Abuja — Former Senate President, Senator Evan Enwerem, passed away yesterday in Abuja at the age of 71. He would have been 72 on October 29, this year.
Enwerem died at the National Hospital, Abuja, where he had been on admission for over a week.
Director of Clinical Services at the Hospital, Dr. Patience Ahmed, told newsmen yesterday that Enwerem died in the early hours of the day.
She, however, did not disclose the cause of death.
THISDAY gathered that his relations had made arrangements to fly him to Germany for further medical treatment, but the management of the National Hospital had initially refused to accede to their request because of his condition.
It was learnt that due to their persistence, he was released to them Wednesday night, but the airline, which was expected to fly him refused to have him on board as a result of his condition that had become "very critical".
Only Lufthansa Airlines flies Abuja to Germany.
He was returned to the hospital where he died about 8 a.m. yesterday.
His wife and children who are abroad, as learnt yesterday, are expected in the country today
Because the family members were outside the country, a formal announcement of his death was yet to be made.
The Office of the Senate President, Senator David Mark, has already been informed of the incident, but has decided to allow the family to formally break the news to Nigerians.
The former governor of Imo State in the ill-fated Third Republic was born on October 29, 1935.
He obtained a Bachelors Degree in Law from the University of Southampton, Britain.
He was chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority between 1980 and 1983 and was elected governor of Imo State in 1991.
In 1999, he won election into the Senate to represent Owerri Senatorial zone and became the first Senate President in the Fourth Republic Senate.
Enwerem, who was fondly addressed as "mature" because of the mature way he handled political issues, had become Senate President at the expense of the late Senator Chuba Okadigbo on June 3, 1999.
The former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, had backed his candidature and had deployed the Federal Government machinery to secure the votes of Senators of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and All Peoples Party (APP) now All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) for him.
With Senators of the two opposition parties voting en-bloc for him, Enwerem had emerged victorious, having got substantial votes from the PDP Senators. He had scored 66 votes as against Okadigbo's 43 votes.
But he did not survive in the office beyond November 18, 1999 when the Okadigbo camp succeeded in ousting him from office. A Senate Committee had investigated him for alleged perjury.
It was alleged that he falsified his name such that there was controversy as to whether he was Evan or Evans.
When Okadigbo who succeeded him was removed on August 8, 2000, Enwerem had also expressed interest in returning to the office. He had, however, withdrawn from the race for Senator Adolphus Wabara at the shadow election conducted by PDP Senators in Senate Hearing Room One.
While in the Senate from 1999 to 2003, Enwerem's professed legislative interest was in the passage of good laws "whose ripple effects on the populace would be wide, sweeping and enduring."
Politicians have been reacting to the death of the former Senate President. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. (Mrs.) Patricia Olubunmi Etteh, expressed shock over the "sudden death".
The Speaker described the former Senate president as a consummate democrat in a press statement issued by her Special Adviser (Media), Mrs Funke Egbemode.
His brief tenure as governor of Imo State, she said, witnessed landmarks achievement, and his death "would leave a gaping hole in the nation's legislative history."
The late politician, she said, exhibited large heart and political maturity in the face of political tribulations, and advocated that such character disposition should be emulated by politicians and emerging leaders.