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National flag to fly at half-mast as Nigerians pay tributes to Shonekan

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Terhemba Daka, Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, John Akubo, Msugh Ityokura, Ernest Nzor (Abuja), Victor Gbonegun (Lagos), Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri) and Charles Coffie Gyamfi (Abeokuta)
12 January 2022   |   4:11 am
Tributes flowed, yesterday, as Nigerians mourned the death of former Head of Interim National Government (ING), Chief Ernest Shonekan, who passed away in Lagos, aged 85.

Ernest Shonekan

• Buhari, Babangida, Obasanjo, Jonathan laud late statesman
• Lawan, Gbajabiamila, Atiku, Saraki extol leadership qualities
• He did best to advance peace, stability, say Tinubu, Abiodun, others

Tributes flowed, yesterday, as Nigerians mourned the death of former Head of Interim National Government (ING), Chief Ernest Shonekan, who passed away in Lagos, aged 85.

President Muhammadu Buhari also directed that the national flag be flown at half-mast from today till Friday as a mark of respect for the former elder statesman.

Buhari, who received the news with sadness, recalled that the late Shonekan left his flourishing business career to become 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.

He said Nigeria owes 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.
Former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, whose “stepping aside” gave birth to the ING, said: “Nigeria has lost a patriot, an urbane and refined gentleman, a thoroughbred boardroom maestro and a cosmopolitan mind who was devoted to his country.”

Explaining the lead up to the ING, Babangida said: “It was timely for us to appoint him as Head of the Interim Government to help stabilise the polity at a most trying period of our country’s political evolution. He was a calm personality whose managerial skills were foretold in the way and manner he managed a lot of blue chip companies.”

He added: “As Head of the ING, he was able to consult with a broad spectrum of the Nigerian populace in charting a roadmap out of the political impasse at that time. His brilliance and meticulous interrogation of situations helped in large measure to forge ahead during the period.”
Senate President Ahmad Lawan said: “Chief Shonekan was a lawyer, business captain, boardroom guru and statesman. But he will be most remembered for heeding the nation’s call to duty at a very turbulent period in the history of Nigeria.

“His services as Chairman of the Transitional Council and later as Head of the ING were selfless and contributed greatly to saving the Nigerian ship from hitting the rocks.”

On his part, Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila described the death as a painful loss, saying a vacuum has been created among the league of elder statesmen in the country.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo described Shonekan as “a unifying force for the nation” in a condolence letter to wife of the deceased, Mrs. Margaret Shonekan.

“He was a unifying force for the nation and his contribution to the growth and development of democracy in Nigeria cannot be forgotten in a hurry. In all situations, he lived nobly and died in nobility. He was an achiever. Indeed, Chief Shonekan died at a time the country is in dire need of his leadership, wealth of experience and wisdom to tackle the multifaceted challenges facing the nation,” Obasanjo said.

Also, former President Goodluck Jonathan described Shonekan as “an elder statesman, well-loved for his sincerity and sense of purpose.” He said:
“He left enduring legacies, part of which was his considerable effort towards mainstreaming the private sector in the development drive of the nation, especially institutionalisation of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), which he founded.

He will be remembered for his great wisdom, peaceful disposition, the goodwill he extended to all, as well as his significant contributions to the growth of the economy.”
On his part, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said Shonekan’s sad exit came at a time the country would need his skills and global connections in finding solutions to many of its intractable challenges.

He said either as a politician or boardroom guru, the late Shonekan possessed a unique set skill of bringing stability to a tumultuous situation. He said although his reign as Head of State was interim, Shonekan’s contribution to the peace and development of Nigeria remains enduring.

Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, described Shonekan as a man who played a remarkable role in the development of Nigeria and a lover of peace.

“In both his public and private capacities, our 9th Head of State, Chief Ernest Shonekan, played a remarkable role in the development of Nigeria. Through his actions, he always demonstrated a strong commitment to the unity, peace and prosperity of our great country,” he said, even as he prayed that God would give the entire nation and his loved ones courage, strength, and fortitude to bear the monumental loss.

Meanwhile, National Leader of All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, joined the immediate family of the deceased “in mourning his passing, but also in celebrating his lifelong contributions to our great nation.”

He noted that Nigeria 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.”

“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. He will be remembered as a peacemaker and Head of State who took office at a most difficult time,” Tinubu said.

Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, 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 peaceful resolution and patriotic fervour will live after him,” he said.

Also, his Imo State counterpart, Governor Hope Uzodimma, said Shonekan was one of Nigeria’s statesmen and legal luminaries who believed in the unity, progress and development of the country and actually worked hard in private and public sector for realisation of that dream.

He said the deceased’s legacy in United African Company (UAC) will always speak volumes and that Nigerians will not forget in a hurry the reason he founded the Nigerian Economic Summit Group for private sector-driven development of the economy.