The federal government has ordered all National flags at half-mast to mourn the death of Chief Ernest Shonekan, leader of the Interim National Government (ING) set up by the military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (retd), after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election.
He died in the early hours of Tuesday at the age of 85 at the Evercare Hospital, Lekki, Lagos.
- NIGERIA DAILY: How Young Nigerians Miss Out On Job Opportunities
- Controversy over demolition of Fulani settlement around Jaji
His son, Adeboye, while confirming the death in a statement on behalf of the family, said he died of natural causes.
He said the family would release further details in due course.
Shonekan took over the reins of power on August 26, 1993 but his government was toppled on November 17, 1993 by the then Secretary of Defence of the ING, the late General Sani Abacha.
Shonekan, who hailed from Abeokuta in Ogun State, was born and raised in Lagos.
He attended C.M.S Grammar School and Igbobi College, Lagos, before obtaining a law degree from the University of London, and was later called to the bar.
He was survived by his wife, Margaret and four children: Korede, Adeboye, Kemi and Yele.
Buhari, Obasanjo, Atiku, Jonathan mourn Shonekan
President Muhammadu Buhari, former President Goodluck Jonathan, and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar have expressed sadness over the news of his death and condoled with the family, as well as people and government of Ogun State.
The president, in a statement issued on Tuesday by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, said the late internationally-respected statesman left his flourishing business career with courageous wisdom to become the Head of Government at a delicate time when the country needed someone of his calm mien and pedigree to save the ship of state from sinking.
Buhari said Shonekan demonstrated to all that the love for country and commitment to her development, peace and unity transcended the trappings of office and the transient nature of political power.
The president said Nigeria owed a great debt to the peacemaker, who even at the twilight of his life never stopped believing and working for a prosperous and democratic country.
He extended condolences to the deceased’s wife, Margaret; loved ones, as well as the government and people of Ogun State.
Buhari prayed that his memory would remain a blessing to Nigeria while finding perfect peace with Almighty God.
Jonathan, in his tribute, said the deceased would be remembered for his great wisdom, peaceful disposition and the goodwill he extended to all as well as his significant contributions to the growth of the economy of the nation.
In a condolence message, he described him as “an elder statesman, well-loved for his sincerity and sense of purpose.”
Jonathan, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser, Mr Ikechuwu Eze, described Shonekan as “a compassionate and determined administrator, a peacemaker and bridge-builder who stepped in to lead the nation at a very difficult time in the history of its political evolution.”
“He left enduring legacies, part of which was his considerable effort towards mainstreaming the private sector in the development drive of the nation, especially with the institutionalisation of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), which he founded,” he added.
Also, Atiku in a condolence message said Shonekan’s contribution to the peace and development of Nigeria during his reign and later years remained enduring.
“Either as a politician or a boardroom guru, Chief Shonekan possessed a unique set skill of bringing stability to a tumultuous situation.
“That obviously was the consideration that made him become Head of the Interim National Government following the crises that greeted the events after the June 12 Presidential election,” he said in a statement which he personally signed.”
National flag to fly at half-mast
Following the death, the president has directed that the national flag be flown at half-mast.
He gave the order in a statement issued Tuesday night by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.
The president said that the order would be effective from today (Wednesday) till Friday as a mark of respect for Shonekan.
Shonekan, a unifying force for Nigeria – Obasanjo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo described him as “a unifying force for the nation” whose contribution to the growth and development of democracy in Nigeria could not be forgotten in a hurry.
Obasanjo in a condolence letter made available to newsmen in Abeokuta by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, said the late business mogul was “a role model and an epitome of the good in the nation’s business firmament of mixed blessings.”
“He would be remembered as a man of sustained strong will to succeed. Coming from a humble background, rising, stepping and peaking at the topmost plum in corporate management, and the very top of the giant United Africa Company (UAC) ladder, attest to his sagacity, tenacity and steadfastness,” the statement added.
Shonekan’s death, personal loss to me — Babangida
Babangida, in a statement he issued, described Shonekan’s death as a great loss to Nigeria.
“The shocking news of the death of one of Nigeria’s finest brains and patriots came to me this morning with helpless awe. I hadn’t the faintest idea that Chief Ernest Shonekan would depart this sinful world too soon, even at 85.
“He was a man, a leader and an uncommon patriot who had a presence of mind and whose understanding of Nigeria was profound and remarkable. It is indeed a personal loss to me.
“He was the architect of our principle of free-market economy which helped to open up the system for robust participation by the private sector. The liberalisation of the economy, the investment and boost in the agricultural sector and budget management approach were part of his brainchild.
He added, “Given the achievements we recorded during our time in government in the area of infrastructure, economy and social rebirth, I owe a word of gratitude to him for his experienced intervention in helping to dissect our policy frameworks each time we called upon him to do so.
“He was an engaging personality whose sense of patriotism was total. He was friendly and sociable. He understood the economy and made so many projections that helped us to bail the country out of the economic conundrum. We benefited from his immense knowledge, experience and brilliance.”
Shonekan was head of state at a difficult time — Tinubu
The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in a message signed by his media aide, Mr Tunde Rahman, said the country had lost another statesman.
He said, “With his passing, the country has lost another important elder statesman; a man of peace who tried to bring unity and concord during one of the nation’s most trying moments.
“Chief Ernest was a technocrat and boardroom guru. He performed excellently as Chairman of United African Company, a vast Nigerian conglomerate.
“Indeed, were the circumstances of his ascension to the top position in our country different, I have little doubt that Chief Shonekan would have led Nigeria with the same vision and skill with which he guided UAC.
“He had the character, competence, capability and the technical background to undertake the job. In his brief time as Head of State, Chief Shonekan tried his best to advance peace, stability and development in Nigeria.
“Chief Shonekan will be remembered as a peacemaker and Head of State who took office at a most difficult time. I commiserate with his immediate family, most especially his loving wife, Mrs Margret; Governor Dapo Abiodun and all the people of Ogun State and Nigeria.”
Shonekan’s death a colossal loss, says Abiodun
Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, described the death of the Egba born British-trained lawyer, industrialist and traditional chief, as a colossal loss to Nigeria in general and Ogun State in particular.
“Chief Shonekan was a first-class administrator, boardroom guru and astute leader whose imprint in the business and political firmaments cannot be erased. His commitment to a peaceful resolution and patriotic fervour will live after him.
“Chief Shonekan, an Egba traditional chief (Babasale of Egbaland), was a true Nigerian who spent most of his life for the betterment of the country,” the statement said.
While noting that his death had created a huge vacuum in Nigeria, and Egbaland, Abiodun prayed for the repose of the deceased’s soul and that God would comfort his immediate family and the Egba Traditional Council.
“He will be sorely missed,” the statement concluded
Shonekan was an outstanding role model – Ortom
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State in a statement signed by his spokesman, Nathaniel Ikyur, described Shonekan as “an outstanding role model who stood to be counted when it mattered.”
“Though his stay in office was short, he made great impacts. Nigerians felt his contributions within that time giving his experience as a technocrat in the organised private sector. He prioritised the welfare and security of all citizens without prejudice.
“His invaluable contribution to the ideals of nationhood remains a reference point in many years to come. Posterity will be kind to him.
“Chief Shonekan was a great nationalist. It is sad to lose him at a time like this when Nigeria needed his wealth of experience and wise counsel to navigate through the murky political waters,” Ortom said.
He was a nationalist, committed to peace, unity — Akeredolu
Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum and Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), in a statement on Tuesday by his Press Secretary, Richard Olatude, said the vast experience of Shonekan was an asset to the country, particularly with the array of challenges confronting the nation.
He added that the deceased was committed to the peace and unity of the country, and pursued it with vigor and dedication as a patriot.
“His historic and patriotic role in maintaining the unity of the country was one of the many things that endeared him to many. He was indeed, an asset, his counsels were useful for national cohesion and progress,” the governor said.
Muideen Olaniyi & Abbas Jimoh (Abuja), Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos), Peter Moses (Abeokuta), Bola Ojuola (Akure), Abubakar Akote (Minna) & Hope Abah Emmanuel (Makurdi)