ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
The Bayelsa State government has said that an intellectual icon and first African to graduate from the prestigious Harvard University in the United States, Ambassador Lawrence Ekpebu, will be given a state burial.
Prof. Ekpebu, who also attended another Ivy League institution in the United States, Princeton University, hailed from Okoloba community in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area.
Ekpebu, who was Nigeria’s former Ambassador to the Ivory Coast, died at the Federal Medical Centre in Yenagoa on January 2 at the age of 90.
During a condolence visit to the family of the late accomplished scholar, diplomat and public administrator in Yenagoa, the state capital, Governor Douye Diri described the passage of the Ijaw icon as a painful loss to his ethnic group, his state and Nigeria as a whole.
The governor said the deceased, who was a pioneer executive council member of the old Rivers State when it was created in 1967, would be remembered for his distinguished service to the Ijaw ethnic nationality and Nigeria at large.
He said Ambassador Ekpebu wrote his name in gold in the academia and left very large shoes as far as the Ijaw nation was concerned.
Diri said: “Let me thank God for the life and times of our late icon, leader and father. His history is laced with blessings not only to his family but also his immediate community, local government area, his state and the entire country.
“We are indeed very proud of him having contributed immensely to the growth of this country, his state and his ethnic nationality.
“The late Professor distinguished himself academically and is seen as the first African that graduated not just from a foreign university but one that is reputed to be among the best in the world, the Harvard University.
“The late Professor was a founding member of the old Rivers State and started his service in that state. His death is not only for Bayelsa but indeed the old Rivers State and the nation at large, having served this country in an ambassadorial capacity.”
The governor while encouraging the Ekpebu family, especially the widow to take solace in the fact that the memory of the departed lives in the hearts of many, promised to stand with them.
He announced that he would be given a state burial when his burial date is announced by the family.
Responding on behalf of the family, his eldest child, Mr. Ebiweni Lawrence-Ekpebu, thanked Governor Diri for the honour and recognition accorded his father even in death.
Lawrence-Ekpebu said they felt honoured by their father’s legacies, especially in education and quality leadership across the country.
He assured the governor that his children would ensure that the legacies of their father were sustained.