- Alexander Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme (1932-2017)
- OBJ offered Ekwueme Senate Presidency – Ngige
- DR. ALEX EKWUEME: A DEVOUT ANGLICAN IN LOVE WITH THE 'HOLY ROSARY'
- HOW SHAGARI PICKED EKWUEME AS VP
- Alexander Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme (1932-2017)
~The Guardian Nigeria. Friday, December 1, 2017.
|Late Dr Alexander Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme|
His demise has further depleted the dwindling number of great political thinkers and leaders in the country. From the moment he was sworn in on October 1, 1979 as the first elected Vice-President of Nigeria, Ekwueme made the unity, stability and development of Nigeria his lifelong project. He was one political leader who worked underground for the stability of democracy in the country, by weaving together the scarce qualities of patriotism, loyalty, consistency, in a very sacrificial manner for the national cause.
As the running mate of former President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, he maintained utmost loyalty, even to a point of dignified subservience, notwithstanding his cerebral endowment and professional success. Despite his unjust incarceration by the military junta of the then Major General Muhammadu Buhari that toppled the Shagari government in 1983 and his subsequent release by the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida, Ekwueme remained undaunted in his service to the fatherland.
Two things, it seems, could have made this possible: one was his gift of serenity and the other was his incorruptibility. Whilst the report of the Justice Samson Uwaifo-led judicial tribunal established by the Babangida regime detailed his incorruptibility, his serenity was demonstrated by his commitment, focus and sincerity of purpose which knew no bounds. It was these attributes that drove his formation of the group of 34 eminent Nigerians (G34) that firmly opposed the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. They also demonstrated his positive influence at the 1994 national constitutional conference to deliver Nigeria from the shackles of military rule. In furtherance of this resolve, the G34 became the nucleus of democratic idealists that formed the People's Democratic Party (PDP).
His influence on the present democratic dispensation is so legendary that, his formation of another group of 18 eminent Nigerian (G18) had earlier led to the provision of alternative governance structure for the country. If Nigeria prides itself as a stable, renascent democratic country, the governance structure along six geo-political zones as well as the idea of inclusivity through some form of rotational presidency that made this happen, were conceived by the Ekwueme-led G18. In his unique way, devoid of needless celebration, he fought against the despoliation of the oil-producing communities and marginalised citizens.
Regardless of the toll which such sacrificial involvement in public service had on his domestic space, he was a good family man and community leader. He united all his extended family members in a very unique way by keeping the peace.
Born on October 21, 1932 in Oko, in present-day Anambra State, Ekwueme had his early formal education at St John's Anglican Primary School, Ekwulobia, Anambra State and then King's College, Lagos. Beside the close-knit Anglican household in which he was raised, Ekwueme's encyclopaedic intellect, clarity of thought and urbane civility are attestation of his liberal education.
Trained as an architect, Ekwueme earned a degree in Architecture and City Planning from the University of Washington, as a Fulbright scholarship recipient. He also took a Masters degree in Urban Planning and later obtained a Ph.D in Architecture from the University of Strathclyde.
In deliberate expansion of his intellectual horizon, Ekwueme obtained degrees in Sociology, History, Philosophy and Law from the University of London. He was thereafter called to the Nigerian Bar. Ekwueme began his distinguished career in architecture in Seattle, USA and London before working in Esso West Africa, Lagos. He was also president of the Nigerian Institute of Architects.
To genuine politicians who want to understand what public service entails: when they pick up a dictionary or encyclopedia of politics, under the term public service, they would find the description of Alex Ekwueme.
Ekwueme embodies the finesse and psychic disposition required of people desirous of steering the ship of state. His involvement in politics was so deep that it was very far removed from the quotidian rat-race and importunities of immediate gratification. The reason for this lies not only in the deployment of his intellect to identify principles and values amenable to the smooth running of the state, but also to his tenacity to sustain these ideas and principles as well as the fecundity to churn out long-lasting ideas of statecraft. He was a great politician, a great leader and also a stabilising factor.
A typical philosopher-king, he was unencumbered by the baggage of appetitive cravings that have become the life pursuit of many politicians in Nigeria today. In his well-guided missives and dignified eloquence, he personified the cultivated elan which anyone transiting from mere politician to statesman should command. Politicians who accord respectability to the craft are often those whose sense of moral judgement is consistent with high level of integrity, selflessness, openness and the ability to genuinely forgive.
Throughout his political sojourn, Ekwueme punctured the near-acceptable myth amongst political idealists, which proclaims that, until highbrow politicians with a repository of ideas become presidents and heads of states in Nigeria, the country would not be prosperous. To support this position, these pundits have cited people like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Mallam Aminu Kano and other great men of ideas who never became presidents to the detriment of the country. But those leaders and the likes of Ekwueme are coaches in the political arena, who think far ahead of their peers. Whilst they may not be presidents and heads of states, their fecund intellect is laden with ideas that can help identify future leaders and suggest ways of transforming and leading the country to prosperity.
His life was a sharp contrast of the life of mendacity, bitterness, murderous animosity and greed that have infested Nigeria's political space.
Amidst the growing trend of predatory culture and willful plundering of the common wealth, Ekwueme's death affords another brief moment for soul-searching by public officers and politicians. It reminds one that the ability to lead depends not on fleeting popularity acquired from giving hand-outs to the electorate but rather on the ability to identify and stand by enduring principles that can solve problems, appeal to common sense and satisfy the common good.
As family members, kinsmen and fellow politicians prepare for the grand reception of the remains of one of Nigeria's most respected statesmen, Dr. Alexander Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, they should not forget in a hurry that, like the true architect which he was, Ekwueme coupled fragmented differences into a formidable national edifice.
OBJ offered Ekwueme Senate Presidency – Ngige
~vanguard Nigeria. Monday, January 29, 2018
Ekwueme epitomizes impeccable integrity, courage, selflessness —Osinbajo
—-Ekwueme rejected Senate President offer from Obasanjo—Ngige
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—VICE President Yemi Osinbajo has said that the late Vice President in the Second Republic, Dr. Alex Ekwueme epitomised impeccable integrity, courage and selflessness.
Prof. Osinbajo state this at the Night of Song service organized by the Federal Government in honour of the former Vice President is he begins the final journey to the mother earth.
He said that the late Ekwueme worked tirelessly to build and maintain bridges across the country, adding that he (Ekwueme) understood the symbolism of leaders of the nation to honour God.
He said, “Dr. Alex Ekwuene is perhaps one of the most remarkable persons who have served our nation. Despite being probably one of the most thoroughly educated persons anywhere in the world with degrees in disciplines as distinct as architecture, philosophy, sociology and law.
“He possesses the profound humility that comes from understanding how much more there was to learn and he demonstrated it by his willingness to listen and to learn at all time.
“As Vice President, he set an excellent example with loyalty, discipline, team spirit and fidelity to the nation.
“He was fearless and with the courage of his conviction, he led the G-34, a group of eminent Nigerians who confronted military dictatorship in its darkest and most fiercesome days in Nigerian history.
‘In public discourse nationally and regionally as an elder in ECOWAS even in the most emotive subject, he spoke truthfully but maintaining a forthful balance ensuring that his words built rather than destroyed.
“He worked tirelessly to build and maintain the bridges established across ethnic and religious lines. He never once doubted the validity of one indivisible Nigeria.”
OBJ offered Ekwueme Senate Presidency- Ngige
On his tribute, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige said that former president Olusegun Obasanjo, offered late Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Senate Presidency, after the later lost the Jos primaries of the People's Democratic Party (PDP).
Ngige said he personally advised the late Dr. Ekwueme to reject the offer as he was sure that the former VP was too rigid to be a Senate President and that he would be impeached within three months.
He said, "I told Ide (Dr. Ekwueme) that he was too rigid and that he would not be able to do that job. When the committees come to you and say do this and do that, you will not agree and the next thing they will go and gather signatures and in no time, the will impeach you.
"Ide was very strict on accountability. Even when we were campaigning, whenever we returned, he would call you and ask you to give account of how you spent the campaign money. He will have his paper and pen in his hands. You know politicians don't like that. They don't like accountability.”
Ekwueme lost Jos PDP Primaries because he refused to bribe delegates
He also said that the late Vice President, lost the Jos PDP presidential primary ticket because he refused to bribe the delegates.
According to Ngige, late Dr. Ekwueme failed in bribery and corruption , as well as, false promises, which were usual with typical politicians.
He added that the late former VP was not religious bigot, as according to him, even though Dr. Ekwueme's father was an Anglican pastor, he never discriminated against people of other faiths and always seen with a rosary which is identified, usually with Catholics.
In his own remarks, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, urged Nigerians learn from late Dr. Ekwueme's courage to confront late dictator, Ge. Sani Abacha, with the G34 initiative.
He also urged Nigerians to imbibe Dr. Ekwueme's patriotic zeal, saying, "we must first see ourselves as Nigerians, irrespective of our religions and tribes."
According Prof. Jerry Gana, former Secretary of the G34 and political ally of the Late Dr. Ekwueme, the later Vice President was, "a great son of Nigeria, a loving leader, creative designer, first class architect, wise counselor, elder statesman, a great patriot, defender of the people, an advocate of social justice, fairness and equity."
He said that Dr. Ekwueme led the G34 which confronted Late Gen. Sani Abacha to stop his self-succession bid, thus was at the vanguard of the return to democracy after more than two and half decades of military dictatorship.
Prof. Gana also revealed that the letter by the G 34 was written by himself and Dr. Iyorchia Ayu but that Dr. who was the chairman of the group personally edited and submitted it at the Aso Rock Villa, to ensure it got to Late Gen. Abacha.
Prof. Jerry Gana described the late Ekwueme as a defender of the people, a political colossus and an advocate of social justice and equity.
The President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo said he didn’t come to mourn rather to rejoice for the gift of nature from God to Igboland.
He said, “He was multi disciplinary and distinctive in what he set out to do and loyal in his convictions and believed in his intellectual perception.
“I haven’t come here to mourn on behalf of the Igbos, I have come here to rejoice that God gave us an exemplary son.
“On a night like this what is important is to christenize the distinctive achievements and characteristics of Dr. Alex Ekwueme and I’m the process hope that those of us who are living will derive example from it and create a better society.”
Nwodo said that Dr. Ekwueme was very loyal to Shehu Shagari and that he never spoke irrespectively of former President Shehu Shagari, both in and out of office.
According to Dr. Nwodo, "Dr. Ekwueme never thought of leaving PDP. What was important to him was his sense of contribution. Whether or not he made money from it or not. Ekwueme was a very humble man. Chief Nwodo urged Nigerians politicians to emulate
Also speaking, Prof. Uzodimma Nwala who worked closely with the late Vice President said he respected him for his great intellect and not the typical Nigerian politician, adding that he had the carriage.
Said Ekwueme came up with the establishment of six geopolitical zones as basis for optical and resources sharing.
We are celebrating a man that had contributed in laying the foundation of unity in Nigeria.
Prof. Uzodinma Nwala
Prof. Uzodinma Nwala, described the Late VP as the architect of the philosophy of the six Geo-political Zones in the country as the bases for power and resource sharing.
"The true components of Nigeria is the ethnic nationalities. We must come back to a loose federation."
He said, "Dr. Alex Ekwueme was not a typical Nigerian politician," and urged Nigerian politicians to take lessons from the departed VP.
The former President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari represented by his son, Aminu Shagari said late Ekwueme lived a simple and uncomplicated life and that his choice of Ekwueme as his Vice President was a right choice.
He said the late former Vice President exhibited tolerance and total loyalty, describing him as patriotic and a statesman.
HOW SHAGARI PICKED EKWUEME AS VP
~Written by Eric Teniola, Lagos, Nigeria
On September 20 1978, the National Party of Nigeria was formed at a hall at the Satellite Town, Lagos. Protem officers were later appointed for the party. Alhaji Muhammed Aminu Kano (1920-1983) was made interim Publicity Secretary but he opted out and went to form The People's Redemption Party(PRP) along with Mr. Samuel Gomsu Ikoku, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Kanmi Ishola Osobu(People's Lawyer), Alhaji Sule Lamido, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Dr. Junaid Muhammed, Alhaji Sabo Barkin Zuwo and others.
The objectives and aims of the party were to maintain and protect the unity and sovereignty of Nigeria as one indivisible entity, to promote unity, solidarity harmonious co-existence amongst all Nigerians irrespective of their religious, tribal and other differences, to uphold federalism as a form of government for Nigeria, to ensure the practice and maintenance of democracy, the rule of law and social justice in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
At the Satellite Town, Alhaji Aliyu Makama Bida (1905-1980), first Minister of Education in Northern Nigeria, Officer of the Order of the British Empire and at various times Acting Premier of the Northern Nigeria, was made the Acting Chairman and Patron of NPN. The NPN was formed by some members of the Constituent Assembly of 1977-1978, members of the Old Northern People's Congress, members of the Council of National Unity and members of the National Movement.
On September 30, the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) headed by a veteran civil servant, Chief Michael Ani approved six political parties to contest the 1979 elections. Chief Michael Nsa Ani was a two time chairman of FEDECO who tried to serve National interest as perceived by him. In 1965 the then, Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa appointed Chief Ani as chairman of FEDECO after which the ARMY overthrew the government in 1966. In 1976, General Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him to the same position following the recommendation of one of those who worked under Chief Ani but who later became the Secretary to the Government of the federation during the tenure of General Murtala Muhammed and General Olusegun Obasanjo, that is, Chief Allison Akede Ayida.
The parties approved by Chief Ani's FEDECO were the Unity Party of Nigeria led Chief Obafemi Awolowo,GCFR (1909-1987) the Nigeria People's Party (NPP) led by the first President in Nigeria, Dr. Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, GCFR (1904-1996), the People's Redemption Party led by Mallam Aminu Kano(1920-1983), the Great Nigerian People's Party (GNPP) led by Alhaji Waziri Kolo Ibrahim(1923-1992), the Nigerian Advanced Party led by Dr. Tunji Braithwaite (1933-2016) and the National Party of Nigeria. FEDECO also announced that the Presidential election will hold on August 16 1979.
On October 5 1978, the NPN held an emergency meeting in Lagos and zoned the Presidency to the North, the Vice Presidency to the East Central zone-now made up of Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi, Abia and Enugu states. The party zoned the speakership of the House of the Representatives to the Middle Belt, which did not come to pass later following the NPP/NPN accord. The Senate Presidency was zoned to Bendel, Cross Rivers and Rivers states which we now refer to as South- South zone and the Chairmanship of the party to Lagos,Oyo,Ogun and Ondo state which we now refer to as South West. It was a controversial decision at that time.
The following were approved as interim officers National Chairman- Alhaji Aliyu Makamam Bida, National Vice Chairman-Mr C.C. Onoh-(Anambra),Alhaji Sule Katagun(Bauchi), Dr. C.G. Okojie(Bendel), Chief (Dr.) J.S. Tarka(Benue), Alhaji Kam Selem(Borno), Dr. Joseph Wayas(Cross River), Prof. Iya Abubakar(Gongola), Alhaji Nuhu Bamali(Kaduna), Alhaji Inuwa Wada(Kano), Dr. Sola Saraki(Kwara), Dr. J.O.J. Okezie(Imo), Alhaji Yahaya Sabo(Plateau), Prine Adeleke Adedoyin(Ogun), Major-Gen Robert Adeyinka Adebayo(Ondo), Chief Remi Fani Kayode(Oyo), Alhaji Shehu Shagari(Sokoto), Chief M.O. Okilo(Rivers), National Secretary-Dr. Nwakama Okoro, Deputy National Secretary-Alhaji Umaru Dikko, Assistant Secretaries-Mr Sydney Akintade, Mr. E. Isa Odoma, Alhaji Kaloma Ali, National Publicity Secretary-Alhaji Suleman Takuma, Assistant Publicity Secretaries-Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Mr. Okumagha, Mr. Mvendaga Jido, National Financial Secretary-Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, Assistant Financial Secretary-Mr Donald Etiebet, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu, Mr. I. Sagari Usman, National Treasurer-Dr. Onibuje, Deputy Treasurer-Alhaji Bello Maitama Yusuf, National Legal Adviser-Chief Richard Akinjide, Assistant Legal Adviser-Mr. Tunji Arosanyi, Auditor-Mr. Kento Giadon, Assistant Auditor-Alhaji Magaji Mauzu.
One of the founders of the party, Dr. Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe (1915-1990), a former Minister under the then Prime Minster, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, donated his house at Jibowu street,Yaba to serve as Party Headquarters. Dr. Mbadiwe alias MAN OF TIMBER AND CALIBRE was from Arondizuogu under Orlu division in the present Imo state. While at Baptist Academy Lagos and Igbobi College, Lagos, his colleagues were Chief Samule Ladoke Akintola, Chief E.E. Esau, Justice Taslim Elias, Horatio Thomas and Justice F.O. Coker.
On December 12 1978, the party held its convention at the now dilapidated Casino Cinema, Yaba, Lagos to select its Presidential Candidate. The Chairman of the Convention was Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro (1923-2010). 2,235 candidates attended the convention from all over the country. At the convention over 500 journalists covered the event. The American ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Donald B. Eaasum as well as his British counterpart Sir Sam Falle sent representatives to the convention which was interpreted at that time, that the NPN was indeed government in waiting.
On that same day, at the amusement park in Apapa, the NPP adopted Dr. Azikiwe as the Presidential candidate and also adopted Chief Christopher Oluwafunmi Akinfosile(1917-1996) as the National Chairman of the party. Professor Ishaya Shuiabu Audu (1927-2005) was selected as the running mate to Dr. Azikiwe. Party faithfuls who attended the convention included Chief Adenran Ogunsanya, Mr. Ademola Thomas, Chief Solomon Lar, Chief Guy Ikokwu, Chief Paul Unongo(Secretary), Chief Sam Mbakwe, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Chief Raphael Ben Kech Okafor alias RBK, Chief Mo Obiekwe and others.
At the convention of the NPN which was attended by foreign observers, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari(93) scored 978 votes while Alhaji Maitama Sule (1929-2017) scored 564 votes. Alhaji Adamu Ciroma (83) scored 293 votes, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki(1933-2012) had 214 votes, Chief Joseph SarwuanTarka(1932=1980)-104 votes and Professor Muhammed Iyi Abubakar (83) had 93 votes,. Chief Hilary Njoku announced the results of the votes.
At the Convention, Chief Meredith Adisa August Akinloye(August 19, 1916- September 18, 2007) was selected as the National Chairman of the Party. He came in company of Alhaji Lamidi Ariyibi Akanji Adedibu(1927-2008) who was then one of his aides. Chief Akinoye alias Egunjemi was the Seriki of Ibadanland. He was instrumental to the formation of the first ever political party in Ibadan called Ibadan Peoples Party (IPP) which he served as its president, with Adegoke Adelabu as his deputy. His IPP party later merged with the Action Group, led Obafemi Awolowo to form the first government in the Western Region of Nigeria, in which Akinloye was appointed the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources. During the second half of the 1950s he was elected Chairman of Ibadan City Council. During the Western Region Crisis in the early 1960s, he left the Action Group for Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola's newly formed Nigerian National Democratic Party and served in the cabinet led by the then Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1912-1966).(The government was overthrown in a military coup on 15 January 1966.
n December 12 1978 after winning the Presidential nomination of the NPN, Alhaji Shehu Shagari did not name his running mate. The rules of the party gave him the prerogative to name his running mate after consulting with the party leaders.
As he locked himself up at Eko Hotel, speculations remained high on who he would nominate as his running mate. Several names were mentioned. The name of Dr. Kinsley Ozumba Mbadiwe topped the list. Dr. Mbadiwe and Alhaji Shehu Shagari were colleagues as Ministers under the then Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa. While Alhaji Shagari served as Minister of Internal Affairs in April 1965, Dr. Mbadiwe served as Minister of Trade. In fact Dr. Mbadiwe's best friend, Dr. Kolawole Balogun, Nigeria's former ambassador to Ghana, from Otan Aiyegbaju in the present Osun state told anyone who cared to listen that Dr. Mbadiwe was the choice.
Another group wanted Dr. Josiah Onyebuchi Johnson Okezie from Umuahia-Ibeku in Imo state. Under General Yakubu Gowon, Dr. Okezie was Minister for health and later Minister for Agriculture and Natural Resources before becoming Chairman Board of Directors, African Continental Bank (ACB). In the constituent assembly he represented Ikwuano/Umuahia/Bende constituency. There was also the youthful, Dr. Dike Nworah, a historian and businessman from Awka in Anambra state, who later became the Owelle of Awka.
Being the National Secretary of the party, Dr Nwakama Okoro(SAN) was also mentioned as a possible choice. The profile of Dr. Okoro was intimidating. He was from Amuri, Arochukwu in Imo state. He had earlier served as the Secretary of the Enugu branch of the Nigerian Bar Association. Between 1976 and 1978, he was the President of Nigerian Bar Association. In the Constituent Assembly of 1977-198 he represented Ohafia/Arochukwu constituency.
Other names mentioned were my friend, Dr. Chuba Wilberforce Okadigbo,the Oyi of Oyi, Chief Christian Chukwuma Onoh, Dr B.U. Nzeribe, Chief Hilary Njoku, Mr.M.N. Elechi and Mr. J.S. Asegua.
Dr. Okadigbo represented Onitsha/Anambra constituency in the constituent assembly while Chief C.C. Onoh represented Enugu constituency. Mr. Elechi represented Abakaliki/ Ikwo constituency. Dr. Mbadiwe represented Ideato/Nkwerre/Isu constituency while Chief Hilary Njoku represented Owerri/Ikeduru constituency.
In the constituent assembly, Chief Onoh was very vocal in championing for the creation of WAWA state now Enugu state. He was a member of Federal House of Representatives representing Enugu Metropolitan council between 1958-1959. He was Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Enugu in 1969 and Chairman Market Authority (1971-1987) and later Chairman Nigeria Mining Corporation. He held the title of Okaa Omee of Ngwo.
At that time, Dr. Azikiwe's party, the NPP was the dominant party in East Central zone-thanks to Chief Jim Nwobodo and Chief Sam Mbakwe. The publicity Secretary of the party at that time, Chief Mo Obiekwe told me several times that the people of Imo and Anambra states would never vote NPN insisting that the scars of the war were still with them.
On Tuesday December 15, Alhaji Shagari embarked on a National campaign tour that took him to Ibadan, Benin,Warri,Owerri,Port-Harcourt,Calabar and later ended on December 30 in Enugu. In Calabar at Metropolitan hotel at a party hosted by the former Commissioner for transport in the old south eastern state, Dr Joseph Wayas, I teased Alhaji Shagari to give me a Christmas present by disclosing to me exclusively his running mate. He smiled and directed me to Alhaji Umaru Dikko to tell me. For forty-two days Alhaji Shagari did name his running mate.
Finally on January 23, 1979, the NPN called for a press conference at the party headquarters at Jibowu street, Yaba, Lagos and I saw an unsmiling Dr. Okadigbo at the ground floor complaining to me "He's not even in our party, can you believe that". He then directed me to the first floor where Alhaji Shagari was holding a press conference in company of party leaders. It was at the conference that Alhaji Shagari first presented Dr. Alex Ifeanyi Ekwueme as his running mate. I saw a handsome gentle man who looked urbane and polished whom I have never heard of in National politics. It was the introduction and later the Presidential election that shot Chief Ekwueme to National spotlight and made him a treasured National asset. Since that day, he never came down from being valued.
Why Alhaji Shagari picked Dr. Ekwueme is still a mystery and only Alhaji Shagari could explain His name was never speculated. Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu was forty-six at that time. He was unknown in the political arena. Except for his business profile as an Architect and Town Planner and that he once worked for Esso West Africa, Lagos overseeing the construction and maintenance department of the company, little was known about him in politics. The media over troubled Alhaji Suleiman Takuma, the spokesman of the NPN at that time to give details about Dr. Ekwueme, he was not forthcoming only promising "later".
After the press conference, the media mocked Dr. Mbadiwe with a headline the following day SHAGARI PICKS EKWUEME BUT "KO IS NOT OK". The selection of Dr. Ekwueme rattled a lot of politicians in the East Central zone and created party crisis within the NPN. A case in point was in Imo state where the leader of the party, Chief Nnana Kalu suspended Dr. Mbadiwe for alleged antiparty activities. Dr. Mbadiwe had to address the press later during which he asked "WHO IS NNANA KALU, FROM WHERE DID HE DERIVE HIS POLITICAL AUTHORITY, HAVE YOU EVER HEARD WHERE A MESSENGER WILL SUSPEND HIS BOSS, ENOUGH OF THIS POLITICAL RASCALITY".
The campaign was no doubt hectic especially for Dr. Ekwueme. For he could not mobilise enough people for his party in the East Central in spite of his gospel of reconciliation. He worked hard during the campaign. He spent a lot of money too but unfortunately for him in 1979, the east central zone was the empire of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and in spite of the civil war and fourteen years absence, the emperor was still in command of his empire.
In the July 7 1979 Senate election, THE NPP won all the 10 seats in Imo and Anambra states. In the July 14 1979 election to the House of Representatives, THE NPN had one seat in Anambra as against THE NPP with 28 seats while in Imo states THE NPN had two seats against THE NPP with 28 seats. In the gubernatorial election that followed in Anambra state, Chief James Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, (77) alias Jim Nwobodo defeated Chief Christian Chukwuma Onoh of the NPN. In Imo state, Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe from Avutu of the NPP defeated Dr. Nwakamma Okoro of the NPN in the gubernatorial election
In the Presidential election of August 11 1979, Shehu Shagari of the NPN scored 13.50% of the total votes in Anambra state as against 82.88% of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe's NPP. In Imo state, Alhaji Shehu Shagari scored 8.80% as against Dr. Azikiwe's 84.69% for the NPP
DR. ALEX EKWUEME: A DEVOUT ANGLICAN IN LOVE WITH THE 'HOLY ROSARY'
Written by Rev. Fr. Francis Anekwe Oborji
Pontifical Urban University, Vatican City (Rome)
Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Nigeria's second republic first democratic elected Vice President had been receiving inspiring tributes and testimonies from different people, both far and wide, since his demise few weeks ago in a London hospital. Even at his burial ceremonies this week, many of such tributes are still pouring in. Thus, it may be superfluous to add yet another of such tributes from an insignificant person like this writer.
However, this is actually, what I intend to do in the present article. First of all, with the present article, I want to console Ekwueme's immediate family for the irreparable loss, and join millions of their well-wishers in honoring this great man. This is because there is an aspect of late Ekwueme's life witness as a Christian and model politician in Nigeria's troubled political landscape and history, that I feel is not yet highlighted by any of the tributes I have so far read about him.
In this article, I want to appreciate Dr. Alex Ekwueme's Christian ecumenical spirituality. It is about his love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ: how Ekwueme, a very devout Anglican, became an ardent devotee of the Catholic Marian spirituality of the Holy Rosary. This great icon, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, as narrated by those very close to him, never missed reciting the Holy Rosary from the time he embraced it in 1985. This, we were told started right from the time he was unjustly incarcerated and imprisoned at the Kirikiri Maximum Prison by the Buhari/Idiagbo military junta (1983-1985).
I have never met Dr. Alex Ekwueme personally in life, though two of us are from the same Anambra state. He was an Anglican. I am a Catholic. I was still doing my graduate studies in philosophy and theology in the major seminary when he was the Vice President of Nigeria. That means our age-gap is mountain apart.
However, I got to know of Ekwueme's Marian spirituality in 1986, through a story recounted to us in the major seminary by a colleague of his, former Director of the defunct Ajaokuta Steel Industry, Engineer (Dr.) Fidelis Ezemenari. Dr. Ezemenari was an ex-seminarian and a grand Knight in the Catholic Church. He visited us at the Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu immediately after their release from the Kirikiri Maximum Prison Lagos during Ibrahim Babaginda regime, who ousted Buhari/Idiagbo military junta in 1985.
Ekwueme was the Vice President in the second republic, and served under President Shehu Shagari (1979-1983). This first democratic elected government in Nigeria since after the Civil War, was toppled through a military coup of the Buhari/Idiagbo military junta. Ekwueme, together with some other prominent politicians (mainly from the southern zones of Nigeria), were court-marshalled in a military tribunal on presumptuous corruption charges. They were sentenced to many years of imprisonment by the Buhari/Idiagbon military junta. Ekwueme with a good number of others, were kept in the Kirikiri Maximum Prison, Lagos until Babaginda military coup that toppled Buhari/Idiagbon junta came on board and freed them.
Among those staying in the Kirikiri prison with Ekwueme, were Chief Chukwuemeka Odimmegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba of Nnewi, Sam Mbakwe, former governor of Old Imo State, Dr. Fidelis Ezemenari, former Director General of the defunct Ajaokuta Steel Industry, and many other prominent politicians (Christians and Muslims) that had served in the second republic during Shagari/Ekwueme regime.
It was after their release from the Kirikiri prison that Dr. Ezemenari visited us at the Bigrad Memorial Seminary, Enugu. As ex-alumnus of the seminary, our rector, Rev. Fr. P.D. Akpununo had no problem, in inviting him to speak to us seminarians in a conference.
During the conference, Dr. Ezemenari narrated to us some of their ordeals, but especially, daily prayer program in the Kirikiri prison. Very touching was his narrative of their daily commitment and pledge, which each one of them (Catholics and Protestants alike), made to recite the Rosary several times each day during their private time, that is, after their group prayer meetings, morning and evening. We heard how Dr. Alex Ekwueme would stay back after the general group Christian prayer meeting to recite the Rosary together with Catholics at the Kirikiri prison. With time, however, other Protestants began to join him in reciting the Rosary together with Catholics after their general prayer meeting each day.
Dr. Ezemenari narrated to us that when they were at the Kirikiri prison, every evening, he and his group - the incarcerated politicians (Catholics and Protestants) would gather for common prayer after super. Their Muslim colleagues would do the same. At the end of the group prayer meeting, Catholics would remain behind to recite the Rosary together. Thereafter, each one of them (Catholics) would make a personal pledge to recite several decades of the Rosary, as many as possible at their private time during the day before their next prayer meeting.
Dr. Alex Ekwueme from the onset joined his Catholic colleagues in reciting the Rosary all the days they were at the Kirikiri prison. Although, he was an Anglican. Some would pledge 20, others 30, and still some others 50, or more decades of the Rosary to recite each day. Again, they pledged to say all these decades of the Rosary at their private time each day, before their next prayer meeting.
We were told how some personalities like Ikemba of Nnewi, Odimmegwu Ojukwu (himself a Catholic), would pledge to recite decades of the Rosary several times as much as possible each day. With time, however, some of their Protestant colleagues, following Ekwueme's example, began to join the Catholics in reciting the Rosary after the group common prayer meetings. They also pledged to say as many decades of the Rosary as possible at their private time each day.
In the prison, they formed a prayer-group, a kind of 'Holy Rosary Crusaders' for their liberation. Dr. Ezemenari took it as a duty himself to provide chaplets (Rosary beads) to his other colleagues, especially, the Protestants who were not used to this Catholic tradition. As he narrated to us, the greatest thing his wife would bring him each time she visited, were chaplets. Most of the time, the chaplets wouldn't be enough to reach the number of the prison inmates requesting for it. In this case, his wife would return the next day with some more chaplets for the incarcerated politicians.
Ezemnari's job, as he told us, was to distribute the chaplets to his colleagues and search out those who had not yet joined them to come and do so. He would move from one prison cell (room) of his colleagues to the other, mainly Catholics and Protestants, persuading them to make some pledge to say the Rosary at their private time for their quick release from prison. He would write down in a piece of paper the number of decades of the Rosary each of them had pledged to recite for the day.
One of the most entertaining part of the conference was when he told us about his encounter with Governor Sam Mbakwe. He had gone to Mbakwe to request him to make some pledge on the number of decades of the Rosary to say that particular day. Of course, he had been meeting him for the same purpose in the past, but proved very difficult to convince, since Mbakwe was a very devout Protestant like Ekwueme.
This particular day, however, he went to him, and in an undiluted Owerri Igbo dialect, Mbakwe said to him, "Bia nwoke m, i shi n'obu n'okporo nwanyi k'anyi ga eji nwete nzoputa? … ngwa, detuola m 50!" (Literally: Look here Mr. Man, are you saying that it is under a woman, we shall be liberated? Well, write down here for me, 50 decades of the Rosary). We spent almost about five minutes laughing as Dr. Ezemenari narrated this part of the story to us that day.
Thus, the politicians - Catholics and Protestants began to commit themselves individually, to reciting decades of the Rosary in private every day, throughout the period they stayed at the Kirikiri prison. According to Dr. Ezemenari, long after their release from prison, he was with Ekwueme in a public function, and found him with Rosary. The wife told him that, "he (Ekwueme) still says his Rosary every day."
Like Ekwueme and Ezemenari, most of these politicians still believed, it was their prayer life, especially daily recitation of the Holy Rosary, that helped to keep them going throughout the period of their incarceration at the Kirikiri prison. They attributed their liberation and coming out from the prison in good health, as result of the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom they fled to her heavenly maternal protection and patronage through the Rosary in the prison yard.
Through their commitment in the recitation of the Holy Rosary, their spirit, both as individuals and group, were kept high, and the hope of liberation never departed from them. They were always in high spirit throughout the period of their incarceration, with hope that whatever happens, their liberation was imminent. They still strongly believed that their liberation and release from the prison was as result of their countless recitation of the Holy Rosary during that period of their incarceration.
The Holy Rosary: A Historical Background
The Holy Rosary is devotional prayer honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is usually, recited on a string of beads, which is divided into five sets, known as decades, with ten smaller beads and one large bead. On each smaller bead is recited a Hail Mary and on the larger bead is said the Our Father (Pater Noster). Each decade is preceded by an Our Father and a Glory Be.
It is a devotion to the fifteen mysteries, with the recitation of the fifteen decades. On most occasions, one-third (or five decades) is said at one time. The mysteries are divided into three groups, the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysterious. Before his death, Pope St. John Paul II added the Mystery of Light, making it four.
According to tradition, the Rosary was first made popular by St. Dominic (1170-1221), who sought the aid of Our Lady during travails and bloodshed of the Albigensin Crusade in southern France. As reported in the stories told in honor of the Feast of the Holy Rosary (October 7), Dominic was commanded to preach the Rosary among the heretics. The saint was thereafter its most ardent promoter, his special status noted by several popes, including Leo XIII who, in an encyclical, Laetitae sanctae ("Commending the Devotion to the Rosary"), on September 8, 1893, recognized as historical fact Dominic's role in establishing the Rosary.
This extra-liturgical Marian devotion finds its chief liturgical source in the psalter of the Old Testament book of 150 psalms as distributed in the Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office (Breviary). In an effort to make the spiritual riches of the liturgy accessible to all the faithful, a "psalter of the laity" emerged during the early Middle Ages. The Irish monks, who divided the psalter into three sets of fifty psalms each, brought this custom to the European continent in their missionary efforts. Lay brothers in the monasteries were required to say fifty psalms or fifty Our Fathers for a deceased monk, and this practice of substituting the Lord's Prayer for a psalm spread among the laity. To count these prayers strings of beads were used, the origin of Rosary beads.
Devotion to Mary followed a similar pattern. A psalter of 150 Hail Marys began to take shape. Towards the end of the twelfth century this prayer (i.e., the first part of what we call today - the greetings of the angel at the annunciation and of Elizabeth at the Visitation (Luke 1:26-45), came to be one of the prayers that all the faithful should know and understand along with the Our Father and the Creed. Meditation upon the mysteries developed by the addition to each psalm of a phrase referring to Jesus and Mary. Eventually, the psalms were omitted, and the phrases became brief lives of the Son and his mother from the annunciation to their glorification. The Rosary therefore, is prayer mediation on the mystery of our redemption in Jesus Christ.
Between 1410 and 1439 Dominic of Prussia, a Carthusian (inspired by his patron saint, St. Dominic), helped to make the practice popular by joining fifty Hail Marys with Fifty such phrases. The name "rosary" thus began since a rosarium (a rose garden) was used to designate this collection of fifty points of meditation. The rose, a symbol of joy, was fittingly applied to Mary, "cause of our joy" in bringing us Christ. Another Carthusian, Henry Kalkar, divided the Hail Marys into decades with Our Father between each decade.
Although the essential elements of the Rosary were in place by the first part of the fifteenth century, it had to be simplified before it became a truly popular prayer form. In 1483, Our Dear Lady's Psalter, a book on the Rosary by a Dominican, mentions fifteen mysteries, the same as today (before the addition of the mystery of Light in recent times), except that the fourteenth (fourth glorious) combined the coronation with assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Heaven, and the fifteen was the last judgement. In 1470, Blessed Alan de la Roche, a Dominican, founded the Confraternity of the Psalter of Jesus and Mary, forerunner of the Rosary Confraternity through which it became a devotion of the universal church.
Pope St. Pius V's Bull of 1569, Consueverunt Romani Pontifices (frequently referred to as the magna carta of the Rosary), established it in the church only after many centuries of significant development of the devotion. He completed it as a close connection of mental and vocal prayer, made its meditative aspect a necessary condition for gaining favors attached to the devotion.
In Maralis Cultus, an apostolic exhortation issued in 1974 for the right ordering and development of Marian devotion, Pope Paul VI emphasizes the contemplative aspect of the Rosary. He calls it the "soul of the devotion, but also refers to the recitation of the vocal prayers as being helpful to meditation upon the mysteries when the Rosary is recited with a "quiet rhythm and a lingering pace." The Pope also reflects upon the effectiveness of this private devotion both as a preparation for the celebration of the same mysteries of our redemption in the Eucharistic liturgy and as a continuation of its special graces in our lives. Thus he proposes profound harmony between the Rosary and the liturgy when it is contemplatively recited outside celebration.
The Importance of the Rosary in moment of Travails
One of the things we are yet to discover and appreciate in Nigeria's political metamorphosis, is the power of the Holy Rosary in the life of a nation as well as individuals, especially, in times of crisis and fight against injustice. The Holy Rosary prayer is a popular Catholic devotion respected worldwide by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. This is in spite of what one may like to hold about the Catholic devotion and reverence to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ.
The devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the recitation of the Holy Rosary developed in some countries and places, principally, as result of witnesses and personal spiritual experiences of individuals and nations that obtained special favors from God through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary by simply reciting the Rosary.
At independence in 1960, Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) dedicated Nigeria to the special protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and proclaimed her, the Patroness and Queen of Nigeria.
Every year, during independence anniversary on October 1, the Catholic Church in Nigeria celebrates the solemnity of Mary, Patroness and Queen of Nigeria. Thus, while the universal church celebrates the feast of St. Theresa on October 1, in Nigeria, we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lady, Queen of Nigeria. Nigeria celebrates the feast of St. Theresa on October 3.
Suffice is to add that after the Civil War in 1970, one of the prayer devotions the church, especially, in Eastern Nigeria sought to rehabilitate the people both spiritually and psychological was the Rosary devotion. This gave rise to the emergence of the famous Block Rosary Crusade Centers all over the villages and towns in Igboland and elsewhere. Thus, when the Federal Military Government and the defunct East Central State Government of Ukpabi Asika confiscated church owned schools and expelled all the foreign missionaries in the former Biafra enclave, the church responded by appealing to the Marian devotion of Our Lady of Fatima.
The Block Rosary Crusade Marian devotion of children in Eastern Nigeria developed along this line. This Marian devotion of children helped to rehabilitate the people, especially, the young spiritually, psychologically and socially from the trauma after the horrors of the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970). The Block Rosary Crusade Centers became places of sharing and prayer for community and personal development and growth of our children and young people - encouragement of one another both in matters of faith and socio-economic well-being of individuals and families. They became also centers for catechism and instruction on basic teachings of our Christian faith to the young people.
Most of Igbo young men and women adult we see today, especially, Catholics were products of the Block Rosary Crusade prayer centers. This was one of the silent ways, the church contributed in rehabilitating the people in Eastern Nigeria after the civil war in 1970. With time, however, the Anglican Church in some parts of Eastern Nigeria started to organize a similar prayer crusade for their young people, though without the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
However, the good news, is that today, the Block Rosary Crusade children's prayer centers have spread to other parts of Nigeria. It is now a common heritage of the Church in Nigeria.
This is just an example of how much Nigerians could discover and benefit from Marian devotion for our individual spiritual growth and national development.
Down the ages, history tells us that individuals and nations had sought the intercession of the Blessed Mary in some great moments of travails and hopelessness. She never disappointed any individual or people who sought her aid in such moments of travail.
We learnt in school about the Battle of Lepanto. This important naval engagement was fought on October 7, 1571, between the Othman Turks and a fleet of the allied Christian forces. After the Turks had taken over the imperial city of Constantinople (the present Istanbul), they marched into Mediterranean peninsula towards Venice, with the hope to reach Rome, sack the Pope and take over the Western Mediterranean crescent. This was what they had done to both the Eastern Church Patriarchate of Constantinople and the last Emperor of that city.
In fact, the Turks had been increasingly a danger to Christendom in the Mediterranean in the years just prior, especially launching campaigns against Venice with the aim of driving the Venetians from the area of the eastern Mediterranean. The Venetians responded by appealing to the Pope for moral leadership and spiritual support.
In return, however, the pope requested Christians to seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary so that the Christian allied forces (Venetians and Spaniards) would prevail over the Turks. Thus, in the combat against the Turks under Ali Pasha (also spelled Pasa) in the Gulf of Patras, near Lepanto (Naupaktos), after hours of bitter fighting, the Christian allied forces defeated the Turks, and had about ten thousand Christian galley slaves freed. In celebration and thanksgiving, Pope Pius V instituted a special feast of the Virgin Mary. From 1573, October 7, the church has been kept October 7, as the Feast of the Rosary. G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) authored a well-known poem on Lepanto.
Pope St. John Paul II attributed his survival from the assassination attempt on his life by a Turkish Arab terrorist at the Vatican Square in the early1980s, to the miraculous intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The fall of the Berlin Wall and communism in 1989, are also attributed to the special intervention of Blessed Mary. It was a fruit of Marian devotion of Christians to Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.
There are hundreds of such examples of nations and individuals who fled to the patronage and maternal protection of Blessed Virgin Mary in moments of travail. What lesson does this teach us in Nigeria today?
At this most critical moment of Nigeria's checked history, when the lives of ordinary citizens have no value again, the church must not lose sight of this aspect of Marian devotion and spirituality in the country. We need to invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Nigeria in a very special way at this most critical period of our history as a nation and church.
This is the legacy of late Dr. Alex Ekwueme. In moment of travails, Ekwueme discovered Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ. Since then, he never left her until his demise some weeks ago.
Since our political independence, Nigeria, through the Catholic Bishops' Conference discovered the spiritual powerful intercession of Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is honored in Nigeria as Patroness and Queen of the nation. In this most critical moment of our history as a nation, we may be certain she will NOT disappoint us if we invoke her to come to our aid.
Accept or reject it, the fact is that the church through her moral and spiritual leadership in the past was able to save Nigeria from total collapse. Today the country is crying out for redemption in a way never experienced before. The Church in Nigeria today must rise up to its responsibility. Our predecessors in the church in the past were able to rise to the demand and challenges of their time for the nation.
The current leadership failure in Nigeria's political landscape has introduced an era of impunity and recklessness where human life has lost its value. Because of failure of political leadership in the present dispensation, our sense of humanity has been reduced to its lowest ebb. Those at the corridors of power in the country have not shown any sign of being capable of addressing to this ugly situation.
Today in Nigeria, there is an increasingly lost sense of the value of human life - dignity of the human person, rule of law, justice and fair play. For the common people, as things are now in Nigeria, there is no credible leadership to rely upon.
The church must rise up and address this situation as it has done in the past. Our political class and military - both serving and ex-generals, should be called to order. As in the past, the church should come to the aid of 'Nigeria in Distress' and save it from its present slumber.
We should not continue to fold our arms and wait for an angel to come down from heaven and do the work for us. The church should not wait and watch Nigeria been taken over totally by warlords and mercenaries in the name of 'government of change' or political correctness. Sadly, Nigeria is increasingly becoming a new Afghanistan in sub-Saharan Africa. We must not allow this to happen.
During the civil war (1967-1970), the Church in Eastern Nigeria provided succor to the Biafran victims of the war. Through the invention of the church, especially, Pope Paul VI and the World Council of Churches, a peaceful cease-fire of 'no-victor no vanquished' was negotiated between Nigeria and Biafra. This helped to bring the civil war to an end in 1970.
Moreover, in the late 1990s, the church responded prophetically through prayer crusade to end the Abacha dictatorship and tyrannical regime, with the famous "Prayer for Nigeria in Distress." The then ailing Pope John Paul II was invited by the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria to visit the country and he obliged them. During his visit in March 1998, he beatified the first Nigerian Blessed, Father Michael Cyprian Iwene Tansi of Aguleri. This was at that most critical moment of our national history under Abacha dictatorship.
That singular visit of Pope St. John Paul II and beatification of Blessed Iwene Tansi in 1998 in Nigeria changed everything thereafter. It gave us the new era of democratic rule that is today under serious threat. The question today is, "What is the Church in Nigeria still waiting for before intervening prophetically as it had always done in the past?"
Today, something more dangerous than the Abacha regime has descended on Nigeria. As the Popes of the past did during the Battle of Lepanto in the Middle Ages against the Turks, and towards the fall of the Berlin Walls of the Communist era in modern times, the Church in Nigeria, is today, challenged to provide the needed moral leadership and prayer crusade of Marian devotion. We did it as a church in the past in Nigeria. We can reproduce it today if we want to.
Failure to do so will be working against the church's chosen vocation to the people of Nigeria. History will not be very kind to our generation if we fold our arms and continue to watch things drift without the ecclesial intervention.