EDWIN UME-EZEOKE (1935-2011)
The demise of the Second Republic Speaker of the House of Representatives and immediate past chairman of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, has deprived the nation of an astute politician and consensus builder. His death in an Indian hospital after a brief illness is a great loss to the political class and the entire country.
Aged 76, the late politician came into political prominence and national limelight when he was elected a member of the House of Representatives under the platform of the defunct Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) in 1979 and subsequently became the Speaker of the House following the accord between the NPP and the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN). In the 2007 presidential poll, the late Ume-Ezeoke was Gen. Muhammadu Buhari's running mate under the platform of ANPP.
His leadership qualities and ability to adapt to changes enabled him to perform well as the Speaker of the Lower House. He gave pragmatic and progressive leadership to the House. No wonder, he was regarded as one of the stabilising elements of the defunct Shehu Shagari administration from 1979-1983. Later, he joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998 and left for the All Peoples Party (APP) in 2002.
Born on September 8, 1935 in Obiagu, Amichi, in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State, the deceased septuagenarian was educated at St. Eugenia's School, Amichi, 1943-1951; St. Patrick's College, Ikot Ansa, Calabar, 1952-1956; North-Western Polytechnic, London, 1960-1962; Council of Legal Education, London, 1961-1963 and Holborn College, London, 1962-1966. He was called to the bar in 1971 after graduating from the Nigerian Law School and thereafter went into private legal practice.
Ume-Ezeoke was chairman of the Presidential Technical Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution. The federal government conferred on him the prestigious honour of the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) in 2005. Since his death, prominent Nigerians have mourned and paid glowing tributes to the late veteran politician. While eulogizing the deceased, President Goodluck Jonathan said that his place in Nigerian history has been secured by his exemplary commitment to national peace, unity and political stability.
In the eyes of most Nigerians, the late lawyer and politician was seen as a committed patriot, defender of human rights and democracy, and a highly detribalized Nigerian whose ideas and services would be sorely missed at this period of Nigeria's political and socio-economic transformation. There is no doubt that Ume-Ezeoke made indelible contributions to national development both as a lawyer and a politician. As Speaker, he performed creditably.
As the deceased is mourned, we urge the political class, a constituency he served with zest and enthusiasm, to emulate his shining examples and continue from where he stopped. The best way to immortalize people like Ume-Ezeoke is to keep alive those ideals he stood for.
We commiserate with the people and government of Nigeria, Anambra State, the political class and the family on the irreparable loss. May God grant his soul eternal repose.