Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ume-Ezeoke dies, finally

EDWIN Ume-Ezeoke first died 28 years ago when gunmen stormed his residence at the 1004 Flats in Victoria Island. Members of the National Assembly were quartered from 1979 until the military terminated that democratic experiment in 1983. The gunmen fired many shots at Ume-Ezeoke and left him for dead.
Some newspapers reported his death. His long stay abroad to mend the shattered face, which bore marks of that 1983 brutality till his death on Monday, testified to the intentions of the gunmen, who were never found, and who the police described as miscreants. His medical trip abroad lasted awhile, often prompting the rumour that he was dead.
Ume-Ezeoke, a lawyer from Amichi Nnewi, Anambra State, became Speaker of the House of Representatives, for four years, a little after his 44th birthday, under a power-sharing accord that his party, Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP, had with the National Party of Nigeria, NPN.

Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke
After the 1983 elections, the NPN, with a stronger stand in the National Assembly did not need an alliance to rule. Benjamin Chaha of the NPN from Benue State was the Speaker in the later part of 1983 when the military struck.
Those were the days when zoning, in the obstructive manner it is being practised, had no place. Profundity attended decisions.
Ume-Ezeoke was from Anambra State like the Vice President Dr. Alexander Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme. From Cross River State came President of the Senate Dr. Joseph Wayas. The National Assembly worked in more harmony with membership from the four political parties.
Politics of compromise was part of Ume-Ezeoke and this haunted him in later life. His massive disagreement with General Muhammadu Buhari, whose running mate he was in the 2007 presidential election marked the closing chapters of his politics.
Their electoral dispute was still in government when Ume-Ezeoke, who was the ANPP chairman, at the time, announced his withdrawal from the case and the party’s decision to join President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s government of national unity.
“As a former Head of State, I give him his respect, but I dare say that he had no electoral worth in ANPP. He is the only one who has left. I am still here. I was his vice-presidential candidate and all those who nominated him and worked for his candidature are still in the party. All the ANPP top notchers are still in the party. We are not missing him at all,” said Ume-Ezeoke, who later defected to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
“We went into the Government of National Unity for the safety and security of this country and we are happy we took that decision and today we have peace in the land and everybody can move around unmolested. Look at what happened in countries like Kenya and Zimbabwe. They eventually came to a round table and opted for GNU after so many people had been killed through the same mass action that we rejected.” His critics say he was self-serving.
His son, Chineme Ume-Ezeoke, who was appointed Yar’Adua’s special assistant on Civil Society Relations in 2008, in a statement, said his father died at the Fortis Super Specialty Hospital in New Delhi, India. He would have been 76 on September 8. Ume-Ezeoke will be remembered as one man who extolled politics of compromise and was never ashamed in his drive for converts.


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