At 80, Ide Alex Ekwueme remains philosopher and king; visionary and practician….
“To honor him whom we have made is far from honoring him that hath made us.” It was Michel de Montaigne, the 16th French Philosopher and Writer who wrote those magnificent words. I think and know His Excellency Dr. Alex Ekwueme is one of those who hath made us.
Those were my first response and words of acceptance of the request to me that I serve as keynote speaker at this August 24 international event celebrating 80 years of a great, impactful and purposeful life.
Ide Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, born October 21, 1932, is both philosopher and king; visionary and practician; philanthropist and resourceful role model for millions.
It is a great privilege for me to appreciate Dr. Ekwueme — respectfully to his face and esteemed presence — while we are all alive.
It is a continuation of my trans-generational commitment to appreciate and honor outstanding leaders an persons who continue to make a difference and inspire our commitments.
What do I say when the man who is older enough to be my father?
What do I say to a gentle giant whose signature humble personality and mild speaking style stands in contradistinction to the towering strings of Olympian, concrete achievements.
Yes; I do know that Dr. Ekwueme, recipient of Nigeria’s high national award of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), is a quintessential embodiment of public service and living example of an individual — working in cooperation with his wife Mrs. Beatrice Ekwueme– who remains engaged in strategic generosity for almost 45 years!!
He established the first indigenous architectural firm in Nigeria, Ekwueme Associates, Architects and Town Planners, and improved the face of Nigeria.
In the arena of politics, he will, forever, be remembered as the man who formally led, through his democratic election in 1979-1983 as Vice President of Nigeria, the most comprehensive reintegration of the Igbo into the geo-political and socio-economic pillars of power in the country. Set aside other fanciful claims of that period.
I do know that VP Ekwueme used his appointment of Mark Okoye as Nigeria’s Minister for the Abuja Federal Capital (with the city then under construction) to empower thousands of the Igbo and other easterners who, today, have become key economic factors in Abuja. Remarkably, Ekwueme does not cite or brag about this critical role. He will not talk about it but I will.
Again, he is one of those who hath made us.
Dr. Ekwueme is, by no means, perfect; he is outstanding but also had issues where some disagreed strongly with him.
Permit me to note that our Igbo and Yoruba nativist refuseniks and hardliners dismissed Ekwueme and others such as my mentor the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo who worked politically with the Sokoto caliphate, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the Kaduna ‘mafia’ and the northern Nigeria conservative leadership as “sell-outs.” Such arguments still feed some quarters as it did in 1979 through the 1980s.
As a matter of fact in the early 1980s, while I was a very young staff of the Electronic News Gathering (E.N.G) unit of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Channel 6, Aba, I joined in covering VP Ekwueme and President Shehu Shagari news events in our broadcast area which included the old Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Cross River, Rivers and Bayelsa States.
Ide Alex Ekwueme values education; got the best, and continues to give hundreds of scholarships. His own primary school started at St John’s Anglican Central School, at Ekwulobia, a few miles from his hometown of Oko; attended the prestigious King’s College, Lagos; showed such excellence he was given the U.S Fulbright Scholarship; 1955 admitted to the University of Washington where he bagged a Bachelors degree in architecture and city planning; a Masters degree in urban planning; from the University of London, he excelled with degrees in sociology, history, philosophy and law; from the University of Strathclyde his Ph.D. in architecture. A well-rounded intellectual, he continued to earn the Bachelor of Law degree from the Nigerian Law School in Lagos.
Dr. Alex Ekwueme’s philanthropy, relatively and in terms of community impact, compares to the Carnegies, the Mellons, the Gates, Mohameds, Bank-Anthonys, the Buffets, Annenbergs, Mosingers, Ilodibes and many other cheerful givers. Moreso, for me to capture the modest totality of Ide Alex Ekwueme’s meaningful life will require a special book.
On this your 80th birthday, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, you have planted human seeds through large scale scholarships and empowerment of Oko persons and other communities; many will thank you; may be a few will scorn you with their violent ingratitude that the sun and moon you showed them were not bright enough…. No matter what, Ide, your name and legacies are greater.
As a chronicler of history, ancient and modern, of current affairs and the business of power for the past 33 years of the Igbo nation, of Nigeria, of Africans and Americans, I can state without any concerns of contradiction that Dr. Alex Ekwueme is among the top 50 greatest Africans of the 20th century!
Finally, I offer you the gift of the wise words of my Aro elders: Ide, may your lineage endure!!
•Dr. Chido Nwangwu, moderator of the Achebe Colloquium (Governance, Security, and Peace in Africa) December 7-8, 2012 at Brown University in Rhode Island and author of the forthcoming 2013 book titled ‘Mandela & Achebe: Footprints of Greatness’ www.MandelaAchebeChido.com, is the Founder & Publisher of Houston-based USAfrica multimedia networks since 1993, first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com; CLASSmagazine, AchebeBooks.com, IgboEvents, Nigeria360 and several blogs. He has been profiled by CNN International for his pioneering work on the news and public policy interests of Africans and Americans. Chido, former adviser on Africa business to Houston’s ex-Mayor Dr. Lee Brown, appears as an analyst on CNN, London-based SkyNEWS, NBC, ABC, CBSNews and other platforms. e-mail: Chido247@Gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chido247
—— Forthcoming 2013 book: In this engaging, uniquely insightful and first person reportage book, MANDELA & ACHEBE: Footprints of Greatness, about two global icons and towering persons of African descent whose exemplary lives
and friendship hold lessons for humanity and Africans, the author takes a measure of their works and consequence to write that Mandela and Achebe have left “footprints of greatness.” He chronicles, movingly, his 1998 reporting from the Robben Island jail room in South Africa where Mandela was held for decades through his 20 years of being close to Achebe. He moderated the 2012 Achebe Colloquium at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.”I’ll forever remember having walked inside and peeped through that historic Mandela jail cell (where he was held for most of his 27 years in unjust imprisonment) at the dreaded Robben Island, on March 27, 1998, alongside then Editor-in-chief of TIME magazine and later news chief executive of the CNN, Walter Isaacson (and others) when President Bill Clinton made his first official trip to South Africa and came to Robben Island. Come to this island of scourge and you will understand, in part, the simple greatness and towering grace of Nelson Mandela”, notes Chido Nwangwu, award-winning writer, multimedia specialist and founder of USAfricaonline.com, the first African-owned U.S-based newspaper published on the internet, in his first book; he writes movingly from his 1998 reporting from South Africa on Mandela. http://www.mandelaachebechido.com/
There’s a compelling political trinity to Nelson Mandela: the man, the messiah and the mystique. http://usafricaonline.com/2013/07/18/mandela-95-hearty-cheers-to-his-footprints-of-greatness-by-chido-nwangwu/
Eight lessons of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston. http://usafricaonline.com/2009/11/01/chido-8lessons-rwanda-genocide/——Obama’s Africa agenda, our business and democracy. By Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica and first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com
Margaret Thatcher, Mandela and Africa. By Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica, and the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com. Click for newscast video of London-based SkyNEWS, the global, 24-hour British international tv network’s interview with USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu on April 11, 2013 regarding this latest commentary http://youtu.be/G0fJXq_pi1c )
FULL text of this tribute-commentary at USAfricaonline.com click link http://usafricaonline.com/2013/03/22/long-live-chinua-achebe-by-chido-nwangwu/