Former President Shehu Shagari has described late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, as a vice president he trusted while their service to the nation lasted.
Shagari also said that because of the deep trust he had for Ekweme it was difficult for mischief makers to drive a wedge between them.
The Second Republic president of Nigeria said this in a tribute made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Enugu.
The deceased was a close ally of Shagari and first democratically elected vice president of the country between 1979 and 1983, under the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
“Dr. Ekwueme was a deputy I trusted. We understood each other well and it was impossible for mischief makers to drive a wedge between us.
“He was a loyal lieutenant and because of his excellent contributions to the success of our administration during our first tenure, I had no hesitation to nominate him to run with me again for second term,” he said.
Shagari recalled how their administration was infamously terminated through a military coup in December 1983.
The former president said that the deceased was a very courageous man, who suffered several months of imprisonment and house arrest with a number of politicians who served in the Second Republic.
“This great democrat dared the military government of Gen. Sani Abacha, by demonstrating against the infamous agenda to transmute from military head of state to civilian president via a contrived political transition programme.
“Taking a great risk, Dr. Ekwueme, together with other nationalists under the aegis of G34 doggedly withstood the military rule of Gen. Abacha, and later mid-wife the People’s Democratic Party (PDP),” he said.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo receiving the casket at the Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on arrival from the UK, recently.
Shagari in the tribute, described the late Ekwueme, as a selfless leader and a contented man not given to crass corruption and primitive acquisition of wealth.
“That was why in spite of the ordeals he went through in the hands of the military and the campaign of calumny against his person, his character remained impeccable and unimpeachable.
“He has served Nigeria diligently. He has done his bit. In life he was a great man; a patriot; a statesman. Even in death his many achievements and greatness cannot be diminished.
“It is considered socially inappropriate to speak ill of the dead. So often those who pay tribute to the dead shower on them undeserved praise. I stand not to give undeserved eulogy to this hero.
“Whatever I say here today, I have said of him in his life time,” the former president said.
Shagari said that though his worthy lieutenant was no more, “I will continue to relish the memory of the good times we shared together.
“Dr. Alex Ekwueme has finished his own race and has gone to rest.
“It is left for those of us still alive to emulate the virtues he exemplified especially serving humanity with the fear of God,” Shagari said.
The former vice president died on Nov. 19, 2017 in a London hospital and would be interred on Feb. 2 in his home town, Oko in Anambra.