and reflexes to meet Mr. President. At Abakiliki, Chief Amaechi in an uncommon oratorical skill, spoke pointedly but passionately to President Buhari on why Nnamdi Kanu should be released to him.
“Furthermore, Amaechi’s voice waxed eloquent to the universal advocacy that it is the turn of the South East to produce a president in Nigeria.”
Noting that Amechi’s roles in public life were diverse, Ohanaeze recalled that he played important role in the life of the Late African statesman, Nelson Mandela.
According to Ohanaeze, in 1963, when the obnoxious Apartheid regime in South Africa was at its peak, in connivance with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the freedom fighter, Mandela escaped South Africa and the home of Chief Amaechi, in Ukpor, Nnewi South Local Government Area, Anambra State, was considered the most suitable; perhaps because both of them shared common experiences in colonial pathologies.
“Mandela stayed in Ukpor for about six months. It was on departure from Lagos in 1963 that the Apartheid regime traced him and arrested him on arrival at Johannesburg. And today, Mandela, Azikiwe, Osita Agwuna, Nduka Eze, Mokwugo Okoye, Raji Abdallah, Ikenna Nzimiro, Anthony Enahoro, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Aminu Kano, Amaechi, etc have joined the Saints Triumphant and have gained freedom from the Nigerian provenance, full of corruption, injustice, inexplicable oddities and vicious circles.”
ADF, Umeh, others pay tribute
For the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), he was an unrelenting fighter for human freedom.
Acting National Secretary of ADF, Abia Onyike, the deceased statesman was not only very close to ADFbut was an inspiration to many Igbo activists who yearned for Igbo self-determination within the context of the crisis-ridden Nigerian federation.
Onyike said: “Amaechi was one of the genuine elder statesmen and his participation in the independence movement was epochal. Even after the civil war until the current times, Amaechi remained vocal and resilient in his criticism of Igbo marginalization in Nigeria. He never failed to identify with Igbo aspirations. He will be remembered for his resilience and consistency as a defender of people’s rights.”
Senator Victor Umeh said Amechi lived a life of dignity and self respect, adding that he was not a gratuitous politician.
According to Umeh, he was modest and remained committed to the legacies of the Owelle of Onitsha, the Late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe.
“The Igbo people and indeed Nigeria have lost a great man and may his beliefs and toils for a greater humanity not be in vain,” Umeh prayed.
In addition, the Chief Mbazulike Amechi Cultural Credibility Development Initiative mourned “because a highly respected eminent Igbo leader has departed without hearing from President Muhamadu Buhari that he has released Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.”
Leader of the group, Chief Goddy Uwazurike who was part of the Igbo elders’ visit to Aso Rock, said Amechi was a recurring decimal at every crucial moment in the history of Nigeria.
“The most recent assignment he undertook was to lead a delegation of the highly respected Eminent Igbo Leaders to visit President Muhamadu Buhari to plead for the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. The delegation comprised of me, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Bishop Onuoha. Chief Mbazulike Amechi stated firmly that God blessed him with a long life and President Muhamadu Buhari with a second term to bring peace to Nigeria. President Muhamadu Buhari promised to give a positive answer because he would not say no to the delegation on account of the age of Chief Mbazulike Amechi. Sadly, this promise was not kept,” Uwazurike bemoaned.