Tribute to HE Chief Dr Alex Ekwueme.
My interaction with the late, quiet, but assertive and strong willed politician occurred by accident. In 198I, I was a young, one star ASP at the Central Police Station, Enugu, manning the Counter Desk one afternoon when my DPO, Mrs Angelina Egbuka, a Superintendent of Police sent for me. She had just returned from Commissioner’s Conference. She thereafter went on to inform me that she had committed me to a big police assignment which many senior officers had apparently tactfully avoided.
I was to command a Guard of Honour Parade for the Vice President due in the State a week ahead. She asked me if I was prepared for the assignment. I promptly responded in the affirmative, but told her I did not have the Ceremonial Parade Kit.
She immediately sent an officer to the Police Stores to purchase a full regalia complete with white gloves, sword, shoes, epaulet etc, and I commenced rehearsal with my officers and men.
About a week later I was at the Enugu Airport in the midst of large crowd of Politicians and top Officials of Anambra State (then a combination of today’s Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi states) to receive His Excellency, Chief Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, the IDE as he was fondly called by all and sundry. It was his first official visit to Anambra State since he became Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s vice president in the NPN government. The parade went without any hitch to the relief of all including the then Gov. Jim Nwobodo, CP Bishop Eyitene, and the AC OPS Towuru.
That was how I became a permanent Parade Commander anytime the VP was in Enugu, and it went on like that until the military intervention of December 1983.
What I remember about the late Pa Ekwueme was his penetrating look. He would look straight into my eyes and greet…’Officer how are you?’ He would then walk beside me humbly on the long Airport runway to the parade ground. And whenever I asked for the traditional ‘permission to march the men off sir!’ he would quietly, but audibly respond: ‘Yes officer. Thank you officer’. He carried no airs at all. He was loved by all, despite the volatile and almost volcanic political atmosphere in the then old Anambra State.
May his gentle soul rest in peace and may God condole all the families affected by this big loss.
CP OLAYINKA BALOGUN psc fsi FBINAA BL, Rtd.