Alex Ekwueme: The Quintessence of Political Leadership


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"Dr. Alex Ekwueme's wealth, in actual fact, had diminished by the time he was removed from office as Vice President via a military coup. ,/.I see no prima facie case being made here to warrant his trial for any offence known to law; and were he to be put on trial on the facts available, it would be setting a standard of morality too high even for saints in politics in a democracy to observe." Honourable Justice Sampson Uwaifo

Words like these are what men with purpose crave for when their dance on this earth is but over. These was were said 32 years ago and listening to Jimi Disu on Front {Page Analysis on Classic FM this morning, the same words were re-echoed. This is one politician that was scandal free. Ide Aguata left indelible marks in the sands of time, while his dance lasted.

Born October 21, 1932 and died at age 85, the former member of the ECOWAS Council of Elders, Past President of  the Nigerian Institute of Architects and the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Nigerian Institute of Architects, Dr Alex Ekwueme’s famous proposals at the Nigeria National Constitutional Conference, NCC in Abuja, where he served on the Committee on the Structure and Framework of the Constitution; for a just and equitable power sharing in Nigeria based on the six geopolitical zones have now come to be accepted as necessary for maintaining a stable Nigerian polity.

According to Ekwueme started primary school at the St John's Anglican Central School, at Ekwulobia, then he proceeded to King's CollegeLagos. As an awardee of the Fulbright Scholarship in the United States of America (being one of the first Nigerians to gain the award), He attended the University of Washington where he earned bachelor's degree in Architecture and city planning. He obtained his master's degree in urban planning. 

Before he gained national and international limelight as the Vice President of Nigeria in 1979, he was actively involved in the socio-economic development of his community. In addition to his many public service roles within his community, Dr. Ekwueme started an active Educational Trust Fund that has been responsible for sponsoring the education of several hundred youths to universities in Nigeria and abroad. Dr. Ekwueme was a member of the housing sub-committee of the Adebo Salaries and Wages Review Commission. He also served for many years on the board of the Anambra State Housing Development Authority.

If you watch Nollywood movies, Igwe Prof Laz Ekwueme the Igwe of Oko Kingdom in Anambra state personified the gentility of his elder brother. Through the erudite Musicologist, we could see the character of the Architect cum 5th Vice President of Nigeria between 1979-1983 during the Shehu Shagari Administration.

According to some reports, when reminded of the opening quote as he prepared to mark his 80th birthday in 2012, he said: "That's true," suppressing a load of mirth that kind of creased his surprisingly yet unwrinkled visage. "How much was my salary?" he asked the air about the sitting room of his modestly appointed country home, "120,000 Naira a month..."

Asked if he had forgiven those who subjected him to the treatment, he replied: "Yes,  though they have not shown any remorse privately or otherwise." And it could not have turned anyhow else for a man who had made as much money as could have been permitted any hard working professional by Providence before opting to serve his nation. Before taking the leap, more than closing his foreign accounts because a public officer is not supposed to have one, he also had to bring his son schooling abroad back to a Nigerian school as he could not pay his fees without running a foreign account.

As well, like the gentleman he was, he also closed a foreign joint account he ran with his wife. And it didn't start at that; earlier, he had wound up his businesses particularly Ekwueme Associates – Architects and Town Planners, the first indigenous architectural firm registered in the country. Prior to this, Ekwueme had started his professional career as an Assistant Architect with a Seattle-based firm, Leo A. Daly and Associates, and also with the London based firm Nickson and Partners. On his return to Nigeria, he joined ESSO West AfricaLagos, overseeing the Construction and Maintenance department, before veering into private practice.

Replying to a question on why he did not maintain his practice which had over 16 branches across the country, he said   "I like to play the game by the rules, the fifth schedule, the Code of Conduct, says that a public officer should not carry on any business while in office. So, if I don't wind it up, even though I would not be directly involved I will still have interest in it which will be in conflict with my position as Vice-President." 

For one who earned degrees in sociology, history, philosophy and law from the University of London. and  later proceeded to obtain a Ph.D. in Architecture from the University of Strathclyde, before gaining the BL (honours) degree from the Nigerian Law School, this is humility at its profound heights, and only  people who truly understand the essence of politics can live such lives because they understand that politics exists for the doing the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people.

Dr. Ekwueme was a prolific philanthropist, public servant, and a man of peace. His dance was beautiful and we all felt his impact on our lives.

 May his soul find peace with God Almighty.

Sleep on Ide!


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