The remains of the former Vice President Alex Ekwueme arrived the Akanu Ibiam International Airport on Monday to the embrace of the five governors of South East states.
The body was flown from Abuja to Enugu preparatory to the final burial rites which begins on January 30.
The corpse which was flown in a Nigerian Air Force flight NAF918 was received by Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi; Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Gov. Wille Obiano of Anambra and Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo.
A brief prayer was offered to the family of the deceased by the Archbishop, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Reverend Emmanuel Chukwuma.
The corpse was taken to the morgue after a brief stopover at his Independence Layout residence and a procession by officers of the Nigerian Police, Enugu State Command.
The corpse was covered with the Nigerian flag as the governors took turns to pay their final solemn respect to the deceased.
There will be a commendation service for the late icon at the Cathedral Church of Good Shepherd, Independence Layout on Jan. 30 as well as an interdenominational service at the Okpara Square on Jan. 31.
The body will leave for Awka, Anambra State immediately after the service in Enugu.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo had earlier on Monday received the body and praised the elder statement as committed to the unity of Nigeria throughout his lifetime.
Osinbajo’s eulogy was made at a parade of Honour for Ekwueme mounted at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on Monday as part of the last respects by the Federal Government for him.
He expressed the hope that the death of Ekwueme would not only encourage Nigerians, but cement the relationship among all of the peoples and nationalities.
“I would want to see Nigeria to be a nation, not just a country,’’ Osinbajo quoted Ekwueme’s response to a question about his vision for Nigeria.
“Those words tell us how committed he was to the unity of this country.
‘’And I pray that in death and as we remember him, this would not only encourage us but also cement the relationship between all of the peoples and nationalities of this country so that we could become and remain one.
“We are reminded of his commitment to timeless ideals of integrity, of loyalty and of kindness to all. We thank the almighty God for giving us 85 years life of Dr Ekwueme.
“We thank the almighty God for his family and all us who he has left behind and we pray that his great wishes for this nation and all that he sacrificed for will not be in vein,’’ he said.
Osinbajo later handed over the remains of the late former vice-president to the family, represented by his son, Mr Goodheart Ekwueme, at 12:40 p.m.
The body departed for Enugu in an Air Force plane in company of his family members at 1:30 p.m.
Dr Emma Okeke, the Deputy Governor of Anambra who was at the airport, urged current political leaders in Nigeria to learn from the steadfastness and outstanding qualities of Ekwueme.
In an interview, he described Ekwueme as a man who always stood by what he believed in.
He said that the state government would think of immortalising the late Ekwueme after his burial, adding that the governor would decide that at the appropriate moment.
“Talking about immortalising, that is what the governor would decide when the time is ripe because you can only talk of immortalising after he is being buried.’’
Born in October 1932, late Ekwueme served as Nigeria’s Vice President from 1979 to 1983. (NAN)