AT 78, ASSOCIATES DESCRIBE EKWUEME AS MAN WHO SAW TOMORROW
The first executive Vice President of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme may have been celebrating birthdays, but the one of October 21, when he turned 78 was exceptional. On that appointed day, the Federal Polytechnic, Oko which he founded instituted an annual lecture award ceremony in his name.
Indeed, the occasion attracted eminent personalities such as the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo; former Minister of Petroleum and Energy and Chairman South-South Monarch Forum, His Royal Majesty, Dr. Edmund Daukoru; first Civilian Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, among others to the institution.
Daukoru who was the chairman of the occasion used glowing words to describe the former number two citizen.
Rector of the Polytechnic, Prof. Godwin Onu while describing the occasion as important and commemorative in the 30-year existence of the institution said:
'A time comes in the life of not only an individual, but also of an institution when it must shun the demands and challenges of everyday living, hustle and bustle of survival in order to profoundly reflect on yester years.
'It is upon that reflection that we are all gathered here today to celebrate a worthy son of Igbo land and Nigeria, a disciplined and focused leader, a multi-disciplinary scholar and former vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme - the man who saw tomorrow.
'To say that the chief celebrant is a very humble and unassuming academic, a sociologist, an architect, a political scientist and a lawyer is to say the obvious.
'It is my firm belief that the story of Dr Ekwueme can successfully extricate many young men and women from criminality if they understand how he emerged from grass to grace through diligence, hard work and dedication.
'For a man who lost his father at the age of ten and had to trek 16 kilometers to and from school, to later attend the famous Kings College Lagos and one of the first Nigerians to be awarded the Fulbright Scholarship for study in the United States is no mean feat.
'It is this gentle giant, unassuming, humble and quite personality that we are celebrating today; the polytechnic which he founded has instituted this event to be an annual affair'.
The occasion got to the climax when an expert in constitutional law and former Minister of Education, Prof Ben Nwabueze delivered the first Dr Alex Ekwueme Annual Lecture and opened the eyes of the audience to so many things they never knew about Ekwueme.
The lecture entitled, 'The Legacies of Dr Alex Ekwueme to Governance and to Political and Social Development in Nigeria', which was in a book form with eight chapters of 121 pages ex-rayed the contribution of the celebrant to nation building.
Nwabueze who was the former Secretary-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo briefly discussed eight legacies of Ekwueme.
On the first legacy, which is intellectualism and solid education, Nwabueze has this to say about Ekwueme, 'The lack of presidential leadership possessed of the necessary intellectual and educational credentials provides the setting for Dr. Alex Ekwueme's legacy to governance and political development in Nigeria. He is acknowledged by all who have interacted closely with him as a person of acute intellect, a man richly endowed with the power to think, to comprehend ideas and to exercise critical judgment, a power that has been greatly enhanced and sharpened by wide and solid education.
'He holds university degrees, not bachelor's, master's and PhD, in many areas of study - architecture and urban planning, sociology, history, philosophy and law - obtained from the University of Washington (Seattle), University of London and University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. Remarkably, it was after his stint as Nigeria's vice president that he went on to acquire a Master's Degree in Law (LL.M) from the University of Nigeria and to be called to the Nigerian Bar.
'He worked for and acquired all these degrees not just for the love of having them but out of a desire to sharpen his already sharp intellect and to deepen his insights, believing that an intellect sharpened and deepened by such wide education especially the kind of education provided by studies in law, is necessary for understanding the complexities of governance in a country going through the process of decolonization and for presidential leadership. That in essence is the legacy of Dr Alex Ekwueme to intellectualism in governance and political development in Nigeria.
'It is the thesis of this lecture that, without the attributes of intellectualism and a solid education such as Dr. Ekwueme exemplified in ample measure, the problem of presidential leadership may continue to perplex us in Nigeria'.
Speaking of Ekwueme on firm belief in and commitment to democracy and strong party system, he said, the characterization of Dr. Alex Ekwueme as a politician is misconceived and more patently so because of the pejorative sense in which the word is understood in Nigeria.
'The epithet, a political activist, is perhaps more fitting, but only in the sense of an activist of political ideas and of principles of good governance. He is simply an intellectual drawn into politics, not for the purpose of making a profitable career in it, but by a firm belief, in and commitment to, the pursuit of political ideas and principles of good governance for the betterment of society.
'His is not in politics of opportunism or self-aggrandizement, but politics driven by a commitment to enthrone democracy and a strong party system as a necessary foundation for good governance. That, not an ambition to make a profitable career in it, is what drew Dr. Alex Ekwueme into politics. He was of course not an old hand in politics in 1979, but a fresh entrant into it.
'The characterization of Dr. Alex Ekwueme as a politician must therefore be rejected because it is a negation of the nationalistic aspirations and the issue-based political mission that brought him into politics, as set out above. Dr. Alex Ekwueme is truly, like the great French political philosopher and jurist, Alexis de Tocqueville, a political philosopher committed to the pursuit of political ideas and principles of good governance.'
Nwabueze further said that the nation owes Dr. Ekwueme for the innovative idea of re-structuring the federation based on six geo-political zones with three in the North (North-West, North-Central and North-East) and three in the South (South-West, South-South and South-East).
'When he first launched the idea, it aroused opposition from many quarters determined, for narrow ethnic reasons, to leave the existing North-South dichotomy undisturbed.
'Happily, the idea of re-structuring the federation along the lines he proposed is gaining acceptance and is being used for some political, even legal, purposes, a notable example being its use for the purposes of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill introduced by President Obasanjo in the National Assembly in 2005.'