- FG renames Federal University Alike, Ebonyi after him
Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka and Jeff Amaechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The remains of the first elected Vice President of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ekwueme was yesterday, laid to rest in his Oko, Orumba North local government of Anambra State in a blaze of glory.
Security operatives had a tough time controlling vehicular and human traffic into the Polytechnic town of Oko, and at the St John the Divine Church venue of the funeral service which, also shares the same fence with Ekwueme’s house.
His interment came just as President Muhammadu Buhari renamed the Federal University, Ndufu Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State to Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo led an unprecedented crowd including former President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Dame Patience, former Vice President Namadi Sambo, five governors, and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha to bid the great icon farewell, announced the renaming of the institution.
He said Ekwueme was being honoured for his contributions to the development of the nation.
Speaking at the funeral service, Osinbajo described Ekwueme as a man with impeccable character.
He said, “We are celebrating him because even the professors in universities cannot attain his height or boast of seven university degrees as Dr. Ekwueme obtained. He is an accomplished man. We’re also celebrating him because of his architectural work which he established as the best in the class, and won him fame and fortune.
“We want to celebrate him also because he has occupied high public office and made history as the first elected civilian Vice President of Nigeria. But many have held higher office that are not as kind and generous as Ekwueme. We celebrate Ekwueme because he practised the type of principles that set men and women apart from their peers whether they are poor or rich.
“As Vice President, he set an excellent example of loyalty, discipline and fidelity to the nation and all his people. His focus offered him as the face and voice of the opposition to that deadly dictatorship.
“In the commemoration of the life contribution to our nation by Alex Ifechukwu Ekwueme, GCON, the President Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari has approved and directed that the Federal University, Ndufu Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State be now named and become known and called as the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike, Ebonyi State. For the family of Ekwueme and people of Oko and Anambra State, we thank you for sharing this precious gem with us and prayed that you will go beyond him in life.”
In his sermon, the Archbishop Metropolitan and Primate of all Nigeria, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh urged the people to be cautious of their life and to ensure that they did not miss the ark like in the days of Noah of the Bible.
He charged politicians to emulate the virtues of Ekwueme by being close to the people that provided the ladder with which they climbed to positions, warning that anything a man does without integrity, is a waste.
The Primate said: “I want the new generation politicians to emulate this man, all the things said about him, as high as he was, as big as he was, he was very simple and close to his family and people. He was very simple and participated in his people’s problems and successes and someone said if Nigerian politicians would be like him, maybe the federal government may have little problem.
“I call on our new generation politicians, do not run away from your people and only come to them when you need their votes, because it is unfair to them that you went there through the ladder they provided and abandoned them only to come back after sometime when you need their votes and begin to bring little things. Someone said it is stomach infrastructure. Is it you eat today and tomorrow you die?
“So please get close to your people, otherwise it does not worth it, if all you do is to go and sit down in air-conditioned place for months and just involve in arguments leading nowhere and the people in the village who sent you there are forgotten; is it wise? It is left for you to decide.”
Okoh asked those in authority to work towards making Nigeria hospital work effectively and efficiently by providing the necessary tools.
He said: “Every time a great Nigerian is sick, the immediate reaction is fly him abroad; last year I had the privilege of visiting many parts of Canada and I found out that there is no town, city or village in Canada that you will not see a Nigerian medical personnel.
“The amount of money that is spent in Indian hospital, Dubai hospital, British and American hospitals is enough to turn around our health sector; please we can reduce it by 70 per cent, our medical personnel are as good as those elsewhere; when they have the support, the equipment and material our hospitals will function.” He said the Nigerian independence is just on paper, noting that as long as the country runs outside for any little thing, it cannot assert herself.
He said: “We need to assert ourselves, our leaders please help us, whatever is the deficiency in our hospitals, please help us.” Welcoming the guests, Governor Willie Obiano thanked the Federal Government for the honour done to Ekwueme and the governors of the South-East states for their contribution to giving the late icon a befitting burial.