It was mildly shocking to us here at Imo State Business Link Magazine when we learnt of the transition to the great beyond of former Nigerian President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Chief Ernest Shonekan, GCFR, KBE. It was the Ogun-born statesman who headed the interim government sandwiched between the military juntas of generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha. His government lasted between August 26 and November 17, 1993 when he was ousted in a coup led by General Sani Abacha. Shonekan died of natural courses in Lagos on Tuesday, 12 January 2022, aged 85.
The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) described the former head of interim government of Nigeria as a visionary leader. Asue Ighodalo, Chairman of the board of directors of NESG said in a statement: “We join the entire nation to mourn the passing of our founding father, Chief Ernest Shonekan GCFR, KBE former interim Head of State, who was for us not just an elder statesman but also a visionary thought leader, patriot and reform advocate.”
Ighodalo said that Shonekan’s intellect and efforts helped birth the Nigerian Economic Summit Group. “He was an astute and committed private sector player who joined the United Africa Company of Nigeria in 1964 and rose through the ranks in the company to become Chairman and Managing Director in 1980. Chief Shonekan was notable for his vision of a Nigeria without ethnic or religious prejudice, a Nigeria that is secure, peaceful and prosperous. He contributed to this by leading diligently and serving passionately in the national interest throughout his lifetime of service. At the NESG, we rededicate ourselves to advancing Chief Shonekan’s mandate in the national interest. Despite the odds, we remain committed to his enduring legacy. We find inspiration in his forthrightness and tenacity, which continue to pave the way for a globally competitive and inclusive Nigerian economy.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Tuesday said former Head of the Interim National Government, Ernest Shonekan, died at a time when Nigeria was in dire need of his leadership to tackle the challenges facing the nation. Obasanjo said that Shonekan’s contribution to the growth and development of democracy in Nigeria cannot be forgotten in a hurry. In a condolence letter to Mrs. Margaret Shonekan, copy of which was made available to newsmen in Abeokuta by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, Obasanjo said the late business mogul was “a role model and an epitome of the good in the nation’s business firmament of mixed blessings.”
Obasanjo, who is currently on international assignment as the High Representative of the African Union for the Horn of Africa said he received “with great shock, the news of the death of one of the illustrious sons of Africa, a community leader, a distinguished business baron and an exemplary leader in the private sector and, of course, the former Chairman of UAC Nigeria Limited, Chief Ernest Shonekan, with a mixture of joy for a life well spent and sadness for the loss of a beloved man after God’s heart.”
On the political scene, Obasanjo noted that, Chief Shonekan, as the Head of the Interim National Government in Nigeria in1993, though short-lived for the period of three months through the palace coup orchestrated by General Sani Abacha, rendered outstanding service to our country, and we will never forget that. “It is also worthy of note that as Special Envoy on the Implementation of the Abuja Agreement on Zimbabwe in 2001 under my administration as the President of Nigeria and Chairman, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission under Yar’Adua’s administration in 2008, he was forthright, dedicated and showed great patriotism in the discharge of his duties. 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 he died in nobility. He was an achiever. Indeed, Chief Shonekan died at a time the country was in dire need of his leadership, wealth of experience and wisdom to tackle the multifaceted challenges facing the nation,” Obasanjo was quoted as saying.
Condolence messages have been pouring in for Mr. Shonekan, who was popularly known as the Baba Sale of Egbaland. President Muhammadu Buhari described the late leader as an internationally-respected statesman with courageous wisdom. Buhari said Shonekan left his flourishing business career 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.
In his condolence message, former President Goodluck Jonathan said Mr. Shonekan was a peacemaker and bridge builder who left enduring legacies. “As a leader, Chief Shonekan was well respected because of the enormous goodwill he brought into governance. He was 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.”
We at Imo State Business Link Magazine join the millions who are celebrating the life of this business icon and statesman to wish Chief Ernest Shonekan good night and a well deserved peaceful rest on the bosom of his Creator. Nigeria loved you, but God loved you more. Adieu, our beloved Chief Shonekan.