Chukwuemeka Ezeife: As Patriot Takes Final Bow

By Carl Umegboro

A renowned American philosopher and author of “The Supreme Philosophy of Man”, Alfred Armand Montapert, said, “The monument of a great man is not of granite or marble or bronze. It consists of his goodness, his deeds, his love and his compassion”. This attribute fittingly matched the persona of one man, a noble, the Okwadike Igboukwu, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, an economist and elder statesman, born in Igboukwu, Anambra State on 20 November 1937 but bid farewell on 14 December 2023 at the Federal Medical Centre, Abuja at age 85.

The charismatic, eloquent and fearless advocate of equity and justice on Nigeria-project was a brilliant politician and former governor of Anambra State from January 1992 to November 1993 during the Nigerian Third Republic. From record, his unwavering commitment to the ideals of democracy and national development is unparalleled. Despite having his constituency in Anambra state, Okwadike took Nigeria space as his constituency as everything that affects any part of the country from north, middle-belt, Niger-delta, southwest to southeast concerned him. Thus, the great icon was a detribalized Nigerian. His hate of injustice is one virtue the former governor was awesomely, reputably known for.

Possibly, many don’t know all the arrowheads in the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) that sacrificed their lives to chase out the military out of power during the days of General Sani Abacha. The roll call cannot flow without names like; Chief Abraham Adesanya, Ayo Adebanjo, Ayo Opadokun, Olu Falae, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Segun Osoba, and later, returnees from exile including Chief Anthony Enahoro, Ralph Obioha, John Odigie, amongst others. These brave men resiliently fought the good fight.

Beyond the NADECO project, Dr. Ezeife positively touched many lives in diverse ways too. Apart from the chieftaincy title of ‘Okwadike Igboukwu’, he also bagged numerous chieftaincy titles in many parts of the country including ‘Garkuwan Fika in Yobe state. In Hausa language, ‘Garkuwan’ translates to ‘Shield’ and also, ‘Akintolugboye of Egbaland’ from the southwest region. From the dictionary, a ‘shield’ means a broad piece of defensive armour carried on the arm, or something or someone that protects or defends. This appropriately gives an idea and attests to his personality and principles.

As a product of the Harvard University in the United States of America and a man who walks the talk, Ezeife beyond his advocacy for education, in his community at Igboukwu when in health often volunteered to teach, interact with, motivate pupils, and watch over the school adjacent his country home in Igboukwu to underline that charity begins from home. During a personal encounter with him some time ago at his Asokoro residence, you could vividly see passion, devotion to unity and hunger for a working nation in him.

In one of his valuations of the Nigeria-project, he said; “The journey so far seems to be going from light into darkness. Many Nigerians are thinking it is over with Nigeria. Some people are waiting for the total collapse. There is insecurity everywhere. And many people think that nobody shows concern for all the negatives. What is worse today is that conscience is dead in Nigeria…”

As this great icon begins final journey to mother earth from April 12 at the Eagle Square, Abuja where a service of songs and carnival in his honour will hold, and proceeds to his state burial by the Anambra state government on April 19 in Awka and interment at Igboukwu on April 20, and finally climaxed to thanksgiving on April 21, myriad of ‘RIP’ is expected from government quarters, but would his cries on the state of the nation which he described as “going from light to darkness” be taken seriously?

When people of such nobleness cough or speak, it should pierce the ears. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in keeping with tradition, has expressed sadness over the demise, mourned and prayed for his soul. Ditto the President of the Senate, Godwill Akpabio; Speaker of the House of the Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, his home state governor, Chukwuma Soludo, other south east governors, past governors, past and serving legislators, politicians and distinguished personalities across the nation. The roll call is endless. This is nonetheless commendable. Beyond it, concerted attention should be given to his patriotic cries for an ideal dream nation. That is what should matter.

His passing is a monumental loss to the nation at large. No one needs to be told that the Igbo nation in particular has lost a great gift to mankind. Indisputably, the vacuum Okwadike has left would be difficult to fill. His advisory roles to Ohaneze Ndi-Igbo cannot be overemphasized. He was a voice of the masses, a beacon of integrity, dedication, altruism and visionary leadership. Okwadike was an exceptional breed in politics as he understood that the overriding essence of leadership is to improve the lives of the led, and not for amassing insatiable wealth as is common in the society. During the fourth republic that he was appointed presidential adviser on political matters by the then president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the period was famed for vigor and vibrancy. He was also at a time, a federal permanent secretary which was also characterized by distinction.

Thus, while the mourning and tributes continue considering that he overwhelmingly deserved them, it is imperative to also emulate the lifestyle. He believed in doing what is right and fair to everyone. So, it is not sufficient to mourn him in words, but also indeed by walking his talks. Okwadike was never characterized by misappropriation or diversion of public funds which has become a trademark in the political space and trending among the politicians today, rather very generous from legitimate earnings. I recall his question during an interview with him. He disappointedly asked; what do people do with all this massive wealth? I couldn’t find an answer. Indeed, Okwadike was a nation-builder, bridge builder, peace maker, detribalized citizen and a patriot. Rest in peace, Okwadike!

Umegboro is a lawyer, public affairs analyst, and writes from Abuja.


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