Senator Uche Chukwumerije, who represented Abia North Senatorial District in the National Assembly, is dead. He passed on yesterday at 5.30pm in Abuja at the age of 75years.
Family members, friends and political associates including his colleagues in the Legislature paid glowing tributes to him.
A statement issued by a member of the family, Chidi, disclosed that the Senator died after a long but gallant battle with lung cancer at the Turkish Hospital, Abuja.
Chidi said: “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 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 arrangements will be announced in due course. We ask only for your prayers and good wishes,” Chidi said.
In its reaction to his death, the Senate, through its spokesperson, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, described the lawmaker, who until his death was the Chairman, Senate Committee on Education, as a political giant and one of the country’s finest legislators.
Abaribe said Chukwumerije, a member of 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.
Chukwumerije, according to Abaribe, would be remembered for his deep love for Nd’Igbo, which was manifested in his relentless struggle for the total political and social emancipation of the race over the years.”
Continuing, Abaribe said the late Senator’s love for Nigeria and her corporate existence was unprecedented.
In his own tribute, Chief Emeka Wogu, former Labour and Productivity Minister and political associate of the late Senator, described him as a consummate gentleman and politician. He said: “Senator Chukwumerije’s death is a colossal loss to Nigeria and Nd’Igbo in particular. His contributions to nation-building before and after the civil war will remain a reference point in Nigeria’s political discuss. He was a fine gentleman, politician and leader of note. May his soul rest in perfect peace,” Wogu told Nigerian Pilot yesterday.
Senate President David Mark and Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu also expressed shock and sadness over the death of Chukwumerije. Mark said by his death, Nigeria had lost an erudite and extraordinary nationalist.
In statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Paul Mumeh, Mark declared that Chukwumerije was one of the brightest and fertile minds in the Senate.
“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 a positive difference,” Mark stated.
Mark added that Chukwumerije was a shining light and a pathfinder in the Senate.
“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”, the Senate President stressed.
Senator Ekweremadu described him both as a fearless politician who fought for the interest of the common man and his people and “a patriot who gave his best towards the peace, unity, and development of Nigeria.
“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 detribalized 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, Nd’Igbo and gave his very best towards protecting their interest and working for the development of the region.”
PDP, APGA mourn Chukwumerije
Meanwhile, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday described the late Chukwumerije as a great patriot who left an indelible mark in the country.
In a condolence message, PDP National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, said on behalf of the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the party, it is deeply saddened by the loss of this great Nigerian, a highly respected statesman who has made immense contributions to the development of our dear nation.
“Senator Chukuwumerije was a patriotic Nigerian and a brilliant lawmaker who gave his all and discharged his responsibilities with unequalled forthrightness, loyalty and commitment to the service of our dear fatherland.
“He 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,” he said.
Also, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA in Abia State, also described Chukwumerije as a worthy son of Nigeria.
In a statement by the state Chairman of APGA, Prince Nnanna Ukaegbu, said:” Chukwumerije is a true Biafran and worthy representative of Abia State and Abia North.
“The magnitude of the loss can only be felt with the enormous vacuum left behind by his sudden passage. The Igboman has yet again suffered a major blow and depletion of the ranks of those who truly appreciate the precarious state of our race in the polity.”
Chukwumerije was first elected a Senator in April 2003. In the Fourth Republic, Chukwumerije was elected to the Senate on the platform of the PDP, but he fell out of favour with the party’s leadership when he opposed the third term agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He eventually defected to the Progressive People’s Alliance, PPA, in 2006 and was re-elected to the Senate on April 28, 2007. Again, Chukwumerije was reelected on the PDP platform at the April 2011 elections.
Chukwumerije served as Minister of Information in the dying days of the military regime of former military President Ibrahim Babangida and also served as Minister of Information in the Interim National Government, ING, of Ernest Shonekan.
Born in 1939, the late Chukwumerije read Economics at the University of Ibadan. He left behind seven children, among them is Chika, who won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.