Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
.Senate, PDP, Mark, Ekweremadu mourn
Senate Committee Chairman on Education, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, is dead. He was 75.
Chukwumerije passed on on Sunday at the Turkish Hospital, Abuja, after a protracted battle with lung cancer. Until his death, he represented Abia North senatorial district in the Senate.
A statement issued on behalf of his family by his son, Che Chidi Chukwumerije, said the senator passed on in the presence of his family members.
The statement further said Chukwumerije lived a life of focus, dedication, integrity and discipline.
“On the evening of Sunday, the 19th of April, 2015, surrounded by his family, Comrade Uche Chukwumerije passed into the open arms of history and of our Lord Jesus Christ after a long but gallant battle with lung cancer.
“His life is in many volumes, which can only be told with care and time, of dedication and focus, integrity and discipline, and an unbroken love for the highest ideals of our shared humanity.
“Details of burial arrangments will be announced in due course. We ask only for your prayers and good wishes,” the statement said.
Reacting to his death, the Senate described him as a political giant, an epitome of legislation and one of its most resourceful members.
In a statement, Senate’s spokesman, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who said the deceased would be sorely missed, added that his death was announced with a heavy heart.
“The Senate announces with heavy heart the death of Senator Uche Chukwumerije in the evening of Sunday in the Turkish Hospital, Abuja…The lawmaker, who until his death, was the Chairman, Senate Committee on Education, was a political giant and one of the nation’s finest legislators.
“The lawmaker who represented Abia North Senatorial District of Abia State in the current Senate easily passed as a repository of legislative tradition and practice. The Senate will surely miss his erudite contributions on the floor of the chamber and his painstaking approach to committee work.
“Chukwumerije was indeed an embodiment of legislative tradition and consummate activist democrat who loved his people passionately,” he said.
He also said Chukwumerije would be remembered for his deep love for Ndigbo, which he said was manifested in his relentless struggle for the total political and social emancipation of the race over the years.
Abaribe added that the late senator’s love for Nigeria and its corporate existence was unprecedented. “Adieu comrade-senator,” the statement added.
In his reaction, Senate President David Mark expressed shock and sadness over his demise, saying Nigeria has lost an erudite and extra-ordinary nationalist.
According to him, Chukwumerije was one of the brightest and fertile minds in the Senate, adding that he was a shinning light and a pathfinder.
“He radiated intelligence, exemplary conduct in both public and private life. He was a team player who brought meaning to hard work. He was focused and determined to make positive difference,”Mark said in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Paul Mumeh.
He added: “We shall miss him. No doubt he left a vacuum that would be too hard to fill. He was a consummate and passionate Nigerian who believed in the sanctity of the peace and unity of the nation.”
In the same vein, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who said he was saddened by Chukwumerije’s death, described him as a patriot who gave his best towards the peace, unity and development of Nigeria.
According to a statement by Uche Anichukwu, his Special Adviser, Media, Ekweremadu likened his death to the passage of a lion, social critic, pro-poor politician and mobiliser.
He said: “I am most saddened by the news of the passing on of Distinguished Senator Chukwumerije. It is the exit of a lion Senator, brother, friend, brave comrade, seasoned journalist, credible mobiliser, social critic, pro-poor politician, and a legislator per excellence.
“Comrade was a highly principled patriot who detested political excesses and injustice of any form to any people. He was a most detribilised Nigerian who believed that every part of the country deserved the respect, opportunities and rights intrinsic in their membership of the Nigerian commonwealth.
“He loved his people, Ndigbo and gave his very best towards protecting their interest and working for the development of the region.”
In its own statement, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described him as an epitome of “unequalled forthrightness, loyalty and commitment to the service of our dear fatherland”.
In a statement, Chief Olisa Metuh, National Publicity Secretary of PDP, said Chukwumerije was a democratic icon and an outstanding party man who remained committed to the ideology of the PDP and the visions of the founding fathers.
“We will greatly miss him. Our hearts and thoughts go out to his family as we pray God to give them the fortitude to bear this great loss,” the statement added.
Born on November 19,1939, Chukwumerije obtained a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in Economics from the University of Ibadan.
He became famous during the failed transition programme of the General Ibrahim Babangida’s military government when he served as the Secretary of Information.
Chukwumerije, to the distaste of the generality of Nigerians at the time, frequently demonised the late Chief MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election which was annulled by Babangida on June 23, 1993.
Consequently, he defended the unpopular action of his principal with vigour and earned for himself a huge condemnation from most Nigerians.
In anger, a lot of Nigerians cast aspersions on his personality, describing him as a compromised activist. He however wormed his way back into people’s minds when he led a campaign against the third term agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the Senate in 2005.
He decamped from PDP to Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) in 2006 and was re-elected into the Senate on April 28, 2007. He again returned to the PDP ahead of the 2011 polls and was re-elected into the Senate for the third time.
But his effort to secure a return ticket to the Senate last year failed as a result of seeming conspiracy from his people who said they had had enough of him. Hence, he was voted out at the party’s primary.
Last December, the rumour of his death went viral, forcing the politician some days later to describe it as the handiwork of “a few ungodly and irresponsible individuals.”
Chukwumerije was divorced and survived by seven children.
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