Abuja and Enugu — The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) tuesday opened a condolence register for the former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, at the party's national secretariat.
Ekwueme, founding Chairman of PDP, died last Sunday at a London hospital where he was flown to for medical treatment.
The register was opened at about 2.30 p.m. by the National Caretaker Committee Chairman of the party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, and other members of the committee.
In his condolence message, Makarfi wrote: "The nation and indeed, Africa has lost a rear gem, a nationalist and peace maker. He was a pillar of democracy and good governance. He was a founding member of our party, the PDP.
"Adieu our leader! May your gentle soul rest in perfect peace, Amen."
The National Secretary, Senator Ben Obi, described Ekwueme as pillar of Nigeria's democracy.
"How are the mighty fallen! The pillar of our democracy has gone, the finest and the most credible political leader has gone. I cannot be the same again. The gentleman who brought great intellectual touch to our politics and sustained our democracy has passed on. Rest in peace of the Lord," Obi wrote.
In his condolence message, the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, said that he was optimistic that Ekwueme's legacies would be remembered and honoured by both present and future generations.
He urged the family of the elder statesman to take hearth and bear the loss with fortitude.
A former Anambra State governor, Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, said the death of the former vice president was shocking.
Mbadinuju who has left PDP for the All Progressives Congress (APC), was Special Assistant to Ekwueme when he served as vice president.
"It is with a sense of shock that I received the unfortunate news of the death of my political master and former vice president.
"He was a down-to-earth leader who did his best to develop Nigeria and he inspired me personally to see politics as service to country.
"Though we will miss his elderly guidance, his ideals of honesty, hard work and humility in service will remain a fortitude to us," he said.
In a related development, former Governor of the old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo, has described Ekwueme as a gentleman who played important role in his family life.
In a tribute to the late icon, Nwobodo said his wife and himself were saddened by the death of the elder statesman and a family friend whom he described as a nationalist, courageous democrat, brilliant, principled and a gentleman.
Nwobodo said: "We were both second republic politicians, when he was then the Vice President of Nigeria under NPN, and I was Governor of old Anambra State under NPP.
"Even though we disagreed on issues of politics, we were friends at personal level to the extent that he and his wife, Beatrice, played important roles in our family life.
"Like when in 1994 he led political leaders across party lines to our wedding, as chairman, and we had since then maintained good personal relationship, in spite of our political differences."
Nwobodo recalled that Ekwueme championed the creation of six geopolitical zones at the 1997 constitutional conference, adding that when the late statesman felt the military government was over staying, he led a group of 34 political leaders, referred to as G34 to confront the then military government.
"He was one of the founding fathers of of PDP and became the first national chairman of the party and later the Chairman BoT.
"It is sad that he died at a time the unity of Nigeria is threatened, at a time when his wealth of experience and wisdom of an elder is required to strengthen the unity of Nigeria," Nwobodo eulogised.
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday held a minute of silence in honour of Ekwueme.
Taking turns to eulogise Ekwueme, the lawmakers called on the federal government to immortalise him by naming the Federal Polytechnic, Oko or other key federal institutions or assets after him.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who moved the motion, described Ekwueme as an intellectual giant and consummate professional, who pioneered the business of architecture in modern Nigeria and paid his dues to the social, economic, and political development of Nigeria.
"Dr. Ekwueme was a bridge builder, patriot, and pan-Nigerian, who played a major role in the post-war reconciliation process in Nigeria.
"As Ekwueme led an exemplary life of unassailable probity and unimpeachable integrity, such that even the military tribunal that tried him during his 20-month detention after the 1984 coups, not only discharged and acquitted him, but also empathically stated that Ekwueme left office poorer than he was when he entered it, and to ask more from him was to set a standard, which even angels could not meet," Ekweremadu said.
He added that the life, times, and selfless service of such "courageous, cerebral, and incorruptible leader and patriot" should be appreciated and projected as a model for the political leaders, youth, the whole nation, and posterity.
Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Ibn Na'Allah, recalled his encounters with Ekwueme and lauded him as a detribalised Nigerian.
"It would be doing him a lot of injustice to attach him to any tribe. His death is a huge loss not only to Igbo extraction but Nigeria as a whole," he said.