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1979 presidential poll: Ekwueme was Sheu Shagari’s first choice — Ukume

ABUJA– EX-Nigeria’s ambassador to Cote D’Ivoire, Denis Ukume, has said Chief Alex Ekwueme was the choice of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who was the presidential candidate of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, for the August 11, 1979, presidential election.

1979 presidential poll: Ekwueme was Sheu Shagari’s first choice — Ukume

He said the presentation of Ekwueme by Shagari to the party’s hierarchy, was backed by the party.

“Ekwueme was the choice of Shagari, who was the presidential candidate of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN. The entire party-backed Shagari in nominating Ekwueme as his vice-presidential candidate. The entire party was convinced by his choice,” he told Vanguard on the telephone.

Also, in his book, titled:” OSOFINCO-The brief untold story of Late Senator Tarka”, which was launched in Abuja,

Ukume explained that when Chief Ralph Nwuechue, who was contacted by Joseph Tarka for consideration as a possible vice presidential candidate, declined the offer on account of his father’s terminal illness at the time, he and late Chief Francis Mordi,a friend and Tarka’s political aide, “reminded Tarka of the humble architect Chief Alex Ekwueme who lived in London.”

“The federal government accepted his architectural designs for the construction of colleges of education buildings throughout the country.

” Tarka spoke briefly with Alex Ekwueme, and several weeks later, he was invited to Lagos and was confirmed as the vice-presidential candidate of the NPN,” he said.

He stated in the book thus:” The NPN was gearing up to embark on a nation-wide electioneering campaign, and a search for a suitable vice-presidential candidate preferably of Midwestern Ibo extraction had begun in earnest.

“Several prominent Ibo personalities including the late Chuba Okadigbo, and K.O. Mbadiwe touted as a suitable candidate did not meet that criterion.

“Tarka walked into my office at the NPN National Secretariat one morning, and the name that came readily to his mind was Chief Ralph Nwuechue, an old boy of St. John’s College, Kaduna, and prominent Ibo personality. He said I should be called Ralph Nwuechue immediately. He spoke with him. Ralph Nwuechue expressed great delight at being considered for the elevated position of vice president of Nigeria. But he regretted he would not accept the offer. His father, he explained, was terminally ill with cancer, and he needed time to spend with him, he stated.

“At that point, the late Chief Francis Mordi, a friend and Tarka’s political aide, and I reminded Tarka of the humble architect Chief Alex Ekwueme who lived in London. The federal government accepted his architectural designs for the construction of colleges of education buildings throughout the country.

“Tarka spoke briefly with Alex Ekwueme, and several weeks later, he was invited to Lagos, and was confirmed as the vice-presidential candidate of the NPN.”

Updated: December 30, 2021 — 10:05 am

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