Shonekan goes home
Prayer: “Give us grace, O Lord, not only to hear your Word with our outward ears but also to receive it into our hearts and show forth the fruits of your Word in our daily life for the glory of Your great Name, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!”
We greet you dear people of God who have come from far and near to be part of this glorious service of thanksgiving to God for the wonderful and fulfilled life of the late Chief Ernest Adegunle Shonekan. We thank you for coming and pray that as you have come in peace and safety, you will return to your places of abode safely and in peace; in the peerless name of Jesus Christ.
Text: 1Thess 4:13-14
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”
Little over two thousand years ago, through the missionary efforts of Apostle Paul, Timothy and Silas, a church was planted in the city of Thessalonica, which at that time was the capital of the Roman Province of Macedonia.
Although the young church was fairly well-grounded in the doctrines of the Church, members were not so sure of what would happen to them at the end of time and at the second coming of Christ; more so, that some of their fellow members were dying. These new converts were part of the Greco-Roman society in which not a few believed that death was the end of everything. But they had left their old ways and religion and were now part of the new community of Christ. They believed Jesus was coming back; but what would be the portion of their dead members. So, whenever they lose any of their loved ones, they grieved endlessly and hopelessly.
This was what occasioned the writing of the First Epistle to the Thessalonian Church by Apostle Paul not only to inform and educate them but also to strengthen their faith and to encourage the church.
By using the metaphor of ‘sleep’ (which ordinarily is temporary) and not death; Paul helped the people to realise that their loved ones they thought had died and for whom all hope was lost would rise again, for they were but merely ‘asleep’ in the Lord. For the believer, death does not have the final say. What is the Bible saying?
It’s simple. The Bible is saying to us all that when a true believer in Christ Jesus has come to the end of his earthly pilgrimage, he falls asleep in the Lord and at the Parousia, he will rise again, but to a new life, a life that has no end in the eternal kingdom of God. In that Kingdom, Saint John tells us in Revelation 21: 3-4: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God, Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
People of God, that’s where the late Ernest Adegunle Shonekan is now. He has left this world of thriving wickedness and the Church militant and is now at rest in the Church Triumphant. Praise ye the Lord! (3ce)
So, Auntie, Mrs. Shonekan, the children and all the people, do not grieve endlessly and hopelessly like those who are without Christ. Rather, rejoice and be thankful to the Lord that after this dark world of sin, better things await those who know, love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God!
A word or two will be appropriate at this point about the life and times of this great man of faith, a man of prayer who was utterly committed to the things of the Lord. He was ever humble and totally unassuming. His love for God was easily visible in his relationship with the people around him. To his dear wife and children, he was the best husband and father anyone could ever wish to have.
In the Church of God, he was a great pillar and shining example of authentic Christianity. In spite of his enviable high position in society, he served as a church steward. His virtuous footprints are discernible here in Lagos, Abuja, Abeokuta, Ekpoma and many more. He would spend and be spent in service of the Lord. Regardless of whatever was going on, he remained steadfast and so far as we know did not compromise his Christian faith and virtues.
In the world of business, he was a noted captain of industry and guru of the boardroom. As the head of the largest business conglomerate in Nigeria and West Africa, (UAC), he was not only very resourceful and successful but well established and contended. (See brochure)
He was not a politician. But as he journeyed on in his life pilgrimage at a point without thinking, planning or asking for it, he found himself in the ever dark and dreary and murky waters of Nigerian politics. Following the infamous annulment of the 1993 Presidential elections, the aftermath of which threw the country into chaos. He was invited and persuaded to head the Interim National Government (ING). Those were not the best of times for Nigeria and certainly not for any political leader: the situation was tense.
Nigerians demanded that General Babangida should leave office, but for reasons best known to him, he was reluctant. But when it became clear that the political imbroglio if not quickly resolved could lead to violent agitation and mass bloodshed the Maradona of Nigerian politics created the transitional government to usher in a new political arrangement. In the unfolding dangerous political drama, I remember that Chief Shonekan declined the offer to head the ING. Time was running out as Babangida had fixed a date for himself to step aside.
As pressures mounted on Shonekan from many quarters both home and abroad; he then give in. At this stage, I could remember vividly how his very good friend the late Alhaji (Dr.) Shehu Idris, the Emir of Zazzau and this creature here addressing you were pleading with him to think of the pros and cons of not accepting the call. He was reminded that nationwide, tensions were running high and that anything could happen in the military barracks.
In addition, we also knew that from the very beginning of its journey to political nationhood (which it is yet to attain) Nigeria since independence has been a bloodletting country. (Remember the western region operation “wet e,” the pogrom in northern Nigeria, the military coups and counter-coups, the devastating 30-month civil war; hitherto unknown reckless armed robbery attacks and numerous political assassinations of which sniffed precious life out of millions of innocent citizens.)
We were quick to realise that once violence broke out again, we would have no idea who would be consumed and who would remain. It was from this perspective that he was persuaded rather reluctantly to save the situation. He then decided that it was better, though equally risky to stand in the gap and avoid unnecessary bloodshed, so that, somehow we would avoid a repeat of the 1963 dismal fiasco, and hopefully navigate through the political land mines to restore normalcy and democratic governance.
While some hailed him, others did not welcome that decision. I still remember that the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Lipede called Chief Shonekan on phone repeatedly to come back home. Ironically, even some parts of the Church refused to give him benefit of the doubt. Pity.
Meanwhile, the political gladiators and the news media had a field day. They vilified and demonised him. To my utter consternation the same people who called him unprintable names in daytime would troop into Akinola Aguda House Nicodemusly begging for all sorts of favours and political appointments. What a shame. (Aiye!) Some of those agitators claimed that on June 12 they stood were mere political opportunists and they made the loudest noise. I put it to you people of God on June 12 such people were feeding fat. Just as it is today, when we are suffering from the consequences of systemic failure, political opportunists are feeding fat on the present chaos. Nigeria has never had it so bad, (I reserve my details for another occasion).
From our standpoint, Chief Shonekan put his life on the line for this country. When Abacha struck, it was a fellow Yoruba man who put the gun on his head, ordering him to sign his resignation. It may interest you to know that Chief Shonekan was not completely unaware of the possibility of the palace coup. Those close to him advised him to retire, but Abacha and his clique simultaneously announce the appointment of their replacement.
He would not. He reasoned that if Abacha was fired, the next in rank to him for the appointment was a Yoruba man. If appointed, it would create a new problem as he, Shonekan, would be accused of tribalism and nepotism. And so, he not being a typical ambitious Nigerian politician refused to do anything to preserve himself in the office as Head of the Interim National Government. He would say to me, let us just continue to pray for God’s guidance and divine resolution to the challenges we were facing. In truth, we spent time praying and the Lord spared his precious life, he returned home safely. The rest is history.
Say What You Like About Him
We’ll thank God that Chief Shonekan has done what he was able to do for his family, his church and his country. He has finished his own race. He is now asleep in the Lord. When he wakes up at the second coming of Christ, it will be in the glorious eternal Kingdom of God and with all the saint’s reign with Christ.
How about you brethren? Are you today in the Lord Jesus Christ and He is in you? Jesus is your only hope for gaining access to eternal life after this increasingly terrible world has passed away.
Let us be careful of the life we live. Be wary of judging others, especially when you do not have all the facts of the matter. Take heed that you do not spend your today in a way that may ruin your tomorrow. (Repeat the text)
And now to the King Immortal, Invisible, the Only Wise God be all honour, glory, dominion and majesty now and forevermore. Amen!
(Full text of the sermon preached by former Primate of All Nigeria, His Grace, The Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, DD, CON, at the burial service of the late Head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan on February 4, 2022, at Christ Church Cathedral, Marina, Lagos.)
The State burial service was presided over by the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, The Most Rev. (Dr.) Henry Ndukuba and assisted by a cream of other Bishops. State dignitaries in attendance included: Vice President Yemi Osinbajo: former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan; ex-Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd); Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha; Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun) and Godwin Obaseki (Edo); Ministers of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Trade and Industry, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite; State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora; State for Works and Housing, Alhaji Mu’Azu Jaji Sambo; former Ogun State Governors, Ibikunle Amosun and Otunba Gbenga Daniel; and former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, among others.