How time flies! It was only one year ago, precisely on 19th November, 2017 that Nigeria’s second republic vice president,  Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme departed us after a short illness. His death came to many Nigerians as a shocker considering that even in his eighties, he maintained his avid love for the small round object- lawn tennis. He was not only famous in politics, architecture, law and other professions in which he garnered several degrees and laurels, but he also stood out as a sports personality particularly in lawn tennis.
Dr. Alex Ekwueme while on his sojourn on earth distinguished himself in different fields of endeavour. Apart from a being a reputable architect with his numerous works adorning most parts of the country, his foray into politics was a glowing era in which he proved that indeed politics can be used to serve the interest of the generality of the people ‘’ the common good”. He was a true ‘’citizen’ ’by ancient Greek definition.  He was a conscientious politician and administrator that never got immersed in the avaricious acquisitions associated with some Nigerian politicians.
As a man of integrity, he emerged stainless from the probe of the military regime that set up an inquisition in their four years in office, after the overthrow of then National Party of Nigeria government in 1983. Despite his superintending several sensitive government ministries, departments and agencies, he never compromised his integrity, but rather ensured transparency in the management of public finances. It can be recalled that the tribunal set up by the military junta at the time, in acquitting him of all spurious claims made against him declared that he left office poorer than when he joined politics.
As a reputable scholar Dr. Alex Ekwueme had acquired several academic laurels in various fields ranging from architecture, law, philosophy, urban and regional planning, and sociology.  He also distinguished himself in the business world having ran a world class architectural firm known as Ekwueme Associates. Till today the professional imprints of late Dr. Alex Ekwueme as an architect are still noticeable all over the major cities of Nigeria and beyond. His firm was the first indigenous registered architectural firm in Nigeria and later he served as the first president of the professional body, Nigeria Institute of Architects, and Architects Registration Council of Nigeria. Till his death last year he remained a fellow of these distinguished professional bodies.
Dr, Alex Ekwueme also believed that education can be used to liberate the untapped potentials of any society, hence he invested his hard earned resources in the sector especially with the establishment of the Federal Polytechnic Oko, Anambra state. He was notable for having used his own resources to build the first structures in this citadel of learning, and continued to support the institution financially until its take-over by the Anambra state government and later the federal government. In fact through the famed Ekwueme Trust Fund, he was able to support students from all parts of Nigeria to further their education both in Nigeria and abroad.
Perhaps Dr. Alex Ekwueme will be remembered mostly for championing the struggle for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria. He was the leader of G34, a group of eminent Nigerians that confronted the military junta of late General Sani Abacha, and insisted that power must be returned to civilians in 1999. His courage and quest for the restoration of democracy led to the formation of the Peoples Democratic Party which he also became the pioneer national chairman and later pioneer chairman of its board of trustees.
He later contested for the presidential ticket of the party in 1999 but the lot fell on Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who later won the election on the same party platform. Ekwueme can be described as the founder of PDP and Nigeria’s modern democracy.
Dr. Alex Ekwueme’s legendary political accomplishments reached its pinnacle when he propounded the six zonal structure of governance in Nigeria at the 1994 constitutional conference. His erudite presentation, power of conviction and delivery convinced the delegates to accept his theory of six zonal structure of governance in Nigeria, and this has endured till this day. It can be said that with his theory he led the conversation for institutional reforms and restructuring of Nigeria.
In his Oko community in Anambra state, Dr. Alex Ekwueme also offered scholarships to many indigent students who today are accomplished professionals in various fields across the world. As a democrat he believed strongly in the power of dialogue, discussion and negotiation, hence he led several UN and Commonwealth delegations to some conflict areas of the world as well as played the role of leader of several international election monitoring group to evolving democracies. Notable among them were Zimbabwe, Liberia and Tanzania. For several years he served on the board of the board of the Forum of Federations, a democracy advocacy group sponsored by the Canadian government.
As we mark the one year of his departure to eternal glory, it is important that personages like Dr. Alex Ekwueme are recognised as the shining lights of the African continent. The values they left behind are worthy of emulation by the succeeding generations, and African governments must immortalise them beyond their immediate environment for they remain our worthy heroes and beacons of light, courage, valour and compassion.
Despite that Dr. Alex Ekwueme suffered some injustices in the hands of the military in Nigeria, his love for country never waned as he continued to advocate for love, equity and justice for all Nigerians. He made friends across the various ethnic and religious groups in the country and oftentimes proffered solutions to myriad of national problems.
Even in death, the global community continues to honour and recognise the former vice president for his numerous contributions to humanity. On October 19th 2018 precisely two days before his posthumous birthday, the prestigious University of Strathclyde, Scotland, United Kingdom named a room after him and launched a new scholarship scheme in his honour. A delegation of the Ekwueme family led by his widow, Dame Beatrice Ekwueme attended the events.
By Chukwudi Enekwechi JP
An Abuja based Journalist and Politician